Setting Description Template: Pirate Ship


Mast, sails, barrels of salted fish, fruit, flour and water, coils of rope, rigging, rope pegs, foredeck, main deck, aft deck, hull, bilges, compass, pirate flag, gun port, cannons, gunpowder, gunwales, stairs, muskets, swords, cutlass, pirates, knives, anchor, ballast, helm, crow's nest, tiller, grapple hooks, rudder, chain, spar, decorative carving under the bow, buckets, brushes, rags, name carved/burned into the ship's side, spare tinder, sacks of salt, onions, potatoes, hammocks, chests, maps, scrolls, candles, lanterns, rum, deck, rats, weevils, maggots, sea gulls, barnacles, plank, cabin, crew's quarters, kitchen, pirates climbing the rigging, tying the rope, running sails, watching the clouds and horizon


Sails flapping and rustling, mast creaking, bare feet thumping against the deck, the shudder of the anchor, grunts, groans, the first mate relaying orders, the captain growling/yelling/shouting, salty spray hitting the deck, the caw of seagulls, the slap of the waves, the snap and flutter of the pirate flag, drunken singing, dancing, arguing, fighting, the thump as the door to below deck is thrown back, cannons being shot, war cries, fizzles of lit fuses, the slosh of rum in a jug or bottle, wood splintering in battle, cries of pain, the boom of a cannon, the creak of a rope tightening, the snap of a rope breaking


Body odor, salt, brine, rotten mean/fish, seaweed, bad breath, sour puke smell on pirates, rum, fish cooking, bread baking, yeast, blood, sun-warmed planks, wine, smoke, gunpowder, hot metal, pipe smoke


Rum, wine, water, salty meat, wizened apples or rotting fruits, hardtack, spit, fish, bread, biscuits, gruel, soup, tea, pipe tobacco


Rope burns, sun burn, heat stroke, cracked knuckles, chapped skin and lips, broken, bleeding lips, hard planks underfoot, crouching on knees, muscles pulling tight in the arms and shoulder as you adjust the rigging r run up the sail, swiping sweat from the face or back of the neck, the heat of the captain's lash as punishment, sleeping on rough planks in the open air, fingers rubbed raw from scrubbing, cold sludge pooling around ankles as you stand in the bilge waters, salty sea spray in the face, slivers, painful gums from scurvy, hoisting oneself up into the rigging, a hand to the brow to shade one's sight from the sun, the crippling hot pain of a gunshot or blade cut, the burning touch of a hot iron to seal a wound shut, gripping onto the gunwale, bundling up the canvas sails, scraping a wooden spoon through a bowl to get the last bit of gruel, tipping head back to catch the last drop of run, /pushing/shoving/fighting/wrestling/grappling with other pirates, cranking the helm (tiller), tying down a sail, securing a line on a peg, the sway of the ship underfoot, sea sickness--bending over the ship's side, pain in gut, skin and muscle ripping from bone during a keelhaul punishment, hauling fish out of the water, throwing grapples at another ship and pulling, the recoil of a musket tearing at shoulder, stomach pain from food poisoning, water cramping

Helpful hints:

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

Example 1:

The sun overhead set the lash marks on Gim's back afire as he scrubbed the stairwell clean. His muscles trembled with each stroke of the brush, a tender reminder, the first mate explained, for Gim to use his arms to work, not to snatch a cuddle with the captain's saucy daughter.

Example 2:

The men watched the eerie, rolling mass of black clouds reaching from the south and prayed for the wind to pick up. Trapped in a dead calm, the ship's sails hung as limp and useless as patched socks hanging from a clothesline.

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

Example 1: (Simile)

The Captain's leathery, salt-worn face was as rough as the barnacles crusting the hull of his ship.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

Rain pelted the men aboard the Black Runner, an angry lashing of tears from an unforgiving sea mistress.

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Kara said...

Love the description template. I will need to try this for my writing and also when homeschooling my kids. They would love to do this with their writing!

Angela said...

Thanks Kara. I know a few teachers who have taken this idea and brought it into the classroom, so I hope it helps you as well!


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