Writers: How would YOU describe the dazzling fall foliage?

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.

fall foliage on Erie Canal, Fairport

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.

Fairport, Erie Canal, fall foliageBlinding 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.

fall trees red n yellow black fenceThe 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.

roadside fall maples red n greenHe 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:

Fairport fall trees in orange n redThe air was crisp outside her cabin window. Fall’s cold brush had repainted the treetops, almost overnight…


5. Perhaps a poetic approach appeals:

fall fairport trees in red yellow n greenRed 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?

Erie Canal fall trees orange n yellowFrom 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.

bright yellow trees and birdhouseWe 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)

questionDo 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?


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  1. Thank you so much. I fnd t very dffcult to descrbe, ths s very helpful. I lke all 7 ways.

    • Jim Bessey says:

      Does any one of these 7 seem lke the “better” approach, Prska; or do you thnk everythng revolves around the ablty of the wrter to blend the descrpton seamlessly nto the story?

  2. All of these beautful methods each have ther place and tme, as does another element, the mythcal. “Gant maples dress as gods n red and gude phalanxes dressed n lesser yellows to fleeng verdant greens n valleys below”. Great post, Jm! ~R

    • Jim Bessey says:

      Oh, great addton, Raymond — I love the dea of “mythcal”!
      As we toured the mountans of Pennsylvana drectly south of us ths weekend, we found ourselves breathless and rendered speechless by the fleetng beauty of ths year’s leaf dsplays. To fnd a way to express that beauty at a “mythcal” level s so approprate, thanks!

  3. Jm:

    I really enjoyed ths. As you know, I’m nherently blunt – whch can tend to take some of the ‘color’ out of my wrtng at tmes.

    What a great remnder of several reasons to take some tme and mx t back n. Serously, I’m bookmarkng ths one.


    • Jim Bessey says:

      Thanks, Gary!
      Sometmes blunt s best of all. But blunt can be beautful, too, rght? Comes down to word choces and phrasng. When you’re good, you’re good!

      • Very true. I may have to get some “Blunt s Beautful” T-Shrts made up! :)

        • Jim Bessey says:

          Methnks you’d have to be careful where you wore sad T-Shrts, Gary!
          Esp’y f you n any way resembled Jamacan Man, Man!
          Next thng you know, the ATF helcopter would be carefully searchng the felds near your home, “just to check,” you know?
          Here are my 2 favorte local T-Shrts (Rochester, NY)
          1. “There was no pcher tooken” — an ACTUAL quote from a local student who had been accused of pontng hs smart phone down the cleavage of fellow students
          2. “Me? Not me. I dnt do anythng wrong” — from a west-sde chef of polce accused of msconduct. Um, he’s now spendng several years tryng not to get “offed” n the Attca State Prson for Maxmum Offenders. No joke.

  4. Wow – I lked them all…but f I had to pck…#3. It really spoke of the mystery, power and beauty of nature. You wrte wonderfully!

    • Jim Bessey says:

      I’m so glad you lked that one, Jane!
      I know how creatve and ntrospectve you are, so your choce says a lot. Complment most apprecated. I’m stll watng for a reader to respond: “not one of those works for me!” -grn-

  5. I defntely prefer the mnmalst approach. Even though I knew I was readng samples, I found myself dong what I do when I’m readng descrptons n a novel… skmmng. I don’t mnd descrptons, most of these just seem so… elaborate. More than s needed, at least for my tastes.

    Then agan, I lve n Florda and have never seen such beautful scenery… so who knows? If I found myself under ” gants that formed the gold and crmson canopy” who knows, I mght be struck poetc as well!

    • Jim Bessey says:

      We both read wth that same mpatence, don’t we, Km?
      I’m all about plot and character development and tend to flash rght by descrptve passages. I love t when a wrter drops the occasonal adjectve — just enough — to establsh Settng. If I had to go “long,” I’d try to do t through the character’s eyes, n that char’s voce.
      I am glad, however, that you enjoyed “gold and crmson”! -smle-

  6. My favourte was the mnmalst descrpton – probably because that’s closest to how I wrte. However I also loved the metaphor descrpton – probably because that’s how would love to be able to wrte!

    • Jim Bessey says:

      Well sad, Ange!
      Metaphors are fun when you get them rght. But when they suck, they really suck. -grn-
      Thanks for takng tme to comment. I love your ste’s name!

  7. Absolutely wonderful – I loved every one of them!! I lve n New England – I can assure you I wll see Fall wth new eyes! :-)

    • Jim Bessey says:

      Thanks very much, Lor. Great to hear from a “neghbor”!
      Are your leaves nearng peak there? We were n PA ths weekend and the scenery was camera-worthy, even f only at about 50% of peak.

  8. Wow… how dfferent and beautful all the ways are!
    Personally my stores do not have long dscrptons. I am nto mnmalsm and prefer to keep t short, I am more focused on emotons and thoughts nstead :)

    • Jim Bessey says:

      Thank you, An!
      Your focus on emotons and thoughts makes perfect sense. That’s part of the reason I wrote ths post at all, as n — how much descrpton of Settng should we bother to nclude n our wrtng? None? Some? It’s always a tough decson.
      Thanks for your feedback. Very nce to meet you, An!

  9. I prefer the mnmalst mnmalst approach – don’t even menton the scenery :)

    As a reader, I skp past all scenery. As a wrter, t s then quet unnatural for me to wrte n descrptons of fall folage. I suspect wrters have an nclnaton to apprecate, and therefore wrte about detals more than non-wrters. At least that’s what I hope.

    • Jim Bessey says:

      I was noddng to myself as I read your reply, Amt.
      But then I thought about t some more and changed my mnd. A seres of mages from one of my new favorte authors, C.J. Box, flashed through my mnd (who knows why?). Box wrtes the Joe Pckett seres, set n Wyomng, and the settng n ths case really matters. So Box does plenty of scenery-descrbng; he must. And yet t has never bothered me (tho I do agree wth you, Amt, about a mnmalst approach). So maybe Box just does t well and unobtrusvely. I’ll pay closer attenton when I read the next nstallment.
      Thanks for your feedback; I value your opnon and enjoy your wrtng!

  10. A fun concdence today–
    I was readng “Clockwork Heart (The Nexus),” by Scott Lovesy, and the author decded to nclude ths fall folage descrpton:
    “The trees arrayed n lnes whzzed by the wndows on ether sde. Golden leaves had begun ther weakenng, and gradually began to let go of ther old lves for a new fadng exstence below on the surface world. The road was aglow wth reds and oranges, accentuated by the dancng rays of lght whch perced the clouds and took ther chance for one last foray n the world; a fnal revere before the depths of wnder cut off ther access.”
    Cool, huh? :-)

  11. I love t when folks come together and share
    vews. Great blog, keep t up!

  12. H there! Do you know f they make any plugns to assst wth Search Engne Optmzaton?
    I’m tryng to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeng very
    good success. If you know of any please share. Thanks!

  13. Pretty nce post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have truly enjoyed browsng your blog
    posts. After all I wll be subscrbng to your feed and I
    hope you wrte agan soon!

  14. I would lke to thank you for the efforts you have put n wrtng ths blog.

    I really hope to see the same hgh-grade content from you n the future as well.
    In truth, your creatve wrtng abltes has encouraged me to get my
    own, personal blog now 😉

  15. Pretty! Ths hhas been an ncredbly wonderful artcle. Thanks for provdng ths nfo.

  16. Thanks for sharng your thoughts on scenery.

  17. Hello, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed ths post.
    It was practcal. Keep on postng!

  18. Excellent wrtng, however, I beleve your web page can-do wth more vsual materal to backup your own suggestons.

    Have you consdered makng a bref vdeo or ncludng a
    photograph or two to help t become even more compellng?

  19. Awesome blog! Do you have any tps and hnts for asprng wrters?
    I’m plannng to start my own blog soon but I’m a lttle lost
    on everythng. Would you recommend startng wth a free platform lke WordPress or go for a pad opton?

    There are so many optons out there that I’m totally overwhelmed ..

    Any tps? Cheers!

    • Thanks, Shan.

      Although your comment mght well be smple spam, you’ve asked a good queston for wrters. The platform — free or pad — doesn’t matter much at frst. The key s smply to start. Havng a “home” of your own gets the ball rollng and establshes you as a real person, someone worth knowng.

      The real key, however, s n networkng wth your peers and your audence. You can do ths va socal meda, your own blog, and/or by guest postng (among other optons). Wthout a network of people who know who you are — and more mportantly, care who you are — your chances of beng a successful wrter are slm ndeed. Even f you don’t use your “real” name, but nstead rely on a pseudonym, you should network onlne just as you would n your home town: by beng nterestng, and nterested, n your assocates and n your potental customers.

      Everythng else s smply detals. Cheers back atcha, Shan.

  20. Ths nfo s prceless. Where can Ifnd out more?

  21. I almost never leave a response, but Iread some of the comments on sowrte.us — Wrters: How
    would YOU descrbe the dazzlng fall folage?.

    I do have a few questons for you f t’s okay.
    Is t just me or does t seem lke a few of these responses come
    across lke they are wrtten by bran ded folks?
    😛 And, f you are postng at other stes, I
    would lke to follow anythng new you have to post. Could yoou make a lst of all
    off your socal stes lke your Facebook page, twtter feed, or lnkedn profle?

    • What a wonderful observaton, Natale, f a bt harsh.

      Some of the (spam) comments I’ve allowed through on varous posts, smply because they amuse me. They are wrtten by well-meanng wrters hopng to earn a few cents for ther efforts, whch are lkely at least partally automated.

      All of my socal stes are lsted on SoWrte’s homepage, ncludng our Wrters’ Group on Facebook. We would, however, requre that you learn to properly spell “dead” before you joned us there. :-)

  22. Hello, all s gong well here and ofcourse every one s
    sharng facts, that’s n fact good, keep up wrtng.

  23. How can I make a personalzed banner for a blogspot blog?

  24. Ths s my frst tme pay a vst at here and am truly pleassant
    to read everthng at one place.

  25. Have you ever thought about creatng an e-book or guest authorng on other blogs?
    I have a blog based upon on the same nformaton you dscuss and would really lke to have you share some stores/nformaton. I know my audence would value your work.

    If you are even remotely nterested, feel free to send me an e-mal.

  26. If you desre to take a great deal from ths pece of wrtng then you have to apply such
    strateges to your won web ste.

  27. I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both educatve and engagng, and wthout a doubt, you have ht the nal on the head.
    The problem s somethng too few people are speakng
    ntellgently about. I’m very happy I came across ths n my
    hunt for somethng concernng ths.

  28. I thnk everythng publshed made a great deal
    of sense. However, consder ths, suppose you wrote a catcher post
    ttle? I am not suggestng your content s not good,
    but what f you added a post ttle that grabbed a person’s attenton? I mean sowrte.us — Wrters: How
    would YOU descrbe the dazzlng fall folage? s knda vanlla.

    You should look at Yahoo’s home page and watch how they create artcle headlnes to grab vewers nterested.
    You mght add a vdeo or a related pcture or two to get readers excted
    about what you’ve got to say. In my opnon, t could brng your posts a lttle

  29. I don’t know f t’s just me or f everyone else experencng problems
    wth your blog. It seems lke some of the wrtten text on your content are runnng
    off the screen. Can somebody else please provde feedback and let me know f ths s happenng to them as well?
    Ths could be a ssue wth my nternet browser because
    I’ve had ths happen before. Thank you

  30. My brother suggested I would possbly lke ths
    webste. He was once totally rght. Ths post truly made my day.
    You can not beleve just how much tme I had spent for ths nfo!
    Thank you!

  31. Luna Lovegood says:

    Thank for for ths post! I loved the colour names used n the ‘poetc’ one. Ochre, umber, orange and rust… perfect!

  32. I see you don’t monetze your page, ‘v got dea how to earn some extra cash usng one smple method, just search n g00gle for-
    ruthezx’s method

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