A Good Scene Needs a Monkey

“10. Stories are made of scenes.  A good scene needs a monkey.  Which is to say, two characters talking while standing (or sitting) in a room, or walking down the beach, or riding in a car, aren’t usually enough to make an interesting scene.  No matter how funny or interesting or important the dialogue is, the scene will still be boring if that’s all that’s going on.  But if your characters are driving down the freeway and trying to talk about something important and there’s a monkey leaping around the car’s interior, flipping the headlights on and off, honking the horn and pooping in the ash-tray—then you’ve got a scene.  Of course, not every scene can have a literal monkey in it, so you have to find the particular “monkey” that’s right for your particular scene—something for your readers to look at while the characters talk. ”

– From “Eleven Things I Know About Fiction Writing,” a blog post by Jon Loomis,  author of the Frank Coffin mystery series and more.


A wave to El Guapo. See, I really do have a method to my monkey madness. The more fitting truth is I am just mad about monkeys. Though the first sounds more more professional. (And yes, I am linking to Guap’s toy page on purpose. Monkeys make great toys!)

and so do chickens:

From Savage Chickens by Doug
From Savage Chickens by Doug Savage (to see more monkeys and chickens)

7 thoughts on “A Good Scene Needs a Monkey

  1. As soon as I saw the title, I laughed. Christy and her monkey. :-D. Excellent writing advice. I will now go through the scenes in my manuscript and make sure I have a “monkey” in each one. xox


    1. I found Jon’s tips after reading his very sad (to me) poem “Deer Hit.” We had a young hurt doe on our property this weekend, and I was searching for words… Thankfully his poem led me to his very funny tip on needing monkeys, and I said YES!, here’s a guy who gets it! Hahaha! Couldn’t not share.

      (Debating still publishing my own deer piece. I’ll have to muster up some bravery for that. –and thank you for your sweet comment on the interview! Soooo glad you clicked on me.) xox


  2. I never quite thought of it in those terms. I guess it’s another way of describing the tension of any scene.
    Though sometimes it feels like the monkey is doing the writing and I’m just trying to corral it.

    And I begin to get the feeling that you don’t want to corral the monkeys… 😉


    1. Yeah, I’ve spent 30+ years corralling my monkeys, Guap. My challenge these days is coaxing the little guys out. Like little lab monkeys they don’t quite realize their cage doors are wide open.

      On a writerly note, that’s probably why I’m drawn to Mary Oliver, who has all of her monkeys lined up in a row smelling sunflowers and to Bukowski, at the other end of the spectrum, who has the whole barrel bouncing around in his car like bats stuffed into a bat mobile.

      I’m sure the happy medium lies somewhere in between. In a Sherpa coat. In Canada.


  3. Love! Love! Love! Question: Do the monkeys in my brain count? Seems they always have something to say 🙂
    I am really enjoying this page–the diversity, the pretty words and thought provoking pieces. It’s time to write a lighter/funnier post for my own page and I’m completely enthralled and distracted by the deeper, more serious things I’ve been reading lately. Sigh…I like this little pensive world you and your cool friends have introduced me to!


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