In my previous blog, Setting Descriptions That Don’t Sound Travel Logs, I discussed how to use setting descriptions to set the tone or give atmosphere to a scene. I also listed a few of my favorite resources.
Another source I didn’t mention is my personal word and phrase lists of descriptions. When I make a list of descriptions for a particular category, say Forests, Waterways, Mountains etc. I not only list words and phrases that describe these settings, but I also list objects, animals, sounds etc that might be a found there. For example, hunters might be seen a forest and fish might be seen jumping out of a lake so they are an essential part of the descriptions.
Since I frequently described the forest in my logging book How to Fell A Timberman, I’m going to post my Forests, Trees and Wetlands Descriptions list below. I’ve also included a list of definitions that may helpful.
Air even smelled green
Air-dropped a retardant over the forest fire
Bears eating wild blackberries
Bed of pine cones and needles
Branches weighted with 4 or 5 inches of snow
Bush fire/wild fire
Chatter of chipmunks
Crashing of trees echoing through the woodlands
Dank wetland forest
Decked out in rich green raiment
Deep in the wilds
Deer trail on the soft pine floor
Densely tangled ground growth
Dots of orange in the orchard
Flapping birch leaves sounded like the patter of rain
Fox creeps from his den at night as the raccoon leaves his hollow
Fringe of the forest
Gnarled tree roots
Growing with lawless abandon
Heart of the forest
High whine of sawmill saws
Howl of wolves
Hunters wearing red
Jungle of smelly peat bogs and gaiters
Leafy plumes of green bowing overhead
Lizard clinging to the bark of a cypress
Majestic Douglas fir
Mantle of cool green peace
Maze of mangrove in the Everglades
Mice nesting in the tree roots
Moss growing on trees
Mucked through gluey mud
Mushrooms growing in the damp soil at the base of trees
Papery bark of the birch
Park ranger sat in his tower over the forest
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
Peaceful aerial cities (birds & animals)
Pine sent, balsam
Pinery (common name for the white pine area in MN)
Place of shadowy dreams and visions
Pliant branches gave way at the soft passing of
Populous trees of the grove
Roots heaving above ground in a snarl
Sapling (seedling), too weak to withstand
Scraggly gray locks of Spanish moss draped
Scraped raw of trees
Sea of brown saw grass in the Florida Everglades
Secluded pond in the shady cool
Sighing of the wind through the boughs
Smelled like Christmas year round
Smokey the bear
Soft succulent vines shivered
Solitude reigned supreme
Sound of marsh creatures
Spicy evergreen feathered the sky
Splashed with festive color by mother nature
Spongy, root-webbed forest floor
Spread their boughs like a canopy
Squirrels frisked in the tree
Stand of sugar pine
Sunlight seeped through
Swamps infested with mini dive bombers (mosquitoes)
Swatted at carnivorous bugs
Timbermen, lumberjacks, loggers
Treacherous wetlands full of quicksand
Tree bled sap
Treetops shrouded in foggy mist
Tropical rain forest
Unpeopled and untouched
Wet ground was spongy
Where birds build towns in the trees
Whispering through the
White blanket of egrets covered the mangrove island
Wild boar took refuge in a copse
Wind blowing through the leaves sounded like clapping hands
Wood nymph, wood spirit, Sprite
Wooded ravine and rank standing water
Zip lining over the rainforest canopy
Arbor: enclosed by trees
Bottomland Hardwood: Riverine forested or occasional shrub/scrub areas, usually occurring in floodplains, that are seasonally flooded. Typical trees: oaks (overcup, water, laurel, swamp chestnut), sweet gum, green ash, cottonwoods, willows, river birch and occasionally pines.
Candle: A standing tree with a broken top which continues to burn after the main fire front has passed. Usually they send up a fountain of sparks and burning embers which may travel some distance and be of concern if near the unburnt side of a control line.
Cloud Forest: wet mountain forest or jungle; may be shrouded in mist
Conifer: trees that bear cones such as evergreens, pines, firs and spruce. It is soft wood and easily worked
Coppice or copse: thicket or small trees
Crown fire: A fire that advances from top to top of trees or shrubs, usually independent of a surface fire.
Crowsnest: When one tree falls and lodges against another
Diana: Roman goddess of the woods
Duff: Layer of decaying forest litter consisting of organics such as needles, leaves, plant and tree materials covering the mineral soil.
Everglade: swampy area
Hardwood: wood from trees bearing broad leaves vs needles; harder and denser than softwoods. Some hard wood trees: Ash, Bird’s Eye Maple, Sycamore, Birch, Oak, Beech, Teak, Walnut
Hardwood Flat: Poorly drained interstream flats not associated with rivers or estuaries. Seasonally saturated by high water table or poor drainage. Trees vary but often include sweet gum and red maple.
Huldre: Norwegian female forest troll. She entices woodsman beneath the earth never to be seen again. Although cloven hoofed she’s very beautiful but her backside is hallow insinuating her beauty is hallow as well.
Maritime Forest: Forest area characterized by stunted growth due to its proximity to salt spray from the ocean. Typical vegetation includes live oak, red maple and swamp tupelo.
Pollard: (n) tree with branches cut down to the trunk to stimulate thick growth of foliage and new root growth. (v) act of doing the above.
Resin: Type of tree sap that secretes from conifers. Found in soft woods but not hardwoods. Resins are used in many products such as varnish and adhesives.
Satyr: Greek deity of woods.
Slash: Debris resulting from such natural events as wind, fire, or snow breakage; or such human activities as road construction, logging, pruning, thinning, or brush cutting. It includes logs, chunks, bark, branches, stumps, and broken under-story trees or brush.
Soft Wood Trees: conifers, Western Cedar, Mahogany, Elm
Swamp Forest: Poorly drained riverine or non-riverine forest or shrub/scrub areas that are semi-permanently flooded. Typical trees include cypress, black gum, water tupelo, green ash and red maple.
Thicket, bracken: shrubs, bushes, trees growing thick, brush
Deadfall: tangled mass of fallen trees and branches
Grove: small wooded area or trees growing close together
Heath: shrubby evergreen plants covering tract of open land
Shinnery: dense growth of small trees esp. scrub oak
Weald: forest wilderness; rolling upland region of woods; Wold