How do you communicate to Western world readers the uncivilized, nature-controlled land that is Africa. If your story includes an African setting, you must get that untamed, mysterious feel across or you lose credibility.
Here are a few books you can read that will drench you in the scents and colors of Africa:
- In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall (or any writing by Jane Goodall)
- Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind by Donald JohansonandMaitlandEdey (about the discovery of Lucy, but filled with the smells of the habitat)
- Letters from the Field 1925-1975 by Margaret Mead (many on Africa, and some on other world locations in which she researched)
- The Forest People by Colin Turnbull (about the BaMbuti Pygmies and their environ)
- The Tree Where Man Was Born by Peter Matthiessen (about the African Cradle of Mankind)
- The Land’s Wild Music by Mark Tredinnick (translates the visual pictures of Africa to the other senses)
- The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior by Tepilit Ole Saitoti (the African habitat of the Maasai)
- Bunyoro: An African Kingdom by John Beattie (case study based in Uganda)
Here’s a list of descriptions, in part drawn from these books:
- Flat, dry, and monotonous, a seemingly limitless scrub waste without landmarks or water or other relief
- because of the time and the approaching rain
- followed small antelope trails instead of the larger buffalo trails
- Oxbow lake
- Narrow rocky defile
- Beneath the jutting stone ledge, she sat hunched into a ball, knees tight against her chest, her damp clothes about her.
- Olduvai appeared like a dark rift
- Along its length, cottonwoods had sprung up; young trees little more than twice a man’s height.
- Thick grass had carpeted the narrow strip
- distant harsh mountains composed of granite, covered with thorny shrubs and acacia trees
- mountains, thrusting spires of naked rock into the heavens so high that you would believe the very sky was pierced
- thickly scented spruce branches clutched at his clothes, slapped against his chest and shredded his hand
- thick forest that carpeted the uplands
- dust was everywhere—on leaves, branches, even on my teeth and lips
- Easing over humps and trenches, potholes and stone rivers, bashing through the trees where a track is blocked, the bucking climbs up steep eroded banks
- the cloud mist lifted, gradually came the dull patches of red glowing far beyond the cliffs. Two active volcanoes
- mouth of a thick sulfurous stream
- watch the river to see the coiling of its muscular currents, catch the shimmering of waves that caught the sunlight like scales
- swallowed up by the jungle
- dry creek bed
- bounded on three sides by basalt outcrops and partially screened by brush
- followed the ridge down toward a patch of grass
- back to a rotting log that some long-forgotten flood had deposited crossways on the spit
- Cracks like hardweed through a broken sidewalk
- Gordian knot of …
- he saw its fields, steppes, villages and towns, all bleached white by the moon and bright stars.
- the gallery forests of river red gum, various grasses, that lined the channels. Maybe a low-lying area where runoff from high ground collected after rain. Sometimes dense stands of mulga (acacia) woodland would grow there, where water was easiest to find in a desert.
Photo credit: Kibuyu
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.