How to Write a "Monkey Paw" Story | B.A. Burgess | Skillshare

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How to Write a "Monkey Paw" Story

teacher avatar B.A. Burgess, Writer | Writing Facilitator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Limit Your Research


    • 3.

      Core Elements + Brainstorming


    • 4.

      Summarize Your Story


    • 5.

      Outline: This Is Your First Draft


    • 6.

      4 Draft Method


    • 7.

      3 Readers Method for Finalizing


    • 8.

      Once More with Feeling


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About This Class

Hello, aspiring writers! Are you struggling to create an imaginative yet structured short story? Have you heard of the "Monkey Paw" story structure and have been looking for some guidance on how to write one? Look no further, because in this workshop, How to Write a "Monkey Paw" Story, you can achieve just that!

In this engaging experience, you’ll learn the key components of shape effective “Monkey Paw” stories. Start by examining the essential elements of the structure. Then brainstorm ideas and practice magical object writing with our challenge exercises. Finally, use our general story outline template to help guide you in creating your own narrative!

Whether you’re in need of a refresher or are starting from scratch, How to Write a "Monkey Paw" Story promises to empower your creative storytelling skills. So what are you waiting for? Get ready for an adventure into mysterious monkey paw realms... And join us as we show you how it’s done!

Meet Your Teacher

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B.A. Burgess

Writer | Writing Facilitator


B.A. Burgess is a multi-genre author.  She has published works of poetry, romance, non-fiction, and children's book under various pen names (or author voices as she prefers to call them).
When she isn't writing, working out, taking photos, and encouraging others to write.

Speaking of, would you like to start writing? 

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Creative Writing Creative
Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello friends and welcome to the How to Write a monkey pause story, crafting short stories using the three wish or monkey pod structure. So I imagine you are one of two people. You either know what a monkey pause story is and you want to learn how to write them yourself, which is great. You're in the right spot or you're someone who doesn't really know what a monkey pause story is or you do, but you don t know that you do yet. And you really just clicked on this because it had a weird title and a Funky Monkey Paul on the front, the front cover, this slide. So for you, let me tell you what a monkey Paul's story is. A monkey pause story is a type of short story that typically involves a magical item that's believed to grant wishes, but with disastrous or unsettling consequences. The central theme of these stories is often the danger of unchecked desire. And of course, the Be careful what you wish for because you just might get a theme seat. You already knew what it was. It's great. You're still in the right spot. If you want to write your own, we'll continue on. By the end of this workshop. You will have a better understanding of the monkey pos structure. So I will provide an outline to you and you'll be able to plug in your own data, make your own story with it, and it's gonna be great. So with that being said, by the end of this course, you will have a completed monkeypox story, provided you follow the steps exactly as I have them laid out. You can always edit how you write your own stories later, but try this method first. If you follow this method, you will definitely have a finished product by the end of this course that you can share with your fellow students or not. It's up to you. But before we dive in, let me tell you a little bit about me. This will be the fluffy, highest and most useless part of the course for you. Hello, my name is Barbara. You might know me as BA Burgess. I am a writer, writing facilitator and generally curious human being. You may have taken my how to write a children's book course, which is here. If you did, great, welcome back. You already know a lot of this, but the reason I'm telling you this and filling this section with the About Me stuff is because you should know the kind of person you're going to be learning from. I say a lot. I talk to myself, I laugh, I go off on tangents. I drink on mic and on-camera. Which bothers some people. But you should know what you're getting into. These are the kinds of things that I will not be editing out. I also speak at a pretty good clip. This is my natural speaking cadence. I'm actually, I say it's my natural speaking cadence, but this is actually my natural speaking cadence. I tried to slow it down a little bit, but it's easy to follow along because the steps are actionable in here. I try not to fill in the gaps with a lot of fluffy nonsense. I really just want to give you the tools that you need to get the result that you want. And the result here by the end of this course is a short story following the monkey pos structure. So if that all sounds good to you, this again is the Fluffy as part. The rest of it's very actionable straight into the point. So if you're ready, I'm ready. Let's move on to the next section where we talk a little bit about research. There'll be brief. 2. Limit Your Research: So let's briefly touch on research. I don't like to get caught up in a lot of research because it takes away from the actual writing, which is what we're here to do. However, that being said, if you'd like to read the original monkey pause story written by WW Jacobs, the monkey's paw. You can listen to it for free on labor Vox. Here's a link here, and then you can also read it for free on the American Literature website. And there is a PDF included with this course, with this workshop, with some links that you can click on. These are two of those. You can also read the story. It's included in a lot of scary story collections, Halloween collections. This story is in the public domain, so you could actually even go on YouTube, type it in. I'm sure you could find somebody reading it. But those are your options. I would limit myself. Were you I would limit myself to this as the only research that I'm doing just so you can get to the end of this workshop with the result faster. If you spend too much time researching all the different kinds of monkey Paul stories, you may never sit down to write your own. So maybe read the first one just so you can have a point of reference for this outline that I'm about to give you. Then, move on with your life. Cool. Alright, let's get to the next part. 3. Core Elements + Brainstorming: So now we're going to look at the core elements of the monkey pause story. And that's going to lead us immediately into brainstorming. If you feel like you can skip some of the core element exercises or the brainstorming or even the outlining exercises, please reconsider. Operating inside of a construct is really helpful for creativity when you put limitations on it, you have to make the scope smaller and it makes you more focus, but it also juices up your creativity and allows you to find solutions to problems that you may not have thought of before. So especially for your first three to five stories, operate within the confines of the structures provided including the core elements and the outlines so that you could write better stories like this in the future. So let's talk about the very first core element, which is the introduction of a magical object. This can be an everyday object, a strange object. It can even be a person or a creature. Why not? This leads us to our very first brainstorming activity. On a piece of paper. You're going to write objects at the top. And then you're going to set a timer for 10 min. I want you to list ten or more. The idea is to get to 20. If you can get to more than 20, that's awesome. By about item ten or 11, getting into some really interesting items, list as many as you can. And if you lose your train of thought, just look around and list the things that are around you that tends to work pretty well. So after you've set your timer and you've listed your items on the sheet of paper, then you're going to select three of them or fewer that you're interested in. In a perfect world, one item would jump off the page and you'd be like, yes, that's the one I'm going to write about. Nine times out of ten, this doesn't happen. So limit yourself to three. If you are terrible at making decisions off the cuff like this, set another timer for 10 min and don't allow yourself to set another one. And make sure you choose three items or fewer By the end of that ten-minute timer. Okay? So again, brief instruction recap. You're going to set a timer for 10 min on a piece of paper on a different document on your computer screen, you're going to write the word objects at the top. During that ten minute time frame, you're going to list as many as you can, as many objects as possible. When that timer goes off, you will then select three items from your list that are the most intriguing, interesting to you. And then we'll move on to the next core elements so you can pause this video and then we'll jump to the next one. Okay? Now you've got your list. I want you to take on a new piece of paper and a new document. You're going to take the three items you've chosen and move those over. Okay? Then beneath that you're going to write this next core element, which is a formula, lac plus wish equals price. That's basically the idea of the entire monkeypox story, but this is the thing, this is the first wish that snowballs everything else. So this is the first big decision that the main character makes that kinda ruins, ruins their life for the rest of the story. So light plus which equals price, main character must desire something. They make a wish for it and then they pay the price for said wish. If you'd have a hard time writing desire or writing characters that have desires, then just show something that they lack. It's always a good idea. This leads us to our next brainstorming activity in which you're going to look at that formula, lac plus wish equals price. And you're going to list as many of those kinds of formulas is you can think of bearing in mind that you want the wishes to come from these objects. So you don't have to include these objects in any of the items that you list on this, on this particular list. Just keep them in the back of your mind that this character is going to be wishing on this item and that should help you. So an example of something that you could add to this list is you've got to main character. Maybe you want to base a main character on yourself and you start describing a fictionalized version of yourself that can be item number one on your list, even if you can't think of a wish or a price, that's the main character with a lag. So you just describe yourself with a lag. That's element number one. So you can list as many main characters as you like and something they lack. You can list as many wishes as you want. You can list consequences to wishes or a wish and a consequence on the same line. It doesn't matter. Just bear in mind the formula and try to write as many combinations as you can. If you can't write a full combination formula, which would be a character with a lac plus a wish that they make and a consequence. If you can't write that over and over again, don't worry about it. Pick a piece and write it down. So concepts are allowed. Story ideas were allowed, scenes are allowed. Just remember, we're bearing in mind. The main character is going to be making a wish and you want to try as best you can to use elements of that formula. Okay? You can do this as many as three times. I'm setting a timer for 10 min three times, I wouldn't go over that because again, we want to actually complete the goal. We will go for minimum viable product any day of the week over an unfinished piece of fiction. Once you've made that list and you finished all of your sessions, you're going to need to choose three again. So in an effort to get us to that minimum viable product, which is a finished story. You need to choose the ones that are easiest to write. They may not be the most interesting and they may not even be your favorite ideas, but you want to pick the ones that are the easiest to write. Once you've done that, I will see you for your next task on the list. Your next task is everybody's least favorite one. You need to pick. Just one. Pick one story concept, one story idea from your list of three, choose the easiest one to write. It needs to be interesting to you. It needs to have forward motion. It needs to have the fewest unanswerable questions. Because we are trying to get to a finished product. You can keep all of this stuff for later. Don't let that inner artist that has to feel like it's struggle, struggling all the time, be in charge of driving this car. We're driving the car. We are logically driving this creative vehicle to the end result, which is a story. So pick the easiest one to right? And then we're going to start getting into the really good stuff. 4. Summarize Your Story: Okay, My friends. So you've committed to a story idea and you're ready to run with it. This next part is going to be incredibly helpful to you. This is the thing that really helps me want to write. When I, as writers, we always want to write something, but it's just like going to the gym, right? We want to go to the gym. We know we should go to the gym, but getting there, we always tried to talk ourselves out of it. It's the same way with writing. When I get a really good idea, I'm like, Man, that would be amazing and I can see the finished product already, but it's doing the work in the middle. That's so difficult. Summarizing has been instrumental in helping me finish projects. So essentially, what I'm asking you to do is to create a sales pitch. You're going to on a sheet of paper in your document, wherever it is, you're going to craft a story description. That is literally your next task. So if you were doing just a basic monkeypox, kind of just a general one without getting specific. This is what the sales description would look like. It would be something like this. A cursor object finds its way into possession of the main character. It's capable of granting wishes. However, these wishes come at a great and often unforeseen costs, leading to disastrous consequences for the main character. The story explores the themes of greed, temptation, and the dangers of meddling with forces beyond your control. You can literally take this take this very general product description or story description and plug in details about your story and make it your own. And I suggest you do that, especially if you have no juice for writing a summary. Take this and throw in some details about the story idea that you've chosen and watch us the story comes to life in your mind. So this is your next task. You can copy that general description over to a piece of paper and plug-in your own details, that's fine. Another good way to do a summary is to describe the story as if you're telling a friend what it's about, That's always really helpful. You can also imagine that you're reading the back of the book jacket or the description underneath a book on Amazon or something, and write what you would like to read about the story. I do ask you to set a ten-minute timer on this only because I don't want to spend hours and hours on it. I have spent hours on stuff like this before and it's helpful sometimes. But at a certain point, there are diminishing returns on your effort. So set a timer for 10 min. Bang out a quick summary. And then we'll get into the outlining. 5. Outline: This Is Your First Draft: Okay friends, it is time to outline your story. This will end up being your first draft. Back in the early days of writing children's books for me, I started treating my outline, that's my first draft. And then I used that tactic when writing short stories and even when writing a couple of other books. And it's been very helpful. So I hope you find it helpful as well. Please do not be overwhelmed by this next slide. You do have this full outline included in the PDF that came with this course. But there's Higher general outline for a monkey pause story. So there's no need to pause this and I need to screenshot it again. It's in the downloadable PDF. And we're going to now work through each element of the outline one at a time. If you don't have your document pulled up that has the summary on it, or if you don't have a free sheet of paper, please grab one because it's best to just do this rapid-fire. So for each item on this outline, I want you to write one to three sentences. Just getting down the basic ideas of what we need to fill in these gaps. Again, this is going to be rapid-fire. You can pause this video obviously as we go through each section. Number one, you might want to number these. I find that a numbered list and an outline format works really well. Number one on your page should be the introduction. You need to establish the setting and introduce the protagonist who's often a person in need of change or fulfillment in their life. So easy stuff. Tell us where the character is. Introduce your protagonist if you know their name, great, if they're nameless, that's fine to just describe them a little bit and show something that they need or something that they want, just some kind of lack in their life. Again, you can pause this and write those sentences. Don't get too deep into it. Minimum viable product one to three sentences. Number two is discovery of the monkey pause, so we need to describe how the main character gets their hands on this magical object. We also need to establish that they know the object, grants wishes. So even if you want them to stumble upon that fact, you need to write a sentence about how they do that. It also helps if the main character is skeptical. It doesn't have to be that way though. You could have a main character that firmly believes and magic and supernatural things. And this is one of those things were they feel vindicated, you can absolutely do that as well. But regardless, you need to come to the conclusion in this section that the protagonist is definitely going to make a wish. The first wish, this is the snowball effect. They will make their first wish and they'll get a little bit of a high off of that when that they had. But they need to start noticing that even though they got their wish, things are not quite the way they thought they would be. Sometimes this is something that they can dismiss. Other times it's really big and something that they cannot ignore, right? One to three sentences about that. Number four, they need to make a second wish. So the second wish is where the consequence of this wishes a little bit more severe than the first one sometimes, but not always. The second wishes not where they tried to rectify the first wish all the time. Sometimes it's for what they really wanted, whereas the first test is sum, the first wish is sometimes the test. The second wishes like, alright, cool, it works. I'm going to wish for what I really want now. But you can play that part by ear. If you've got a tangled web, a tangled, messy web of things from the first wish that you need to undo with this second wish, go ahead, but just remember that this second Wish does not resolve all the main characters problems. It just creates more. That's, that's the thing, right? One to three sentences about that. Number five is the third wish. Third and final wish. The protagonist makes our final wish. This typically will undo the previous two wishes or correct any errors. This wish should have the worst consequences of all. Often, it is the loss of everything they gained plus the continued loss of whatever they lost from making their first wish. But choose your own adventure. It's always good. Monkey pause stories always have a dark side. So it's always good if you can just take it, take it dark, but do it your own way. That third and final wish, however, does need to eliminate the previous two wishes. And it either resets the character or puts them in a position where they can reset themselves. Number six is the climax. This is where the protagonist is faced with the full extent of the monkey pause power must grapple with the consequences of their wishes. So this is more of an introspective section to the story. Sometimes you can also have an outside observer narrate what they think the main character has gone through, that's fine. But this is where they look around and they see, oh, I did all this with my wish. My wish stemmed from greed or less or something, you know, something like that. So you've got 223123 sentences on that one, please. Number seven is the resolution. So this is where the protagonist can actually share with the reader what lesson they learned. If any. Main characters don't have to learn a lesson every time the reader can learn a lesson on the character's behalf. That's okay too. So often this is represented by a sense of how often this particular section is represented by a sense of regret, followed immediately by a sense of gratitude for being alive. Generally. Write one to three sentences on that. Then the conclusion, this is where everything gets wrapped up in a bow. You can kind of tell the reader what you want them to have learned or what you want them to have seen. This is often a statement on be careful for what you wish, for, be careful of your uncheck desires. This particular element of the outline is one that I'm not a huge fan of because I like my stories to end and an open-ended fashion. So if you're that person too, I recommend writing it just to have it and then you can eliminate it during the editing phase if you need to. But that is the entire outline of the monkey pause story filled in with all of your details and fondness. Fondness. And then we'll move on to our next drafts, those are next. And if you're familiar with my four dress system, this might be a review. 6. 4 Draft Method: Okay, friends, we are here and ready to talk about the four drafts system. Now luckily, you've already done the first draft, which was your outline. So you've got that done good for you. You can count that as a win. So again, outlines done. The next draft I want to talk about is the add details draft. So for this one, in the same document that you have your outline in or in a fresh one just depending on how you like to work or on a fresh sheet of paper, you're going to start adding in details to what already exists on your outline. So you can turn these fragmented sentences, actual sentences, you can elaborate, you can put in all the senses. You can answer questions if you feel a little stuck like who, what, when, where, how, why, that kind of thing. As you're doing this, you're going to start to see paragraphs forming. This is how your story starts to bloom and blossom right in front of you. So this add details draft can take a long time if you let it. So any any project pardon me, any project that you work on is going to expand to fill the container in which you put it. So I'm a big fan of putting deadlines on projects like this for myself to make sure I do it. That works for me. May not work for you, but We're IN your position. I would give myself 48 h for each of these drafts just to get myself extra time. In reality, what I do is I typically do two of these drafts in one day and then I move on, but play with it. See what works best for you. Just do the drafts in order though, and make sure you put a deadline on it. Don't just start a draft and then set it and forget it. So that holds true for this details draft. It also holds true for the cleanup draft which is next. This one is important. You need to look for places where you can add even more detail. And you also want to fix your paragraphs and your sentence structure. So this is kind of, it's not as intense as the final, the final draft in this, but it's pretty dang close. You want to read it. See if the sentence is pillowcase. See if you're missing some details, see if you are thinking something when you're reading a paragraph that may not be very clear on the page, you know what I mean? Maybe you see it in your head, but the reader can't see it because it's still in your head and there aren't even hints of it on the page. Fixed stuff like that. Again, I'd give myself no more than 48 h for this one. This is the most intense draft. This is the paragraph by paragraph draft. This one's very important. It's tedious, but it's Freaking worth it. So you want to read each paragraph line by line, and paragraph by paragraph on its own. And you're going to tweak it. You're going to ask yourself, is this the best way I could have presented this paragraph? You're going to clean up any missing words, misspellings, or incorrect verb tenses, which is the bane of my existence. I'm really bad at that. That's me. You'll also add in any last touches. If you have a really good idea for a spin or something that should have happened in the story. Hold it, just hold it, use it in another story. This story is done. If you get any other good ideas, write them down, put them to the side. If by the end of all this, if Final Draft, you're not happy and you want to add that thing in, you can. But let's just finish this project the way it is. So again, 48 h for this one. I like to finish my short writing projects in seven days or less. And this one, I would say if I followed this so far the way that I normally would have done it, I would have done the brainstorming and the outlining all in one day. And then I would do two of these drafts in one day. Then the final paragraph by paragraph I would do in a day. That's how I would do it. But that's because I'm a little neurotic that way. But do it however you want just to make sure you give yourself a deadline because you have to get to the next part, which is the finalization, also known as the three readers method. So do all these first, don't come back to this course until this is done. And when it's done. I'll see you in the next section. 7. 3 Readers Method for Finalizing: Okay friends, it's time for the three readers method to finalizing. And this might be everyone's least favorite part. We're gonna go over three methods of finalizing your work. I do recommend you do all three of these. The first one is to record yourself reading your work aloud. You can do this with the document live and in front of you in your word processing software or have your written word in front of you on paper and make corrections as you go. You'll find a lot of things when you slow down and read these things out loud to yourself that you didn't see before when you were reading silently, your brain has a tendency to fill in gaps. You miss words and things for you. So this is very helpful for that. So you're going to record yourself and you can make corrections as you go. That's the first one. The second reader is the listening readers. So we're going to now listen to the recording, right? So you want to listen to the recording of yourself again with the document in front of you and make corrections as you hear yourself stumble. This means pausing the recording and going through and rewarding sentences when necessary. Totally fine. The third and final, this is the one everybody hates, the phone, a friend. So you're going to have a friend read your story. Pardon me? You're going to have a friend read your story to you out loud, allowed directly to you. It's going to be very uncomfortable. Have a copy of your story in your hand or on your screen so that you can make notes. Feel free to pause with your friend whenever they pause, if they make a funny face and ask them why they're making the funny face. Nine times out of ten, it's because something you've written doesn't make sense in their mouth, even though it made sense in yours. So there's that. Those are the three readers. And you need to do all of them. It's gonna be great. Again, try to knock all of these out in a day if you can. But obviously you can knock these out in three days if you need to. Your friends might be busy. But give that a go. And this will definitely tidy up your draft very, very quickly, a lot faster than it would if you were doing this all by yourself. Good luck, and I'll see you in the next video. 8. Once More with Feeling: Oh friends, we've reached the end. So I'm going to ask you to do one more thing before you leave this course. And that is I want you to get your story either printed on paper or on your iPad or on your computer. And sit in your favorite reading spot if you can get there and read your story, not as a writer, but read it as a reader. And I'm going to have you pause this video and come back when you're done. So even if you need to sit where you are and read it where you are as a reader, do it for joy, do it for pleasure, do it for the experience of reading a good story. And then when you're done, you can unpause the video, deal. Okay, go. I hope you enjoyed reading your story. I really do, and congratulations my friend. You are the author of a monkey pause story. You know, now, you know how to brainstorm and how to outline and how to essentially produce a monkey pause story over and over and over again. There are endless possibilities to these stories. I hope so much that you write many, many more. Please feel free to share your work with the class if you like, in the project section. Before you write in the comments, hey, what do I do now that I've written it? Why do I do next? I'm going to answer you now Until you to write more. You want to write more of them. Of course, you can publish them on a blog. You could publish them on KT P as independent short stories. You can do whatever you want to with them, they're yours. So enjoy the process. Please write more. I hope you write more. And I really hope you enjoyed this class. I hope as well that you stay in touch. You can find my personal log at hello, This is I write about everything there and I tend to not check my grammar or punctuation or anything. So there's that. So in the meantime, meaning in the meantime, between the next time we work together, take care of you. Thank you so, so much for being here. And I hope to see you again soon. Happy writing.