Setting Thesaurus Entry: Woods at Night

There is a forest entry already, but I think that at night the woods can be an entirely different setting, full of mystery and sometimes fear. I figured it deserved its own entry! Notice how other senses are utilized more so than sight–an unusual occurrence.


Dark tree trunks, shadows, overhanging limbs across the path seen at the last second, clumps of bushes, barely visible black trails snaking through the undergrowth, moon shining through a lattice of leaves, patchy sky & stars seen in glimpses through tree breaks, tall shadowed pines stretching up like arrows into the sky, streaks of cloud against the…


Wind slipping through leaves, cracking undergrowth with each step, creaking tree trunks, the flutter of wings unseen, snapping twigs, grass and weed sliding against pant legs, breathing sounds, coyote calls, fox yipping, wolves howling (if within location), snarls, padding feet along a trail, a grunt of pain at catching a root or tripping on dead fall, a rip of…


Rich earth, rotting leaves, pine needles, fresh air, a slight scent of flowers, earthy fungus, tree sap, wild animal musk (if close), possibly the spray of a skunk (if around), green growing things (spring & summer), moss


Sweat on lips, dryness in throat, sometimes a cold metallic tang if lots of stone is present


Cobwebs in face, cold, dewy leaves sliding across skin, slipping on wet leaves and mushrooms, tripping on bumpy roots, stones, dead fall, thorns scratching skin, scrapes and cuts on hands from falling in the dark, pine needles embedded in skin during fall, twisting and jerking at every unfamiliar sound, holding hands out to ward off unseen obstacles like tree…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: Devin dove behind a wide cedar trunk just off the trail. Heart slamming against his ribs, he gulped at the air, trying to slow his breathing enough to hear. Back in the shadows, branches thrashed and snapped as Valio growled sharp orders to his men. Sunset had finally drained out of the sky overhead, sheathing the woods in shadow. Devin pressed his face against the bark, the ridges biting into his skin, and tried to become one with the tree…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile) Eileen worked her way along the narrow trail, leaves sliding across her bare forearms like wet tongues…

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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24 Responses to Setting Thesaurus Entry: Woods at Night

  1. This is my new account! Thanks for all your kind replies! 🙂

    Stay safe!

  2. kit smith says:

    if anyone could help me with how to describe palaces and castles, please comment me back.

  3. notsaying says:

    this has just made me re think and re write my whole stroy
    thank you this really helps

  4. Bonnie Wood says:

    I would take that fear away from you Laura. Having spend my childhood surrounded by woods on the hills and shore of Cayuga Lake I have spent time in the woods alone at night. It is the imagination and the untrained ear that brings fear into the equation. Shadows unseen during the day become magical at night. All the nocturnal animals want nothing to do with you.

  5. Pingback: Setting Description Entry: Forest | WRITERS HELPING WRITERSWRITERS HELPING WRITERS

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  8. I do not think I would be walking around the woods at night.

  9. Jenny says:

    Just came across this one and I have to say, it really helped me with a scene I was struggling with. Thank you so much!

  10. I think the dark tree trunks description sums it up for me. Creepy and suspenseful. This will help me loads in my continued search for publication and getting my story just right.

  11. I totally agree, Ralfast. I was just talking about this the other day with my kids, that if they really wanted to see what it would be like at night they would have to go far, far out into the country, beyond all light pollution and population.

  12. ralfast says:

    What makes forest so frightening for the modern viewer/reader is the near total darkness. We are so used to having sources of light 24/7 that our mind panics when we lack it.

  13. Wonderful!

    I love the woods and only a few times have I experienced them at night. It can be a beautiful-creepy feeling.

  14. Great–I’m so glad this one helps. So many great stories have night scenes that take place in a forest or wooded area. I think this is a setting that naturally creates tension.

    Hope everyone is having a good weekend!


  15. Julie Musil says:

    Ooooh, just thinking about the woods at night gives me the willies. You nailed it!

  16. Kelly says:

    Very timely. Might be needing this for my wip!Thanks!

  17. Iris Zevlac says:

    Loved this post! I just recently started reading this blog, and it has helped me to totally rethink how I’m going to write! Thanks!

  18. storyqueen says:

    Just wrote a scene involving the woods at night. You are right, they definitely deserve their own entry!


  19. Jenny says:

    This totally makes me want to go write a fairy tale. =)

  20. Bish Denham says:

    The woods are lovely
    dark and deep
    but I have promises to keep
    and miles to go before I sleep….

  21. Walking through the woods at night is definitely different than during the day! I don’t think you could pay me to walk through the woods at night!

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