As writers, we love to paint word pictures for our readers. How can we include descriptions of fall’s brilliant foliage without resorting to cliches? Here are 7 ways you can describe fall foliage.
After days of dreary rain, the sun burst on the multicolored hillsides of my world, here in Upstate New York. I live in the Finger Lakes — a gorgeous region filled with resort areas, wineries, hiking trails and picturesque small towns. It’s a writer’s dream for Setting, with scenery so lovely it takes your breath away.
But how do we describe the natural splendor of fall foliage without parroting a thousand writers who’ve gone before us? Can we do it with even a smidgen of originality? After a delightful walk in the woods with my faithful mutt, Layla, I set myself to the task of trying to do just that.
Let’s see if any of these attempts work — or if they all end up dull, dull, dull.
1. Do it with metaphor, always popular.
Blinding yellow flames lit the hillsides around us. The oaks were angry red bombs scattered among the more common birch and aspen. Lower down, the maples formed a simmering orange heat. We drove on, humbled by the battle all around us…
2. Or switch to simile, often easier.
The road leading into Mill Valley was festive with fall color. Stands of deciduous trees along the verge looked like carnival clowns holding giant bunches of yellow, orange, red and green balloons…
3. Mix in some reverence, if the spirit moves you.
He knelt on the forest floor to catch his breath, and absently gathered a handful of V-shaped helicopters. For a moment, he marveled that these tiny seeds could produce the giants that formed the gold and crimson canopy above him. The blood-red leaves scattered nearby reminded him of his perilous situation…
4. Try Minimalist:
The air was crisp outside her cabin window. Fall’s cold brush had repainted the treetops, almost overnight…
5. Perhaps a poetic approach appeals:
Red was the badge of the courageous oaks, towering over the lesser trees. Pretty pale poplars paid homage. The others, cloaked in ocher, umber, orange and rust filled the gallery…
6. Consider hyperbole, better than the best of all the rest?
From our perch by the road, the valley below looked infinite, filled with endless twists and turns. Millions of trees and billions of multicolored leaves formed an endless, seamless quilt. Among the emerald evergreens, blinding splashes of garnet and gold made a mystic pattern, larger than life…
7. Sometimes humorous prose is the way to go.
We took a walk in the woods, camera in hand, to capture the colors of fall. We found beautiful beeches all bloody and red, majestic maples the color of pumpkins, and kicked through muddy brown oak leaves. Oh, and we learned a valuable lesson — never, ever stand beneath a walnut tree that’s loaded with hundreds of big green golf balls!
We’ve all seen variations of these in books we’ve read. My personal style leans toward a mixture of minimalist and metaphor, with a dash of humor whenever possible. As you can see, I’m no poet at all!
»all photos by Jim Bessey (attribution please)
Do you buy into any of these methods? Have you used any of them in stories or articles you’ve published? Or would you skip the whole attempt as futile?