35 Words to Describe a Forest Well in a Novel
By: Author Hiuyan Lam
Posted on Last updated: October 20, 2023
Categories Vocabulary Boosters
A huge part of writing a novel is using the best words to describe various settings to bring your story to life. If you have a scene set in a forest, your words to describe a forest must reflect everything the characters (if any) can see or feel, or should paint a vivid picture of the setting.
But that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Everyone gets stuck sometimes and finding the best words to describe the simplest of things can take some time.
In this post, we’re going to focus on a popular scene that can be tricky to describe for some: the forest. Here are 35 of the best words to describe a forest well in a novel:
6 words for a forest at night (black forest)
Scenes take place in the forest at night for various reasons. Perhaps you want to create suspense or mystery. A forest at night can also be used to create drama or romance. However, if you don’t have the best words to describe a forest at night, your delivery is sure to fall flat. Here are 6 words to describe a forest at night:
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6 words to describe a forest in winter (white forest)
Forests in winter are truly a sight to behold, especially when they are blanketed by a cover of white snow. A white forest may be used to portray purity or light. A white forest may also be used to portray isolation or emptiness. Here are 6 words to describe a forest based on what you wish to portray:
6 words to describe a forest in spring (green forest)
During spring, the forest is at its busiest with creatures roaming about, and plants sprouting their blossoms. It is a period of rebirth and regrowth that may be used to set a specific mood or contrast a less favorable circumstance. Whatever the case may be, here are 6 words to describe a forest in spring:
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6 words about the Amazon rainforest
The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and contains an infinite number of green trees of various shades and sizes. It is also one of the most diverse biomes on the planet. Here are some words to describe a forest that will help you to paint an accurate picture of the Amazon rainforest.
6 words to convey the atmosphere of a mysterious/deep forest
When describing a forest to an audience, you will need words to describe more than just the trees. You also need to pay attention to the atmosphere, especially if it is mysterious or deep. Here are some words to describe a forest based on its atmosphere
5 words for the sounds of a forest
Lastly, using sounds will paint the ultimate picture in your readers’ heads. Here are 5 words to describe a forest based on the sounds one may hear:
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When using these words to describe a forest, ensure they complement the scene you are trying to set, rather than adding a bunch of words to fill the page, otherwise, it may be confusing for your reader. Picture it in your head before finding the appropriate words.
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Forests are not only beautiful but an essential part of life on Earth. They serve as home to more than 80% of land animals https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/deforestation ' data-toggle="tooltip" data-html="true"> and cover nearly a third of the world. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/ForestCarbon ' data-toggle="tooltip" data-html="true">
Trees can reduce air pollution, cool the air, and provide renewable energy. https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/uploadedFiles/TFS_Main/Urban_and_Community_Forestry/About_Urban_and_Community_Forestry/Urban_Forest_Information_Sheets/Benefits%20of%20Trees%20-%20Environmental.pdf ' data-toggle="tooltip" data-html="true"> https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2022/04/11/why-trees-are-an-ideal-source-of-renewable-power/?sh=7eeeb8105477 ' data-toggle="tooltip" data-html="true">
Many life-saving medications even come from rainforest trees and plants. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/essential-medicines-powered-by-plants.html ' data-toggle="tooltip" data-html="true">
Finding the right words to describe a forest can really bring your story to life, whether you’re writing a novel or sharing an anecdote about a recent hiking trip.
We have the list of words to describe the forest below, plus an activity to help you discover more about the forest.
Activity: Forest Discovery Scavenger Hunt
Knowing how to describe a forest is great, but genuinely discovering and understanding the forest is even better!
You can visit a local wooded park or nearby national forest to complete this activity.
Look for and take photos of the following things:
- A fallen leaf
- A fallen branch
- The bark of a tree
- Three plants other than trees
- A bird that lives in the forest
- A mammal that lives in the forest
- A bug that lives in the forest
After finding and collecting photos of all of the items on the list, research them. Write captions for your photos that explain the plant or animal species and how/why it thrives in a forest environment.
You can use simple identification if completing this activity with children or create in-depth captions explaining the forest ecosystem.
Be sure to bring water and snacks, choose a trail suitable to your fitness and experience levels, and wear appropriate clothes when visiting the woods!
- https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/deforestation [ ↩ ]
- https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/ForestCarbon [ ↩ ]
- https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/uploadedFiles/TFS_Main/Urban_and_Community_Forestry/About_Urban_and_Community_Forestry/Urban_Forest_Information_Sheets/Benefits%20of%20Trees%20-%20Environmental.pdf [ ↩ ]
- https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2022/04/11/why-trees-are-an-ideal-source-of-renewable-power/?sh=7eeeb8105477 [ ↩ ]
- https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/essential-medicines-powered-by-plants.html [ ↩ ]
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How do you describe a forest? (or woodland, shrubland, grassland…)
by Paula Peeters | Feb 24, 2021 | Beechmont Nature Journal , Nature journaling , Tales of science | 16 comments
Forests are hard to describe. So much complexity, so much thriving life. Colours, light and forms change with the seasons, and over time. How to fit all that into words or pictures?
The ways to describe a forest are infinite, and each approach will also be influenced by the person making the observations and creating the description. I’m an ecologist, and I work mostly in Australia. So in this article I’m exploring a way to describe our Australian forests (and other vegetation types such as woodlands, shrublands and grasslands), in a nature journal, by using elements of forest structure and life forms, the way ecologists do.
Because this approach emphasizes structural traits (e.g. tree height, canopy cover) and life forms (tree, shrub, grass), you don’t need to identify every plant to come up with a description of the vegetation type. Once you know the vegetation type, this opens the door to learning more about its ecology, including what kinds of animals and plants might live there.
This approach can also be used in a comparative way, e.g. by comparing different places you might visit on a road trip, or even the same place in different seasons, over time, or after a disturbance (e.g. fire, cyclone, grazing).
How it works
- First, go to the place you want to describe. This method works best for places in Australia that still have fairly intact native vegetation.
Describe the height of the tallest life forms
- What are the tallest life forms (e.g. trees, shrubs, grasses)?
- Draw a large rectangle on your page. This will be used to describe the height of the tallest life form.
Tip: If the tallest life forms are trees, and the trees are a lot taller than they are wide, draw the large rectangle in portrait orientation.
If the tallest life forms are trees, and the trees are wider than they are tall, draw the large rectangle in landscape orientation. Landscape orientation is also better for describing vegetation types with no trees, e.g. shrublands or grasslands.
- Estimate the height of the tallest life form. The easiest way to do this is to get a person to stand next to it, and estimate how many of that person, standing on each others’ heads, would make up the height of the tallest life form. So if the person is 2 metres high, and approximately 10 of that person fit into the height of the tallest life form, then that tallest life form is about 20 metres high. If you’re doing this by yourself, just imagine a 2-metre-tall person standing at the base of the tree.
- In the large rectangle, draw the tallest life form in profile (side) view. Draw a scale bar on the side and mark the height of the tallest life form. I also like to draw a stick-figure human in the rectangle to give a more pictorial measure of scale.
- The large rectangle is mostly about describing height of the tallest life forms, but as you can see from my example above, you can also record quite a lot about plant shape, density and arrangement, and also the colours, light and other aspects of the place.
Describe the canopy cover
For this activity, the canopy is the leaf/branch/trunk part of the tallest life forms. You need to estimate what percentage of the sky is shaded by this leaf/branch/trunk part. This can be tricky, and you might get a sore neck looking up and trying to do it. But canopy cover has many important implications for the ecology of a place, so that’s why it’s important to be aware of it. Try to estimate which category the canopy cover of your place fits into, using the options below.
The leaf/branch/trunk part of the tallest life forms covers:
- Less than 10 percent of the sky
- 10 – 30 % of the sky
- 30 – 70 % of the sky
- 70 – 100 % of the sky
If you want to represent this visually, draw a square on the same page as the large rectangle. Look up, and sketch a portion of what you see in this square. You can also take a photo of the canopy, and draw in the square using the photo as reference.
Describe what’s on the ground
Draw another square on your page and look down at your feet. Draw what’s on the ground, from a bird’s eye view.
Describe leaves, flowers, fruits and any other interesting life forms.
This is optional, but it can really add flavour to your description of a place.
Determine the structural formation of the vegetation
Use the height of the tallest life form and the canopy cover to work out the structural formation of the vegetation you’re describing, using the table below. (Note that ‘canopy cover’ is equivalent to ‘Foliage projective cover of the tallest stratum’ in the table below).
So for my example above:
- Tallest life form = trees
- Height = 40 m
- Canopy cover = 30 – 70 % of the sky
- Structural formation = Tall open-forest (Also known as Wet Sclerophyll Forest)
(Note that a tree is defined as a woody plant usually with a single stem; a shrub is a woody plant with many stems arising at or near the base.)
The above table is adapted from Keith (2017) Australian Vegetation , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; based on Specht, R.L. (1970) Vegetation. In ‘The Australian Environment’ , 4th edn. CSIRO Australia and Melbourne University Press, Melbourne. (If you’re after a detailed and up-to-date account of the ecology of Australian vegetation types, Keith (2017) Australian Vegetation is the book to read.)
Here’s another example, describing the forest along the Border Track, Lamington National Park, about 150 m from the trailhead at Binna Burra, Qld:
The structural type of this forest is ‘Closed forest’. It’s also known as subtropical rainforest. Here’s some extra flavours of the forest:
Also add as many notes and written observations as you like.
Why drawings and not photos? I encourage you to draw these things because the act of drawing forces you to slow down and look closely.
Why enclose the drawings in rectangles and squares? I find that if I give myself a small, limited area for drawing, this encourages me to make my drawings simpler, but it also forces me to to zero in on the most important features.
I am still experimenting with this approach to ‘describing a place’ and would love to hear your feedback. Maybe you could even give it a test drive and let me know what you think?
Happy nature journaling!
This is brilliant Paula! I’ve been looking for different ways to describe habitats. I love your approach. To my eyes, it is new and exciting in the possibilities it opens. Will definitely try it out in local places.
Thanks Cati! I’ll be interested to hear how you go 🙂
Great and informative post thank you.
I absolutely love this post! Thank you!
I love this. Thank you for describing your approach so clearly!
I love the way that you open my eyes to what I am seeing. That you a leading me to attempt to capture it through drawing than through the lens!
Great to hear! Thanks Kathy 🙂
Thanks Paula. A great way to intensify focus when in a large natural environment. I love the way drawing helps me to see more.
Thanks Janet. Yes I like your description of ‘intensifying focus’. Sometimes I find there is so much going on it’s easy to not see the wood for the trees 🙂 Happy nature journaling!
Hi Paula, Thanks for this, I always wanted to be a real ecologist! Cheers, Joan
Thanks so much Paula. This has been very informative, I really needed this for my book.
Hi Bobby, I’m glad it was useful for you. What sort of book are you working on? Cheers, Paula
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Teaching Students About the First Harry Potter Movie: A Creative Approach to Enhance Critical Thinking
Teaching students about binary code, teaching students about lilo and stitch: a creative approach to young minds, teaching students about kris jenner, teaching students about lee remick, teaching students about ferruccio lamborghini, teaching students about clare grant, teaching students about sikhs, teaching students about janet jones, teaching students about phil harris, teaching students how to describe a forest.
Describing a forest is an essential skill that can help students improve their creative writing, observation, and critical thinking abilities. Teaching students how to describe a forest not only enhances their understanding of the natural world but also provides opportunities for them to explore their imaginations and express themselves. This article offers tips and suggestions for educators on how to go about teaching this important subject.
Getting Started: The Elements of a Forest
Before guiding your students in describing a forest, it’s essential to break down the elements that make up these unique ecosystems. Some of these elements include:
1. Flora: The trees, shrubs, ferns, mosses, and other plants that populate the forest.
2. Fauna : The various animals that inhabit the forest, including mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and more.
3. Climate and weather conditions : Forests can have different climates – from tropical rainforests to temperate deciduous forests – which affect the flora and fauna present as well as the overall ecosystem.
4. Soil composition : Different types of soil can influence the kinds of plant species growing in a particular forest.
5. Topography : Understanding the terrain is essential when describing a forest, as it can have an impact on elements such as water sources and wildlife behavior.
Using Sensory Details
Encourage your students to utilize their five senses when describing a forest – sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. By incorporating sensory details into their descriptions, they will create vivid images for readers.
– Colors and shapes of trees and other vegetation
– Animals inhabiting the forest
– Patterns of sunlight filtering through branches or reflecting off water sources
– Birdsongs or calls of other animals
– Rustling leaves
– The sound of flowing water or raindrops falling on leaves
– Earthy scent of the soil
– Fragrance of blooming flowers or decomposing leaves
– Freshness of the air after rain
– Rough texture of bark
– The softness of moss-covered rocks
– The cool dampness of leaves
– The taste of fresh berries or other edible plants found within the forest
Interactive Activities to Enhance Learning
Incorporate interactive activities to help your students better grasp the concept of describing a forest. Some possible activities include:
1. Guided visualization : Walk your students through a guided meditation, helping them visualize and experience a forest setting in their minds. Afterward, have them write descriptions based on their mental journey.
2. Field trip : Organize a trip to a nearby forest, allowing students to experience the natural environment firsthand. Have them take notes and share their observations with the class.
3. Crafting a descriptive story : Have students write short stories that involve a forest setting, focusing on using sensory details to bring their stories to life.
Teaching students about describing a forest is an incredible opportunity for educators to inspire creativity and improve communication skills. By breaking down the elements of forests, incorporating sensory details, and utilizing interactive activities, you can foster an immersive learning experience for your students while cultivating an appreciation for the natural world.
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Write that Scene
May your writing spirit live on forever
How to Write a Forest Scene
A. write more about the trees and greenery. give the reader insight to the location and the weather..
B. Write about the animals and the life that exist in this Forest. You can even make up your own and/ or it could be humans that live in the forest.
- Orangutans spend most of their time in the forest canopy where they feed on leaves, figs and other fruit, bark, nuts, and insects. Large trees of the old-growth forests support woody vines that serve as aerial ladders, enabling the animals to move about, build their nests, and forage for food.
- The largest of all primates, the gorilla. Too large and clumsy to move about in the forest canopy, the gorilla lives on the forest floor where it forages for a variety of plant materials.
- The jaguar. Its endangered status is the result of hunting and habitat loss.
- The Puerto Rican parrot (Amazona vittata), a medium-sized, green bird with blue wing feathers
- Below the canopy the waters are filled with fish life. Kelp bass find the middle of the kelp forest to be a good hunting area, while Sheephead, a boldly colored fish, like to feed on the larger invertebrates that live among the kelp stipes and tend to hang out towards the bottom of the forest.
- Insects (morpho butterfly, Julia butterfly, Monarch butterfly, and millions of other insects) mammals (jaguar, ocelot, didelphid opossums, sloth, howler monkey, spider monkey, capybara, many bats, marmosets, procyonids, peccaries)
- Birds (quetzal, macaw, tinamous, curassows, hoatzins, hummingbirds, eagles, ovenbirds, antbirds, flycatchers, puffbirds, toucans, jacamars, tanagers, tapirs, troupials, honeycreepers, cardinal grosbeaks, xenops) reptiles (anaconda, caiman, iguanas, lizards, microteiid lizards, boas, and coral snakes), amphibians (poison arrow frog, etc.)
- Fish (electric eel, piranha), and millions of other animals.Australia – mammals (tree kangaroo, rat kangaroo, yellow-footed Antechinus, Giant White-tailed Uromys, opossums, bandicoot, echidna, duck-billed platypus, sugar glider, red legged pademelon)
- Reptiles (frilled lizard, carpet python, Green Tree Snake, Spotted Tree Monitor, Eastern Water Dragon, Boyd’s Forest Dragon, Northern Leaf Tailed Gecko)
- Amphibians (Giant Tree frog, Striped marsh frog, Northern Barred frog, Dainty Green Tree frog), and millions of other animals.Southeast Asia –
- mammals (tarsiers, orangutans, Siamangs, gibbons, colobine monkeys, tigers, tree shrews, binturong, moonrats, most flying foxes, colugos, bamboo rats, Oriental dormice)
- birds (tree swifts, leafbirds, fairy bluebirds, fantails, whistlers, flowerpeckers, wood swallows)
- insects (Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing butterfly, Goliath Birdwing butterfly, Saturn Butterfly) to name a few.West Africa –
- mammals (antelopes, bonobo, chimpanzee, gorilla, Mandrill, scaly-tailed squirrels, otter shrews, duikers, okapi, hippopotamus, Cercopithecus monkeys, bushbabies, pygmy hippo, duiker)
- birds (Congo peafowl, African Gray Parrot) to name a few.
C. Describe how these things have a connection to the story and to the overall plot. Give hint to how they will be a part of the journey.
I. What about the animals and the forest is important to the story and to the character? How are they a vital allie to the trail and the path of the rain forest?
I I. Ultimately how are these things good? Give signs and behavior patterns that will differentiate them from good and evil. Or keep it a mystery to enhance the dynamics of your story.
I I I. Use ideologies, metaphors, and similes to create an experience your character is having. How they connect with the forest atmosphere and the creatures who dwell inside this area.
A. Why is your character there in the first place and how long do they plan on staying? Their journey can all the sudden become extended or shortened by anything.
I. Think of all the things you might find in a dark forest and make them experience it.
- Insects in the mouth and eyes
- Branches in the face and tearing at clothes
- Tripping over roots and rocks
- Feet crunching on dirt, snapping twigs
- His/her own gasping breath in the silence
- Sounds of creatures pursuing him
- Howling of wolves in the distance
- Owls hooting in the night
I I. Explain their thoughts, the worries, even ultimately telling the reader what’s at stake for the character.
I I I. Do they meet someone along the way? Is there a barrier or path they cannot take or overcome? Or do they find a great shortcut? Is a shortcut even safe?
B. Is there anything out of the usual? Does it become too much for the character to handle to where they will need someone or something to help them? Maybe it’s the animals and life that live in the forest or the forest itself.
I. Is there magic involved? Are there a new philosophies or new rules that doesn’t pertain to our own world, involved? If so, who is controlling this? Does the character have an idea who might be behind these doing?
I I. Does the character actively call out loud for someone or something to help them? Does anyone come to their aid? Is it magical or ordinary? Where has this person or being been all that time? Was this all a test to begin with?
I I I. Must the character return the favor somehow or is it given for free? Does the character somehow speak to this thing or person or are they dumbfounded? Do they just accept what happened or begin to question the place they’re in? Does this mean they’re about to escape or try to at least?
C. Show some relief of the problem or a solution that is at a near distance. Give the reader hope for the character.
I. How are they coping with these sudden changes and surprises? Are they able to take a break at all and stop to get some air from what is going on?
I I. If s/he’s running to vent because she heard something emotionally traumatizing and they’re running away from the impact it has on them, then s/he would be tripping and stumbling not out of fear but out of anxiety to get away.
If s/he’s running through the woods because it’s a pass time and they enjoy it, then you select words and thoughts and structure your sentences to give a peaceful tone (or whatever emotion you’re aiming for).
I I I. What talents skills or abilities does the character have the makes them seem not so hopeless?
A. Show how the forest becomes an aide to the character and/or the character becomes an aide/savior to the forest.
I. Can the animals speak English, can the character all the sudden communicate with the animals, or do they have to find a creative way to speak with each other?
I I. Maybe the trees sway in the wind and gives direction to the character on where to go, what if something randomly falls down as a way to direct the character to a specific path? You can use sound, you can use smell, you can use all the human senses. Be creative.
B. Is there any magic that is in the place? How about the connection between the scenery and the character? How does it strengthen them or how does it weaken them?
I. What type of Magic? Is it something that can be learned? Is it something that can be avoided or counteracted? Does the magic bring anything alive or keeps things dead? Does the magic prevent the forest from doing anything or allows it to do more than what it once could?
I I. Does the character softly walk through the forest to avoid from causing any harm? Does the character do anything weird to the forest such as pray to it or use the trees leaves as clothing? Why are they acting this way?
I I I. How about the forest? Does the forest do anything out of character to gain the character’s interest? Does it offer the character anything?
C. Are there hints in the forest that the character can only see and their enemy cannot? How does the forest communicate with the character? How does the character communicate with the forest?
I. Why can the character see these hints and the enemy cannot? How do they know that these are going to protect them? What has the forest done that makes the character believe it’s okay to to follow unknowingly or even listen to?
I I. How desperate does they forest become? Will they go to great lengths to protect the character? Or will the character go through great lengths to protect the forest? Where does this bond come from and how does it help the character easily flow through the forest?
I I I. Or maybe the forest is silent. Maybe the forest has no magic or is on no one side. If so, how does the character use the forest as they please?
A. Add some drama, some danger, what is breaking… what is causing Mayhem? How is the character mentally handling it and what might be their demise?
I. Give details about the great enemy. What is the character learning thus far? Who are their allies? At what point in their Journey are they at and how close are they to finishing?
I I. Are there any swamps, quicksand, spiders, snakes, or otherwise that wouldn’t necessarily be in another land? How much harder is it to journey through the forest than it is somewhere else?
I I I. Do they get injured, do they somehow make a mistake that they cannot take back? Has the forest abandoned them? Have the animals abandoned them? Have they abandoned themselves and their will to live?
B. If the enemy is directed towards the forest, then how does the forest cope with it and what is it doing to protect itself? How is the character helping to protect the forest if at all?
I. Why is this evil thing having a war with the forest? Does the character understand why? Is it a being? Is it nature? Is it a Mystic being? Is it the forest itself that’s their own enemy?
I I. Do the branches hit and sway? Do the leaves fall down from the branches to the ground as a way of surrender? Do the animals bite, bark growl? Do trees fall down? Do trees move as if they had feet?
C. Put a bit of focus on the enemy; the danger. How do they look? what are they doing? how does it seem for them to be in this Forest? what threats are they saying? what weapons do they have? how many people are on the enemy army? How much more powerful is this threat?
I. How does the face look? How powerful is this evil? How weak are they; what is their weak link? How long has the war/battle been going on?
I I. Where did this enemy come from? How evil are they or do they have some kindness to them? Is it never ending or does it have a downfall? Is it hurting itself by battling the forest or the character? Or is battling the forest or the character making it stronger?
I I I. If the character or the forest is battling themselves, then describe the pain they are inflicting on itself through the eyes of who is watching. How much longer until the end is near? In other words, is it hopeless to help?
A. Is everything complete, is everything at peace, how does the character feel?
I. What are the goodbyes like? What actions do they take to make sure they are thanking the forest and that the forest understands what they’re saying?
I I. How much has the character contributed? Where does the health of the character and the forest lie? Are they both to thank for a good ending? Who’s to blame for a bad ending? Is there any animosity between the character and the forest? Remember, the animals are considered to be part of the forest.
I I I. Is there any gifts exchanged? Are there any songs sang? Is there a promise of return?
B. How about if the threat is still alive? how has the character left the threat or if they decide to stay how are they keeping the threat at bay?
I. Is threat gone away for a while? Is it sure to return? Will the character return before the threat returns but with more weapons or people to battle?
I I. If the character stayed, what are they doing in order to protect the forest? How much do they have to sacrifice to keep the forest in good shape? Is the forest doing anything to thank them or to protect the character in return? Is this a completely selfless act?
I I I. Vice versa. What must the forest do in order to continue to protect the character? How’s the character thanking the forest?
C. Let the reader know who’s in charge, whether it’s the character the forest or the enemy at the end of the scene. Let them know where it should start the next time you begin this scene. If it is finished then make sure you bring out the person you want to bring out on top. But not without consequence; there must be signs of a battle.
I. Who left the battle? Who had the most battle scars? Who showed signs of fear? And how did they show these signs if they weren’t human?
I I. Is there a prophecy? Were there hostile words exchanged? Was there a time when the character or the forest felt like they failed or were about to lose? Is this a false win?
I I I. Is there peace at the end of the scene? Or is there a lot to be desired? What is the last thing that the character remembers about the forest or sees?
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3 thoughts on “ How to Write a Forest Scene ”
Glad to hear that!
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Setting Thesaurus Entry: Woods at Night
March 5, 2011 by BECCA PUGLISI
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…
–Think about the conflict that might be present in your setting.
Your character’s emotions will be on high alert at night because their visibility is low, making it a great time to insert conflict. This Conflict Scenario Database is loaded with ideas to help you.
–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…
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.
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May 1, 2020 at 8:45 am
This is my new account! Thanks for all your kind replies! 🙂
March 11, 2020 at 3:32 pm
if anyone could help me with how to describe palaces and castles, please comment me back.
March 11, 2020 at 4:24 pm
HI Kit, You can find information on Castles and other fantasy settings at our site, One Stop for Writers: https://onestopforwriters.com/scene_settings
Happy writing! ~angela
December 27, 2019 at 8:16 am
this has just made me re think and re write my whole stroy thank you this really helps
May 1, 2020 at 8:43 am
happy to help!
P.S. I’m Angela, this is just a new account! 🙂
July 13, 2017 at 2:55 pm
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.
May 1, 2020 at 8:44 am
Thank you so much for your kind reply. Happy to help you always!
December 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm
I do not think I would be walking around the woods at night.
December 6, 2011 at 2:06 pm
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!
March 9, 2011 at 9:15 am
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.
March 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm
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.
March 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm
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.
March 6, 2011 at 2:41 pm
I love the woods and only a few times have I experienced them at night. It can be a beautiful-creepy feeling.
March 6, 2011 at 1:41 pm
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!
March 6, 2011 at 2:23 am
Ooooh, just thinking about the woods at night gives me the willies. You nailed it!
March 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm
Very timely. Might be needing this for my wip!Thanks!
March 5, 2011 at 7:31 pm
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!
March 5, 2011 at 11:25 am
Just wrote a scene involving the woods at night. You are right, they definitely deserve their own entry!
March 5, 2011 at 11:08 am
This totally makes me want to go write a fairy tale. =)
March 5, 2011 at 10:46 am
The woods are lovely dark and deep but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep….
March 5, 2011 at 8:58 am
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!
[…] Does your setting take place at night? Check out this similar Entry: WOODS AT NIGHT […]
[…] beautiful Brothers Grimm-inspired gallery of forest photographs. And if you get stuck, check out Writing Helping Writers’ “Forest Thesaurus” for even more […]
[…] hushed voices and whispers, muffled footsteps, your own heartbeat. Also, see the setting entry Woods at Night. EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS: Mood: Falling stars happen so quickly; to catch sight of one makes the […]
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Writing Tips Oasis
10 Words to Describe a Spooky Forest
By Ali Dixon
Does your novel include a scene in a forest? Do you want to make this setting frightening? Use the 10 words to describe a spooky forest from the list below.
Marked by crowded parts , compactness, or thickness.
“They walked deeper into the dense wood, the path becoming narrower and narrower until she started to worry that they would lose it completely.”
“A dense thicket of trees was up ahead, clouded by shadow.”
How It Adds Description
The word dense can help communicate to your readers that the forest you’re describing is very thick. A character may have trouble moving through so many trees, or there could be things that hide easily in a dense forest. This word can also help to make the scene feel more claustrophobic.
Having no light or having only a portion of light ; demonstrating evil traits.
“Even though it was day, the forest loomed in front of them, dark and watchful.”
“There was something dark in the forest. He could sense it was following them, but he didn’t know what it was.”
The word dark can tell your readers that the forest your character is in is literally dark, which will help to add an ominous mood to your scene. Alternatively, you can also use the word dark to infer that the forest itself may have ill wishes to add a fantastical element to your story.
A sign or prediction that something evil or ill-intentioned is coming ; someone who forebodes is inwardly convinced of something.
“As they walked through the trees, she had a foreboding sense that something terrible was going to happen.”
“The sound of the leaves shifting against each other as the foreboding wind blew made all of them feel on edge.”
If you want to make your readers feel uneasy about what might happen in the forest you’re describing, this is a good word to use. You can say that the forest itself has a foreboding presence, or you can describe the foreboding feeling that your characters may have as they enter it.
Completely or partially dark ; causing low spirits or feelings of hopelessness or despair.
“As the rain started to fall, the forest around them somehow seemed even more gloomy .”
“The gloomy atmosphere of the woods around them made them wonder if they would ever be able to get back out.”
Describing the woods in your story as gloomy will do a lot to help the overall mood of your scene feel much darker and more somber.
Lacking warmth, having a low temperature ; of a lower temperature than is comfortable; demonstrating a lack of life.
“A strong wind blew through the trees and she shivered in the cold of the forest, rubbing her arms to try and regain warmth.”
“The trees were sparse and the woods felt lifeless and cold —she wondered if there was anything living in them at all.”
The forest that your character is in may literally be of a low temperature, in which case you could describe it as cold. However, it may also be lacking in life or have an uninviting feeling to it. Cold would be a great word to use in this situation as well.
Causing a disturbing or otherwise intensely emotional effect ; so cold one can feel it in their bones.
“He shivered in the bone-chilling darkness, uncertain which path he should try next.”
“The woods were bone-chilling to look at, but he knew that he had to go through them to reach his destination.”
If the temperature is more than just cold in the forest, you can describe it as bone-chilling. The atmosphere itself can also be described as bone-chilling which will help readers get a better sense of how ominous the woods are.
Distressing or distasteful in some way ; demonstrating animosity; being very unpleasant.
“They spent three days searching through the bitter woods for the cabin that held what they were looking for, but they never found it.”
“The wind blowing made the forest feel bitter .”
When you describe a forest as bitter, this is going to help readers get the sense that the woods are either physically chilly or that the forest is showing a certain level of animosity.
Not straight, taking many turns .
“The winding path through the woods seemed to lead them nowhere, and he started to wonder if he had seen certain trees before.”
“To reach the castle, the adventuring party would have to get through the winding woods which were full of turns and perils.”
When a path is winding, it could be easy to get lost or lose one’s sense of direction while following it. If you use the word winding to describe your forest, it can add another level of danger for the character walking through it.
Indicative of a storm ; furious or tumultuous.
“Dark clouds hovered over the stormy forest, rain pelting down on the party as they walked.”
Describing the weather can do a lot to help intensify a certain kind of atmosphere in a scene. If you describe your forest as stormy, then readers may start to feel uneasy. A stormy forest could be more dangerous as it might be more difficult for a character to see properly, or the storm could delay their progress, forcing them to spend more time in the forest.
Demonstrating signs of evil ; exhibiting an omen, usually a bad one.
“The trees stood tall and ominous against the gray sky.”
“An owl hooted somewhere in the distance, and the sound was so startling and ominous that she almost jumped out of her skin.”
Using the word ominous will give your readers the sense that the forest they are reading about has something ill-intentioned in store. There could be bad omens throughout the woods, or the forest itself could be an ominous marker of something that is to come later in the story.
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27 Ways to Describe a Forest Fire: Words and Tips
Last Updated: September 19, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Lydia Stevens and by wikiHow staff writer, Luke Smith, MFA . Lydia Stevens is the author of the Hellfire Series and the Ginger Davenport Escapades. She is a Developmental Editor and Writing Coach through her company "Creative Content Critiquing and Consulting." She also co-hosts a writing podcast on the craft of writing called "The REDink Writers." With over ten years of experience, she specializes in writing fantasy fiction, paranormal fiction, memoirs, and inspirational novels. Lydia holds a BA and MA in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. There are 19 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 18,519 times.
Forest fires are among nature’s greatest spectacles, which means that describing them can pose some challenges. How do you capture their color, heat, and intensity on the page? What words should you use? We’ll give you 27 strong words and synonyms to use when describing a blaze, as well as tips and samples to help you tame that fire and put it into writing.
Things You Should Know
- Use strong adjectives to convey the scene, like "blazing" or “scorching.”
- Including descriptions of the fire based on the 5 senses can help ground a reader. Describe how the fire and the area around it looks, smells, feels, sounds, and tastes.
- Study how other writers write about forest fires to inform your own writing and give you inspiration.
Words to Describe a Forest Fire
- You can also compare the forest fire to a place like Hades, a mythical setting that really establishes a vibe for a reader.
- Other good words are “conflagration” and “combustion.”
- “Searing” is a similar word that conveys the heat and damage a forest fire can do.
- Other effective figurative phrases like “ocean of fire” or “wall of flame.”
- Try something like “The forest fire devoured everything in its path” brings it to life and makes it more animated, like it has a mind of its own.
- Also try describing the fire as “hungry” or “greedy,” to give it a sense of personification and action.
- A similar term is “apocalyptic,” which is a strong adjective that offers a sense of doom.
- Words like “renewing” or “natural” help to convey a forest fire’s beneficial aspects.
- Another idea is to describe the trees or embers as “exploding,” to lend a more violent tone to the scene.
- Forest fires also “gleam” or are “blinding.”
- For example: “The forest fire’s smoke emitted a smoggy haze over the city that sat downwind of the blaze.”
- “The smoke from the fire stifled the fleeing animals and caused them to choke.”
- You might also say a fire “glowed” or “churned.”
Tips to Describe Fire in Your Writing
- Make a list of adjectives for each of the senses and try to incorporate some of these into your writing to really bring the scene to life.
- A fire might look bright or intense.
- A forest fire might smell like charred wood, or even just like a campfire.
- The area around a forest fire can taste like ash or smoke.
- Forest fires roar and crackle, which are great words to describe the sound.
- Finally, a forest fire is hot, of course–so hot it can scorch or sear whatever it touches.
- If you want the fire to come across as scary, try using words like “devouring” or “apocalyptic.”
- If you’re trying for a lighter or more optimistic mood, try words like “cleansing” or “renewing.”
- Readers make the best writers, because you're learning vocabulary that you may not have known before.
Example Descriptions of Fire
- ↑ https://www.dictionary.com/browse/inferno
- ↑ https://www.dictionary.com/browse/blaze
- ↑ https://www.dictionary.com/browse/scorching
- ↑ https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/sea%20of%20flames
- ↑ https://www.dictionary.com/browse/cataclysm
- ↑ https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/ecological-benefits-fire
- ↑ https://www.dictionary.com/browse/burst
- ↑ https://www.dictionary.com/browse/glare
- ↑ https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/experts-forest-fires-and-smog-332148
- ↑ https://www.dictionary.com/browse/smolder
- ↑ https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/portfolio.newschool.edu/dist/2/14941/files/2017/06/WRITTING_5enses-209gmgv.pdf
- ↑ https://www.litcharts.com/literary-devices-and-terms/mood
- ↑ https://selfpublishing.com/setting-of-a-story/
- ↑ https://reporter.rit.edu/views/does-reading-really-improve-your-writing
- ↑ https://www.google.com/books/edition/Shardik/exKEDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover
- ↑ https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/08/20/1007478/california-wildfires-climate-change-heatwaves/
- ↑ https://www.gutenberg.org/files/178/178-h/178-h.htm
- ↑ https://freakonomics.com/podcast/how-to-be-better-at-death-ep-450/
- ↑ https://files.gabbart.com/200/little_house_on_the_prairie__pdfdrivecom_.pdf
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forest fire - quotes and descriptions to inspire creative writing
- animals in the forest
- boreal forest
- forest department
- pine forest
- protecting our forests
- river in a forest
- saving our forests
- tongass national forest
The forest that was once so alive now chills me. In this thirty degree heat I'm actually shaking. The trees that sheltered so many with their spreading canopy of green and provided so much are now lifeless sticks of charcoal, no more vibrant than the old lamp-posts in the city. The unfettered light illuminates the scorched ground and still that smell of burning lingers despite the rain. They couldn't beat us in court so they brought cheap petrol and a five cent matchbook. Who will stand in the way of their progress now? If I were to close my eyes I would still see the virescent mosaic above, I could feel the humid air and hear the sounds of the frogs. But I won't, I can't. This reality was cruel enough the first time when we stood mute before the flames, I don't think I could survive that again.
The fire will take what is alive and sacred to us and cast it as confetti into the sky, first glowing red before cooling to black. By the morrow we will stand on the ashes and pray for the spirits of our brother and sister spirits who dwelt in the trees, pray that they found a safe harbour.
The sun has been savage all season long, rising above the pleasant temperatures that are normal to an oven-like sear. The forest has been tinder try for weeks, every fallen piece of wood bleached and dehydrated, almost as good as scattered kerosene. Now the wildfires rage sending billows of black smoke into the sky and giving us a blood-sun. The firefighters work endlessly, the army has been called in, water is dumped from old bombers and all the rest of us can do is pray.
The forest will be gone by dawn leaving a jungle of charred stumps. Though the mourning will go on for some time, the yearning for that dappled shade and the noises of the creatures who dwelt there, what comes next will be strong grasses and the mammals that graze. This is the way of life, this is what happens when lightening strikes parched undergrowth.
The smell of smoke has us moving right away, no time for the belongings, family only. Our only chance is to out-run the flames and that'll be hard enough on the forest tracks. So once we're all in Harley guns the engine and we pull out faster than gangsters in a movie.
There is nothing for it but to head for the bunker. Soon the air will be too smoky to breathe and hot enough to scorch the skin. As we sit in the dark, air masks over our faces, we hear the flames as they devour all that we have built these past few years in the forest. Everything is wood, so everything is gone.
The fire burns like a temper, as if the leaping flames have a terrible anger toward the living world. It moves faster than a person can run though the deer stand a strong chance, moving swiftly as they do. The air smells and tastes like bonfire while the horizon glows orange beneath the smokey wind-dragged plume.
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