Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Add a Monkey

Some scenes practically jump out of our minds onto the page. They're written quickly and we glow with satisfaction when finished. Other scenes confuse us, stall us, make us wonder if we're headed in the right direction or veering off course.

For the head-scratching scenes, I sometimes ask myself random questions to unlock an unexpected response.

Today's question:

What if a monkey enters the scene but only one character can see it?

This works wonders for a serious scene. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I know it has to be serious, but a monkey just swung in.

Since I write romance, it's important to string the main character's feelings out. The heroine cannot realize and declare her love for the hero in chapter one. If either character is in danger of falling too fast, the other character's reaction to a monkey in the room can mislead the other.

Betsy wanted to believe the promise in John's eye, but maybe she was fooling herself, the way she had with Sam. After all, John treated her like one of the guys. She needed to stop reading into his actions. So he'd put his arm around her yesterday and whispered a compliment. Big deal.

"Do you have a minute?" John asked. His lazy grin should have set her at ease, but
the slight clench in his jaw made her pull her shoulders back. "Let's grab a coffee so we can talk."

"Okay." Betsy fell in beside him as he started walking along the sidewalk. What could he want to talk about? Did he realize she liked him? Maybe he was going to let her down easy. Why hadn't she hidden her feelings better?

(Enter the monkey. Only John can see it. He really likes Betsy, but he's a nervous wreck--a far cry from his normal flirty self. Betsy hasn't given any indication she likes him, but he's ready to take a chance.)
She followed him into the cafe. After ordering coffees, they sat a table near the window, and she gave him a shaky smile. "What did you want to talk about?"

His forehead crinkled as he stared beyond her shoulder. She turned to see what captured his attention but didn't notice anything unusual, which could mean
only one thing. He knew she liked him and was trying to let her down gently.

"I think I know why we're here." She lowered her eyes and wrapped both hands around her cup.

"What? You do?" His distracted tone didn't bolster her courage. When she glanced at
him, his eyes wouldn't meet hers. And she didn't know what to make of his strange expression. Boy, she must have really embarrassed him.
He kept peering over her shoulder, and although she didn't want to, she couldn't stop herself from taking another peek. A cute blonde sat at a table behind her. Great. Now she had not doubt why he brought her here. Well, she didn't have to put up with it another minute.

"Okay, John. I got it. I'll leave you alone."
Since John can't get serious and mushy yet, because both characters still have a long way to go before they can act on their feelings, it helped to give him a distraction. This mislead Betsy and solidified her earlier reasoning. Of course she's wrong, and the reader knows it, but isn't that the fun of reading about love? Later, in a sequel, John would ruminate on why he'd chickened out in the cafe, and we'd learn his true motivation.

Join me on Friday to set one goal.


  1. Love it! Add a monkey. Perfect. :) That gets my imagination going right there! Sometimes you just need a monkey to jolt you out of a rut.

  2. Good morning!

    Tabitha: Monkeys do that!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. And you just whipped that right out?!?!?!? Awesome! :O)

  4. In addition to the adorable picture, I love the idea of tossing in a monkey :D

  5. The picture is adorable but when that monkeys starts to grin, little white teeth glaring in the shadows of his cage, and then begins to move-look out! He just so fast, sometimes the havoc is not noticed until he is still again. You've got me thinking about this Jill! Great post!

  6. The picture of that monkey made my entire day :) Your writing is great.

  7. That's hilarious! I was struggling with a scene, so I popped onto Blogger and found this post staring at me.

  8. Great idea...there are animals all over the blogosphere this morning: monkeys, bunnies, and I've got birds on mine. Strange!

  9. Oh yay! A chance to monkey around! I love this idea, Jill. :)

  10. Great idea, thanks! I'll have to try this:)

  11. What a fabulous idea. I'm totally doing this next time I'm stuck -- which will be later today. :)

  12. Thank you all for the funny comments and for stopping by!

  13. Wow, aren't you the clever one! I never would have thought of this, Jill, unless writing about a circus or a zoo!

  14. What an interesting idea! I loved your example. I'll have to give this a try.

  15. Hi Jill -

    LOL! I'm sure glad you gave an example. This could work in a lot of genres.

    Thanks for the lesson.

    Susan :)

  16. Wow! How do you THINK of all this stuff?

    You are way smarter than I am.
    Can't wait to read your books!


  17. Ha! Ha! My brain never turns off. It's a sickness :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  18. I couldn't stop laughing. This monkey business really worked with your scene.

    I'll have to archive this and try it out too. I'm in a bit of a funk right now and I'd do anything to get writing again.

    Good one, Jill.



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