Setting Description Entry: Barn

Hay, stalls, water trough or bucket, food trough, pens, seed, grain, blue salt lick, curry comb, tools (shovel, pitchfork, broom) feed buckets, flies, spiders, spider webs, dust, rusty nails, pen gates, horse hair pinched in cracked boards/stall rails, manure, feathers, dirty straw, clean straw, bales of hay, loft, ladder, lighting on pull string, mice, animals, horse blankets, tack, brush, split door or double door, glassless windows with shutters, mud, grime

The rustle of hay, creaking boards, stamping, thumps, whinnies, squeaks, grunts and other animal-specific vocals, huffing breath, snorting, rubbing noises as animals scratch against posts or rails, the clatter of grain spilling into a trough, the scrape of a shovel against the rough floorboards while mucking out the barn, hay bales thumping to the floor, the shush/papery rustle of clean straw being spread in a stall, the chomp and crunch of an apple treat, chewing noises, cows lowing, the swish of a tail, the squeak of a gate, a latch being set into place, the slosh of water, the clink of tack, the flutter of a horse blanket as it's shaken out, humans talking or clucking with their tongue at the animals


straw (clean and dirty), urine, manure, salt, animals, hay (dusty & slightly sweet-smelling), grain (dusty & earthy)


Dust & chaff in the air, spit


Prickly hay and straw, chaff sticking to the neck, getting into your shirt, rough boards, sweat trickling down your face, sides and back, a band of heat where your hat sits, swiping dust and chaff from clothes and hair, pulling on heavy work gloves, the dry & hairy tickle of horse lips nibbling up a treat of apple, carrot, sugar cubes, etc, the warmth of animals pressing against you for attention, horsehide, robe burn from hoisting square hay bales with no gloves, heavy boots against the rough floor, the jarring vibration of dragging a square-shaped shovel across the floor to collect and dispose of soiled straw and manure, the pain of being kicked by an injured or frightened animal, slivers, scratching a bristly chin, patting a flank, holding up a hoof to check or clip it, moving a curry comb slowly over the curve of a horse's back or side, running a hand through the mane, pulling doors and gates shut, throwing catches, climbing ladders & tossing down hay with a pitchfork

Helpful hints:

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

Example 1:
Dara woke from her nap, wide-awake with the vague remembrance of an unpleasant dream. Her skin itched from a dozen hay pricks; the strong smell of animal assaulted her nose. As her eyes grew accustomed to the dark, she made out rough wooden stalls with milk pails stacked against the wall. She pushed away a rusty pitchfork and decided to be more careful next time she fell asleep in the barn.

Example 2:
Dara woke from her nap, wide-awake with the vague remembrance of a pleasant dream. The hay was soft, almost bouyant, beneath her; the comforting smell of horses drifted on the lazy air. As her eyes grew accustomed to the dark, she made out smooth wooden stalls and shining milk pails stacked against the wall. She stretched like a cat and smiled; she should sleep in the barn more often.

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

Example 1: (Simile)

I stepped into Uncle Amos' barn and the unholy stench of manure and filthy straw almost knocked my boots off. It was like entering a free standing public toilet in the height of that had gone weeks without being emptied.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

After a few inquisitive nuzzles at Andrea's pockets to make sure all the carrots pilfered from the garden were gone, Old Sam rested his chin on her bare shoulder. The bristles under his muzzle were sparse, an old broom sweeping at her shoulder, tickling her skin.


Bish Denham said...

Barns...a great place to play, endless imaginary possibilities.

spamwarrior said...

Have you ever read something where the writer used similes and metaphors all the time?

Shauna said...

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PJ Hoover said...

Yes! A Barn! My WIP needs a barn totally!
Thanks as always.

Danyelle said...


Sorry, all those deliciously allergic things. :D

Angela said...

Bish, I know--I have fond memories of barns.

Spam warrior, ugh, I have! It's terrible. But, I will say sometimes you can lean a bit heavy on the similes and get away with it (not often tho). An exaple would by the Middle Grade, Savvy. The simile usage is a big part of the style and voice, so it works.

Thanks PJ & Danyelle

Anonymous said...

I was trying to recall the many-years-old memories of a summer working in a barn for a scene I'm working on and found this blog. I am so, so, so happy I did, though it feels like cheating ^^

Angela Ackerman said...

Anon, I'm betting just reading through our descriptors has evoke lots of memory for you to draw on! This is more a brainstorming tool more than anything, to get you thinking about what it feels like to you in the particular setting. :)

Happy writing!



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