Setting Entry: Swamp


Dripping trees with black trunks, rotting vegetation, scummy water, reeds, frogs, slugs, leeches, catfish, craw fish, beetles, spiders, snakes, flies, mosquitoes, gnats clouds, lizards, bats, algae, dead trees, quicksand, crocodiles, alligators, worms, rippling water, curling mist, moss hanging from tree branches, rotten dead fall, trees leaning over the water…


Dripping water, splashes, the slurp of mud, frogs croaking, flies buzzing, the snap of twigs, the screech of animals/birds hunting and being hunted, heavy silence, the burp of trapped air breaking the surface


Decay, rot, briny algae, sweat, methane gas bubbles rising through the water


Thick, stagnant air, dirt and mud mixed with sweat running into mouth, stale water from a canteen, food carried in


Sticky clothes from the hot & moist air, water seeping into boots, the chafe of wet clothing, algae, dead leave fragments and mud clumps sticking to wet skin, the bump of something in the water against the leg (a fish, dead fall, a snake, etc), a pole of wood clasped tight in the palm, used for testing the depth of water or the solidity of the ground, the sting of gnat…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: Before each step, I probed the water with my yew walking stick. The murky water kept everything from view, both dangerous and benign. A sudden burst of air bubbles could be a submerged tree settling, or the rancid breath of an alligator on the hunt…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.Example 1: (Simile) The leech’s glossy black body had grown bloated from feeding on my thigh. Disgusted, I pulled at it, my fingers shaking at the task. The sound it made was almost a sigh, like the contentment of a fat uncle pulling away from the table after a Thanksgiving feast…

Think beyond what a character sees, and provide a sensory feast for readers

Logo-OneStop-For-Writers-25-smallSetting is much more than just a backdrop, which is why choosing the right one and describing it well is so important. To help with this, we have expanded and integrated this thesaurus into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Each entry has been enhanced to include possible sources of conflict, people commonly found in these locales, and setting-specific notes and tips, and the collection itself has been augmented to include a whopping 230 entries—all of which have been cross-referenced with our other thesauruses for easy searchability. So if you’re interested in seeing a free sample of this powerful Setting Thesaurus, head on over and register at One Stop.

The Setting Thesaurus DuoOn the other hand, if you prefer your references in book form, we’ve got you covered, too, because both books are now available for purchase in digital and print copies. In addition to the entries, each book contains instructional front matter to help you maximize your settings. With advice on topics like making your setting do double duty and using figurative language to bring them to life, these books offer ample information to help you maximize your settings and write them effectively.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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5 Responses to Setting Entry: Swamp

  1. Mary Witzl says:

    Love the alligator breath — I can imagine that must be AWFUL, given alligator diet… My mother used to describe the sound leeches made when pulled from skin; you nailed it there. (Ewwww!)

  2. Bish Denham says:

    No gators in the Caribbean. No snakes either. So aside from the possible broken ankle or leg…it was perfectly safe!

  3. Danyelle says:

    This is so awesome! I’m going to be needing this very soon. Thanks for the list. 😀

  4. Angela says:

    You played in the mangroves? Weren’t you afriad of the gators and whatnot? [I would be SO afraid of em!]

    I watched the episode of Man Vs Wild on the mangroves–it sure looked beautiful, but so difficult to traverse!

    Thanks for the details, Bish!

  5. Bish Denham says:

    Ooooo, swamps! There are also mangrove swamps which are a bit different from the kind you describe. There are lots and lots of roots from the mangrove trees and lots and lots of crabs. There is, along with that rotten egg smell, the slurp and burble of ocean water as it slips and slides through the tangle of roots.

    As a kid my best friend and I played wonderful imaginary games in the mangroves. A perfect setting for high adventure against evil beings.

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