Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is all about those Plot Bunnies: How/where do you corral them? How much room do you give them to grow?
I have what I refer to as “author brain” and no, it’s not an affliction. It’s the way I view the world and everything in it as possible points for a story. So I’m very good at recognizing the infamous plot bunnies, which for me anyway are the little factoids I run across in my daily life, especially when reading nonfiction articles and novels. Our own world can be a strange and awe inspiring place. Those quirky-but-true items set my author brain off on a flight of fancy – usually science fictional in nature – and I start to envision a story around the core idea. Like pearls build up around a grain of sand.
The rabbit analogy works because there are a zillion plot bunnies, an author can really “go down a rabbit hole” chasing one as they try to find out more about it and/or start working out a plot featuring it and often one plot bunny leads to more. Plot bunnies can be a real problem if they cause an author to keep abandoning whatever story they’re in the middle of writing (aren’t we always in the middle of writing something?!) to chase the newer, shinier idea.
Although occasionally an idea is so compelling an author can’t let go of it and then yes, I support switching gears and writing what’s really got the creative juices bubbling. Go for it!
As an author, I’m never very tempted to go chase those rabbits right away. Although I’m renowned as an impatient person, I have infinite patience for plot bunnies. I’ve been known to sit on them for years before one might make its way into a novel. In the old old days, I’d rip the article or the inspirational photograph out of the magazine – the Wall Street Journal and Vogue used to be two of the places I found the most bunnies, oddly enough, with Business Week close on their heels – and stuff it into one of the many bulging folders I kept in boxes, lugged around through various household moves and…usually never looked at again. Eventually I leveled up to merely writing down one or two sentence fragments for myself that encapsulated what it was I found so interesting and stuck those scraps of paper into newer, still bulging folders. Which again, I don’t look at very often, if ever.
Only when I’m moving and trying to cut down on the number of boxes…
No matter how many bunnies I capture by scribbling down the nub of a flicker of an idea, I’ve found the ones that really intrigue me stay with me. No need for paper or clippings. Not that they’re constantly running or hopping through my brain – perish the thought! – but my Muse will bring them forward when I’m at a point where they can be useful. Maybe I need a new Pets In Space® story (hint: PISA® 5 will be releasing on October 6th) and since I write those at a certain times of the year to meet the deadline, they don’t arise organically in my head, as in “Ooh, next I’m going to write that empath-in-love-with-a-Special-Forces-guy because it’s SHINY and I can’t wait to pound the keyboard and tell the story.” It’s more of a process that starts with “Okay, time to write my next annual PISA® story, what cool elements do I have that I could blend into a good adventure with romance, set aboard my interstellar cruise liner?
Some of the larger plot bunnies stay with me for years and do become the central theme of a novel, like taking the story of the Titanic’s sinking and setting in in interstellar space. More often though, the bunnies become small elements of an overall book. It’s really important for me to stress, these ideas aren’t the pure Angora plot bunny that first tickled my interest when I read the WSJ article or saw the arresting photograph. The idea, whatever it was, has gone through a lot of processing and revising and adjusting and sometimes the link to whatever prompted the particular plot point is visible to only me and I could never explain it to someone else. So by then I guess it’s a purple striped alien mutant plot bunny?
I’ve shared a few plot bunnies here with this post that played a part in inspiring story elements for a few of my books on these graphics…but there’s a lot more to each novel than the bullet points (or bunnies) mentioned here.