Setting Thesaurus Entry: Trailer

This post has been generously written by Linda Clare, author of the The Fence My Father Built (Abingdon Press, 2009).
Linda grew up in Arizona, where trailers are about as plentiful as cactus. As such, we’re proud to host her as the resident expert.

In The Fence My Father Built, when legally separated Muri Pond, a librarian, hauls her kids, teenage Nova and eleven year-old Truman, out to the tiny town of Murkee, Oregon, where her father, Joe Pond lived and died, she’s confronted by a neighbor’s harassment over water rights and Joe’s legacy: a fence made from old oven doors.

The fence and accompanying house trailer horrify rebellious Nova, who runs away to the drug-infested streets of Seattle. Muri searches for her daughter and for something to believe in, all the while trying to save her inheritance from the conniving neighbor who calls her dad Chief Joseph. Along with Joe’s sister, Aunt Lutie, and the Red Rock Tabernacle Ladies, Muri must rediscover the faith her alcoholic dad never abandoned in order to reclaim her own spiritual path.


Homemade wooden steps leading up to the door; sleek silver tube on wheels (Airstream); concrete block holding up the trailer hitch; corrugated aluminum skirting, concrete blocks where the wheels used to be; trailer hitch; clubhouse with laundry room and a pool;  screen doors; senior citizens wearing visors, walking little dogs; white siding with avocado green trim, rust stains from rain streaking the trailer’s siding, postage stamp-sized yards with lined with crushed red lava rocks or white quartz; a sea of trailers dotting sand dunes; Added-on porches with fiberglass roofs, carpeted with green Astroturf, festooned with wind chimes and whirl-i-gigs; “overcab” camper on blocks in neighbor’s backyard; luxury fifth wheel with pull-out porch and satellite antenna; KOA campground with concrete pads and electrical outlets; trailer parks with double and triple-wides that don’t look like trailers; muddy paths between trailers; aluminum awnings over the windows; tiny “tear drop” trailers that fold into tent trailers that sleep six; hibachi sitting outside the door.
Low popcorn ceilings; walls of thin grooved dark wood paneling, table that folds against the wall, hallways so narrow you have to turn sideways to pass each other; bed that takes up the entire room; extra bunk over the living room sofa; tiny bathroom, toilet that doesn’t really flush; bathtub so small you’d have to sit with your knees bent; propane stove with two burners and no oven; half a refrigerator; rubber bands on the paper towel roll; floor moves if you jump up and down; green shag carpeting from the 1970s; breakfast nook with cracking vinyl seats that convert to a bed; built-in compartments for food, clothing and linens; built-in TV sets, lamps and other electronics; matching designer furniture of better quality than found in many regular homes; shaking walls when the washer spins, steam billowing from the dryer vent.
Creaking of the floor when you walk; hearing the neighbors whether you want to or not; Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, Yorkies and other small dogs barking incessantly; country-western radio stations; trucks grinding into gear; laughter of old men from the pool table room; laughter of older women around the bridge table; televisions blaring; children’s laughter; moms calling their children home; guitars strumming; lawn mowers; leaf blowers; tinkling of windchimes; banging screen doors; crunch of tires on gravel drives.
Cookies baking, casserole dishes; Old Spice on men at the clubhouse; Emeraude perfume on women at the clubhouse; roses blooming in June; cigarette smoke; smells of fried chicken, burgers or other meats; barbeque lighter fluid; motor oil and dirt; fresh-mown grass; moldy leaves; wood smoke from a campfire; mildewy smell after winter.
Hot dogs cooked over coals; eating s’mores; taste of rain in the air.
Bumpy feel of corrugated aluminum siding; hard roundness of a trailer hitch; rough scratch of unfinished wooden railings; cool smoothness of vinyl cushions; velvety feel of plush furniture; slick feel of slippery wooden steps after a rain; icy smoothness of icicles hanging from the roof; shag carpet on bare feet; sticky marshmallows and chocolate from s’mores; feel of gritty sand in the carpet.

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood. (From The Fence My Father Built)
Example 1:
I followed Aunt Lutie across the living room to the kitchen area. It was a good five foot walk.

Example 2:
The broken down, green and white single-wide mobile home, with room additions sticking out in all directions, looked more like a child’s homemade fort than a place to live.

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

The trailer’s tiny kitchen looked like it had been built for elves.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

The trailer park was a battlefield surrounded by corpses of junked out cars, broken bicycles and blowing trash.


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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19 Responses to Setting Thesaurus Entry: Trailer

  1. Pingback: Setting Thesaurus Entry Collection | WRITERS HELPING WRITERSWRITERS HELPING WRITERS

  2. Just making sure that my comment was clear Ü

    Bright pink would make sure it’s noticed. My teardrop is going to be wood sided with a green roof…hopefully. Quite the process to build. Sorry…now I’m off topic.

  3. Oh no Charlie, I didn’t take your comment negatively at all–I was responding to Linda’s general statement. 🙂

    As I said earlier, I grew up in a trailer park, and so I know first hand that that many of the people who live there are just folks trying to make a living and save enough money to buy or build a house. Mine was right next to a semi-rural school, and so I think location was also a factor for some.

    My grandma had a teardrop trailer for vacations. I loved spending time in it as a kid and pretending it was where I lived. 🙂 It was–get this–bright PINK!


  4. When I said I found the people fascinating, I did not mean in the typical way portrayed in television. I mean that they are unique in their placement on the edge of home ownership and the gipsy lifestyle. They live in a grey area that I find intriguing. Like the coveted loft spaces in NY, they get by with few possesions and use space-saving methods to live comfortably. Yet, unlike their NY counterparts, they live with a humility and simple grace that I admire. I wrote a short story a few years ago about a woman who lived in a trailer park. She is one of my favorite characters I have ever created.
    Funny Stuff I Write

  5. So wonderfully descriptive, I could not only picture everything but also smell and taste it, thanks for a great post.

  6. I’m so glad you were able to give us a view into trailer life, Linda. It’s not something I’ve had much experience with, so it’s nice to get info from someone who knows!

  7. Mary Witzl says:

    We had friends who lived in trailers. I remember being so envious: they had a hole in the back of their fence which my sisters and I coveted something fierce.

    The whirl-i-gigs, low ceilings, and green shag carpeting are great touches. And tomatoes, nasturtiums and morning glories…

  8. Paul C says:

    This is a very rich deconstruction of the sensory appeal in the text. Thank you.

  9. Linda Clare says:

    Thanks Angela. More general setting writing tips today on my blog, Linda Clare’s Writer’s Tips. Tomorrow: Ten Plot Problems to Avoid. Not that any of you have problems, right? Keep writing–Absolute Top Speed! ~Linda Clare

  10. Jim Goodwin says:

    Absolutely loved
    ‘I followed Aunt Lutie across the living room to the kitchen area. It was a good five foot walk’.
    Nice one Linda!

  11. Good job on this. Not many people know this, but I grew up in a trailer.

    And I agree, Linda…not all trailer parks are like ‘My Name is Earl.” Just sayin’.


  12. Linda Clare says:

    Hey everyone, thanks for reading my Trailer entries. I have to say that my descriptions of trailers may be tacky but the people who live in them must be awarded dignity and hope. If you use trailers or any of these descriptions, remember that it’s fine to play up the tackiness of trailer trash, but not OK to make fun of the people. Just my opinion. ~Linda Clare

  13. Aww, you know I love the “built for elves” metaphor!

  14. Julie Musil says:

    OMG, I have an aunt who lives in a trailer park and all of this is sooooo true. Wow, excellent details. Thank you.

  15. Ooo, I can use this for the scenes in my wip. Thanks a bunch!!

  16. I’ve always found trailers fascinating, but mainly for the people. I like the extended view of the setting Linda has given us. Thank you Linda.

    I am also building a teardrop trailer for fun…and because I’m crazy.
    Funny Stuff I Write

  17. Matthew Rush says:

    Ooh, a guest entry? Nice. Very well done, thanks Linda!

    (and Becca and Angela, always)

  18. oooh good one, guys! Now off to look under fear b/c I’m sick of my MC getting ‘chills” LOL! Love your site!

  19. Porky says:

    Those clearly are the suggestions of an expert. It’s like being there. The creaking, flexible floors and streaks of rust are for me the essence. I’d add also the sound of footfalls, combining a thud and a rattle.

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