Words describing the feeling of being underwater?

#1
I am writing a scene that is supposed to be an intense, hold your breath scenario in which the characters have to swim to a hidden door at the bottom of a body of water before it electrifies in under 30 seconds.

The problem is that I feel like my vocabulary is limited, so I'm repeating a lot of basic words (maybe because of my writing ability or lack of swimming experience).

So any words to better describe the feeling of being underwater or at least some tips to help visualize better?

Re: Words describing the feeling of being underwater?

#2
as i kicked the space behind me, i felt my legs burn
as i strained i felt my stomach too begin to churn
my arms felt like their weight increased with every small movement
i gave them all the power i could, but my lungs were spent

the pressure of the water then began to close around
crushing every part of me without a single sound
all that i could hear was the heart beating in my chest
begging me to stop and give my heavy arms a rest

the water that i kicked against felt thicker as i kicked
i tried imagining fresh air but lungs cannot be tricked
lamenting an entire lifetime of easy, wasted breath
the thing that i was mostly made of soon would be my death

Re: Words describing the feeling of being underwater?

#4
A cool, wet pressure on your skin.  Tight feeling in your lungs, starved of air.  The more you physically exert yourself without breath, the worse it gets.  You can push it back for a time.  Focus on a task.  But that feeling never goes away, and eventually gets worse.  Your body rebels against the lack of air.  It wants to live.  Like a trapped animal, it will fight you for control.  If it wins, you will thrash and spasm, anything to get back to the lifegiving air.  The animal mind doesn't think a thing for "friends" or "morals."  It would drown a child to make sure it could live in an instant.  The animal mind is not dumb, however.  It is desperate.  And it will kill you in its desperation, wasting precious energy *trying* to live instead of actually living.

A man underwater is working on a time limit until the animal mind snatches control away from him.  It can be resisted with practice.  Trained.  Smooth, steady strokes are more efficient than rapid thrashing.  They also do not draw the attention of aquatic predators, if any are nearby.  Slow is smooth.  Smooth is fast.  Focus.  You have to focus on the task at hand.  Thirty seconds doesn't seem like a lot of time- but under pressure both of depth and of impending knowledge it can focus a mind quite sharply.

The door underwater cannot be too far away.  Even weighted down with equipment, your party still moves with agonizing slowness.  You can't tell each other to hurry up.  They can't hear you, and it would waste precious energy.  Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.  Keep the animal mind under control.  Don't breathe out.  It wastes precious Oxygen.  You do know you're losing that, too when you breathe out underwater, right?  Hopefully, all your people know that.  And no one goes feral.

If they do, you have to waste even *more* precious energy and breath fighting them as you fight the damned door at the same time.  Objects under pressure like that move S - L - O - W - L - Y.  There'd better be water on the other side, otherwise that damned door might as well be welded shut.  

Then you have to get through the door.  The animal mind is close to panicking at this point.  No air.  One at a time, people go through.  No.  Air.  Traces of madness can be seen in other people's eyes.  Yours too.  NO.  AIR.  You're going through.  The other side.  WHERE'S THE FRACKIN' SURFACE?!

Re: Words describing the feeling of being underwater?

#5

MrNobodyisHome Wrote: I am writing a scene that is supposed to be an intense, hold your breath scenario in which the characters have to swim to a hidden door at the bottom of a body of water before it electrifies in under 30 seconds.

The problem is that I feel like my vocabulary is limited, so I'm repeating a lot of basic words (maybe because of my writing ability or lack of swimming experience).

So any words to better describe the feeling of being underwater or at least some tips to help visualize better?


I want to note that the premise is very time-dependant. Your characters have 30 seconds. That means you're trying to build tension. Tension is often better when there's less to describe. Describing too much might make those 30 seconds feel longer than they should (unless you're going for that).


Re: Words describing the feeling of being underwater?

#6
The most important thing to note is the increasing pressure the deeper you go underwater. Note that this puts pressure on your body and inner organs as well. So when you swim during these conditions, the body moves quite stiffly and sluggish since you're not getting enough oxygen. Try to write about the sluggishness the characters are feeling as they try to swim towards the exit. Another general thing to add is the soreness of legs and arms after swimming for a while or a quick spurt of energy. When oxygen starts to run out, the fight or flight instinct kicks in. This can be showcased by panicking or the character exerting as much force and energy in their body to survive.

Water also holds you in place, restricting your movement. You can also write about that aspect as well!

Hope this helps, if only a little.

Re: Words describing the feeling of being underwater?

#7
I went snorkeling with my Zoology professor and some of my university colleagues some years ago. There, I had several interesting experiences, one being almost not making it to the surface (kids, never, ever take the heaviest lead belt if you aren't an experienced diver!). So, how does it feel? At about 5m your ears already start to hurt from the pressure and you need to pop them or you say goodby to your eardrums. Then, there are the underwater currents that can suddenly chill you to the bone and drag you far away from where you are heading. The deeper you go, the more the water starts to feel like a jelly, every stroke requiring an enormous effort. Now, if you aren't wearing diving gear or a lead belt, you will need to exert yourself even more, since the human body tends to float (especially if you are wearing a neoprene swimming suit). And then, after you have fought the currents, the buoyancy of your own body, have felt the fatigue in your limbs growing to the point where every stroke is a struggle, your lungs start to burn from the lack of oxygen. Literaly. It first starts as pressure, a tickling in the pit of your stomach, then the pain spreads until it feels your lungs are on fire. You instinctively want to take a breath but know that if you do, you will drown. You panic and start to flail erratically, which is the worst possible thing to do since you exhaust the little remaining oxygen you have. You see the surface that is close by but seems miles away and hope mixes with desperation in a final adrenalin boost. Blood rushes into your head and your vision starts to blur. Then your head finally sticks out of the water and the first breath of air you take burns your throat and lungs once again. 

Yep, I felt all this in approximately 30 seconds since, as I've mentioned, I am not the most experienced diver and can't hold my breath for much longer. 

Now, if you are doing a night dive, add sheer terror to the unknown to all this. During our night snorkeling, we had diver flashlights. Even then, it was terrifying (yes, you've guessed it, I am a scaredy-cat and swear to never do a night dive again!). Everything is black and you only see about half a meter around the light of the flashlight. Under these conditions, every algae or debris touching you and every sudden change in the water currents is a monster from the depths ready to bite you, drag you to your doom.

I hope this will help you.

Re: Words describing the feeling of being underwater?

#8

eric_river Wrote:
as i kicked the space behind me, i felt my legs burn
as i strained i felt my stomach too begin to churn
my arms felt like their weight increased with every small movement
i gave them all the power i could, but my lungs were spent

the pressure of the water then began to close around
crushing every part of me without a single sound
all that i could hear was the heart beating in my chest
begging me to stop and give my heavy arms a rest

the water that i kicked against felt thicker as i kicked
i tried imagining fresh air but lungs cannot be tricked
lamenting an entire lifetime of easy, wasted breath
the thing that i was mostly made of soon would be my death



The added weight on the limbs! Of course! Why didn't I think of that!?
Sake Wrote: confusing af and I cant breath

sorry never been a good swimmer


Fair enough lol.
Dan Wrote: A cool, wet pressure on your skin.  Tight feeling in your lungs, starved of air.  The more you physically exert yourself without breath, the worse it gets.  You can push it back for a time.  Focus on a task.  But that feeling never goes away, and eventually gets worse.  Your body rebels against the lack of air.  It wants to live.  Like a trapped animal, it will fight you for control.  If it wins, you will thrash and spasm, anything to get back to the lifegiving air.  The animal mind doesn't think a thing for "friends" or "morals."  It would drown a child to make sure it could live in an instant.  The animal mind is not dumb, however.  It is desperate.  And it will kill you in its desperation, wasting precious energy *trying* to live instead of actually living.

A man underwater is working on a time limit until the animal mind snatches control away from him.  It can be resisted with practice.  Trained.  Smooth, steady strokes are more efficient than rapid thrashing.  They also do not draw the attention of aquatic predators, if any are nearby.  Slow is smooth.  Smooth is fast.  Focus.  You have to focus on the task at hand.  Thirty seconds doesn't seem like a lot of time- but under pressure both of depth and of impending knowledge it can focus a mind quite sharply.

The door underwater cannot be too far away.  Even weighted down with equipment, your party still moves with agonizing slowness.  You can't tell each other to hurry up.  They can't hear you, and it would waste precious energy.  Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.  Keep the animal mind under control.  Don't breathe out.  It wastes precious Oxygen.  You do know you're losing that, too when you breathe out underwater, right?  Hopefully, all your people know that.  And no one goes feral.

If they do, you have to waste even *more* precious energy and breath fighting them as you fight the damned door at the same time.  Objects under pressure like that move S - L - O - W - L - Y.  There'd better be water on the other side, otherwise that damned door might as well be welded shut.  

Then you have to get through the door.  The animal mind is close to panicking at this point.  No air.  One at a time, people go through.  No.  Air.  Traces of madness can be seen in other people's eyes.  Yours too.  NO.  AIR.  You're going through.  The other side.  WHERE'S THE FRACKIN' SURFACE?!


Nice! Loved reading through that!
fknmz Wrote:
MrNobodyisHome Wrote: I am writing a scene that is supposed to be an intense, hold your breath scenario in which the characters have to swim to a hidden door at the bottom of a body of water before it electrifies in under 30 seconds.

The problem is that I feel like my vocabulary is limited, so I'm repeating a lot of basic words (maybe because of my writing ability or lack of swimming experience).

So any words to better describe the feeling of being underwater or at least some tips to help visualize better?


I want to note that the premise is very time-dependant. Your characters have 30 seconds. That means you're trying to build tension. Tension is often better when there's less to describe. Describing too much might make those 30 seconds feel longer than they should (unless you're going for that).


Yeah, I've noticed that, too upon writing. I have to determine if I want it to feel longer than it actually is. Noted!