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.

Sight

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 night sky, bulky rock outcroppings and tree stumps, barely visible, the glow of animal eyes, flower blooms shut tight in the darkness

Sounds

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 fabric as thorns catch at clothing, owl hoots, hunting birds swooping overhead, the cry of prey caught in talons or jaws, the trickle & burble of water flowing over rock in a nearby creek, startled small animals (rabbits, foxes, mice) rushing along the forest floor to a hiding place, the whine of mosquitoes

If near a city: white noise elements (the hum of electricity, traffic on nearby roads, music, voices, airplanes flying overhead)

Smells

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

Tastes

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

Touch

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 branches, shouldering through branches & brambles, turning sideways to get through a narrow space without injury, wet dew soaking pant legs, turning ankle in a hole or on a patch of wet moss, twigs and burrs caught in shoes or boots, pitch making hands sticky, swiping at a sweaty face, back of the neck cold, clothing sticking to body, barking shins on rocks and stumps, tripping on vines and weeds crossing the path, fighting through undergrowth and it snags and catches on clothes, hand grazing the bumpy bark of a tree, cold sweat on face, disturbing a creature on the path or snake/spider/bug on on a branch and feeling it touch/race over shin or shoe, branches & leaves catching at hair, swiping at burrs stuck to clothing, a breeze chilling exposed skin, hands slapping at mosquitoes biting exposed flesh

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.

Example 2:

Cort's calves burned as he squatted among the brambles at the edge of the glade. The sky above darkened with each breath, signaling his wait would soon be over. A mosquito bit the back of his neck. He ignored it and flexed his fingers one last time before fitting an arrow to his bow. The small meadow was a buffet of new greenlings, and from the tracks he'd scouted earlier, any moment a buck would emerge from the shadows to feast.

--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.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

Halfway to the cabin I glanced up. Hemmed by treetops, glittering lights scattered across the night sky...my porthole to the universe.

14 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

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!

Bish Denham said...

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

Jenny said...

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

storyqueen said...

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

Shelley

Iris Zevlac said...

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!

Kelly said...

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

Julie Musil said...

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

Angela Ackerman said...

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!

Angela

Medeia Sharif said...

Wonderful!

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

ralfast said...

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.

Angela Ackerman said...

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.

tracikenworth said...

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.

Jenny said...

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!

reel king slot said...

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

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