Setting Description Entry: Desert


A landscape of sand, flat, harsh sunlight, cacti, tumbleweeds, dust devils, cracked land, crumbing rock, sandstone, canyons, wind-worn rock formations, tracks, dead grasses, vibrant desert blooms (after rainfall), flash flooding, dry creek beds, crackled mud, vultures, jackrabbits, coyotes, wolves, desert dogs, black night sky, bright stars, glowing moon, dead trees, wide open sky, far off mountains, haze, oasis, heat waves, desolate, empty, forbidding, snakes, lizards, aloe vera, sand storms, sun-bleached bones or skulls, hawks, stunted bushes, wasteland, barren, yarrow, water hole, pass, dunes, halls, thorns, clay


Wind (whistling, howling, piping, tearing, weaving, winding, gusting), birds cawing, flapping, squawking, the fluttering shift of feasting birds, screeching eagles, the sound of one's own steps, heavy silence, baying wild dogs, the night sounds of predator and prey


arid air, dust, one's own sweat and body odor, dry baked earth, carrion


grit, dust, dry mouth & tongue, warm flat canteen water, copper taste in mouth, bitter taste of insects for eating, stringy wild game (hares, rats) the tough saltiness of hardtack, biscuits or jerky, an insatible thirst or hunger


Torrid heat, sweat, cutting wind, cracked lips, freezing cold (night) hard packed ground, rocks, gritty sand, shivering, swiping away dirt and sweat, pain from split lips and dehydration, numbness in legs, heat/pain from sun stroke, clothes stiff from dirt, blisters rubbing against boots, chafing

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: When I started my journey across the winding dunes of sand, the sky was clear blue glass. Now, as I stagger toward mountains growing no bigger despite three days of walking, that blue glass is marred by flecks of swirling ash...vultures waiting for their next meal.

Example 2: On my bed of stones, I shivered and turned my back to the fierce wind. Hours earlier I would have given my soul for a tender breeze, now, teeth chattering worse than the dead of winter, I longed for the sun's merciless kiss.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: The dust devil swirled across the canyon like a rattlesnake on the hunt.(Simile)

Example 2: I dug my boot into the cracked mud; the only thing left to show a creek once flowed here was a single clump of still-damp clay, a breadcrumb too minuscule to offer sustenance.(Metaphor)


Pema said...

Your words are so descriptive, it almost sounds like you're posting this entry from the Arabian desert! ;)

PJ Hoover said...

Perfect! I have deserts, too! And how I remember to spell it right - with dessert you always want more, so there are two s letters. With desert, you want less, so there is only one.
Hey - Please add this to your sidebar! I know you will, but I use your blog like every day and never want to forget something. It ROCKS!

Becca said...

Angela thanks you, Pema! Or, I'm sure she will when she gets back ;).

And PJ, thanks for the reminder. When Angela's gone, this place just goes to pot...

C.R. Evers said...

I love how I feel like I'm getting mini lessons here! Do ya'll give out diploma's? ;0)

thanks for all your work!


Angela said...

Thanks for all of your detailed posts!

Marian said...

I actually lived in a desert (well, in the Middle East) for twelve years. Unbearable heat during the summer, up to 45 degrees Celsius, and equally unbearable humidity, since we were on the Gulf Coast.

Since I didn't have a car, I used to go grocery shopping after sunset, thinking it would be cooler. But the pavement had been baked in the sunlight, so the heat rose off it like a solid wave. And during the day, objects in the distance shimmered, it was so hot. Sometimes I would walk past stores just so their automatic doors would open and I'd feel cool air for a moment.

The least little wind would raise puffs of dust, and a full-out sandstorm was a nightmare. Of course, one good thing about the heat and dryness was that the place was remarkably sterile. You don't get too much insect or rodent life in an oven. The few plants that grew wild tended to be small, shrubby and tenacious.

Now, of course, I am living in a country that is the exact opposite and I shiver my way through the endless winter months. :)

Becca said...

Gosh, Marian, that sounds intense. Did you like it there?

Bish Denham said...

Am starting to catch up on these wonderful posts! Is it OK to mention things I would include in your list of sights?
Reptiles: snakes, lizards etc. Insects: spiders, biting ants, beetles etc.
And sounds?
The slither of sand sliding under the belly of a snake or lizard.

Great stuff.

Marian said...

I liked the low crime rate (because of the draconian penalties). It was so low that once, when my mom arrived at work to find the office open and burgled, 21 police officers showed up in response to her call (probably the most excitement they had had all week). The forensics people had to shove their way through the crowd.

There's also the lack of taxes. So provided you're an indoor person, which I am, you might find it tolerable. Oh, and women always got to go to the front of any line (e.g. at the post office), and had the front seats of buses reserved for them.

One thing I didn't like was the censorship, which at times bordered on the ridiculous. For instance, the single government-owned ISP wouldn't let you access the site, which contains lots of useful information about markets in publishing. Why? Because there's some prominent Israeli whose last name is Ralan. It's not the same person, but no one bothered to check before blocking the site.

Television programs censor kisses or references to making love, and when I bought a scientific book on human anatomy, the naughty bits were blacked out with a Magic Marker. I once smuggled a Boris Vallejo book into the country and felt very daring. :)

So it wasn't a completely unpleasant experience, but I escaped to Canada as quickly as I could, and I prefer it here.

Angela said...

Wow Marian--what a great culture to draw on. Does your work ever reflect where you lived?

And yes please--if you have descriptiors to add, go for it. Often I think of stuff after the fact, and each setting is so vast, there are infinite ways to describe!

Thanks everyone as always for visiting and commenting!

Marian said...

I do have one story that's set in a desert land. But the greatest influence on me - in terms of living in so many different places - is that I always have people of different cultures and species having to live together, cooperate or deal with the various tensions that arise from their varying natures and customs. It's a lot of fun. And because these stories are fantasies, they can be bizarre while still being realistic.


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