Setting Thesaurus Entry: Storm Sewers


Curved cement walls, rusted metal grates, pipes, mesh debris collectors, standing water, canals, raised walkway, manhole access points, ladders, graffiti, mold, mildew, oily, stagnant water, waterlogged garbage, pipes, access chambers, tunnels that branch off the main line, shadows, algae, dripping water, rats, spiders, cockroaches, beetles, centipedes, drug paraphernalia, weak light from grates on the street, aqueducts, slime, dead animals/rodents floating in the water, air vents, tunnels, passages, overflow lines high up on the walls to carry runoff, brick walls, branches, sodden plastic bags, leaves


Dripping water, splashes, squeaking rats, echos, footsteps, traffic from above, street sounds, subway running nearby, man made waterfalls to create drainage flow, gurgling water in pipes, roaring water when high capacity (during/after storms), running water, debris scraping along the edges of pipes and catching on grates


stagnant water, sewage (if used partially for sewage), rot, death, pollutants (motor oil, grease and other 'roadside' lubricants that wash in with the street water), the tang of wet stone


That water isn't for drinking, people! Don't lick the walls, either. Might taste sweat on lip


Water seeping into boots, cold water soaking clothing, rats running over boots, sliding hand along a slimy wall, the cold iron rungs of a ladder to the street, bumping unseen debris in the murky water, feeling things brush against your legs, holding a hand to the nose to keep the worst odors out, arms windmilling in an attempt to keep balance on a dry ledge, nudging a dead rat off a walkway into the slimy water so you can step there, swinging a flashlight side to side or up and down, searching for an exit, the side of the sewer scraping along back as you ease down a passage, jerking away to avoid something nasty floating in the water, rubbing swat off your face with the back of the hand because the front you've used to touch the walls and they are filthy, drips of water falling on the head and sliding down your neck

Helpful hints:

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

Example 1:

The beam of my flashlight played off the filth-encrusted walls, the tide line showing where the water had gone down a good four feet. Cold water pressed against my waterproof gear as I entered the offshoot tunnel and an unholy stench slammed into me. I pressed a sleeve to my nose--the blockage I needed to find must be close. After a week's worth of rains causing flooding in half a dozen neighborhoods, there were sure to be a few deceased pets caught up in the mesh debris catch.

Example 2:

Marty balanced on the ledge just above the trough of sludge at the bottom of the tunnel, his heart almost beating out of his chest. He waited in the darkness, straining to hear the race of footsteps above on the street, signalling that Ben and his crew had moved on and it was safe to go back up. His shoes, so precariously balanced on the five-inch ledge, grew heavier and his mind screamed to not look down. He looked anyway and found a well-fed sewer rat sitting on his shoe, cleaning its rubbery tale as if it had every right to sit there and survey its kingdom.

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

Example 1: (Simile)

The storm pipes curved and twisted like the intestines of a giant mythical creature in desperate need of a thirty day, fix-you-right-up detox cleanse.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

Slimy lumps bobbed in the murky brown water, a rancid stew of litter, junkie needles and dead rats.

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Karen Lange said...

This is great stuff for good visual images. Have a great weekend:)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Storm sewers?! You are so clever. I loved, "That water isn't for drinking, people!" LOL! And your simile and metaphor examples at the end are fantastic - sooooo visual! :-)

slcboston said...

You may not *want* to taste anything, but from rather unpleasant experience I know that if the smells are strong enough, coupled with certain odors in the air, you can taste things.

Things you don't want to taste, and faint, to be sure, but it's there.

Only other thing missing from your list? Harrison Ford taking a swan dive. :D

Mary Witzl said...

Ewww... good images, though I use that word 'good' to mean 'effective'. This would be a tough one to do personal research on, what with the cockroaches and the rats!

Indigo said...

Love all these descriptions! (Hugs)Indigo

Angela said...

I think sewers are a good location for all sorts of interesting storylines, but on this one I will fully admit that my reseach was online only, LOL

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I've decided the beach party scene in my wip is being moved to the sewer. :)

Angela said...

Stina, I have that affect on people. Beach? Pah. Let's party in the SEWERS!

MissV said...

"don't lick the walls either"

crack me up! You would think you wouldn't have to tell people this...but a few years ago my son licked EVERYTHING.

Happy Momma's Day to everyone!

Blog Jog tomorrow! Start at my site or see the master list at

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Seriously nice (well you know what I mean) words!!!

Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

Christina Farley said...

Hey Angela- You won Escaping the Tiger on my blog! Email me your address.

Heather said...

I actually keep a post it note on the inside of my notebook that lists the five senses to remind me to engage them! Great post!

Wendy Marcus said...

Can't say I've ever given storm sewers much thought. But now, when I think of one of one, all five of my senses will be engaged.
Thanks! (I think.)

Christina Lee said...

GOOD STUFF!! You always have such fantastic stuff for me to ponder on here...

Susanne Drazic said...

Interesting blog post Angela. Never thought about writing about storm sewers, but if I did, this would be the place to come for ideas!

I liked Heather's comment about keeping a post it note on the inside of her notebook that lists the five senses to remind her to engage them!


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