Given the OYAN community’s recent obsession with plot bunnies (story ideas) I decided I’d take some time to explore the topic. More specifically, I thought it might be helpful if we studied not just plot bunnies, but how we can use them to help us write our current stories. When the other option is allowing them to run rampant and destroy every story we ever tried to write, the idea of using plot bunnies in a helpful manner is extra tantalizing.
Thus, this post. I hope it helps you cage, harness, and even (dare I say it?) control your stray plot bunnies. If we’re lucky, you’ll be back to writing your story in no time, and it may even be better than it was when the bunny struck.
Plot Update in 3… 2… 1…
So, you’ve got a plot bunny? You didn’t want it. You were perfectly happy with your WIP, but it just hopped into your fiction landscape. Now you’ve got it, and it won’t go away. Want to know what to do with it other than letting it lead you away from your WIP?
Everybody has an idea. Story ideas are a dime a dozen. Plot bunnies are so common they are unwanted. (Hence this post.) Writers can’t make their way on single ideas, every book should be a mashup of at least two ideas. Amnesia and secret agents? “The Bourne Identity”. Dinosaurs and theme parks? “Jurassic Park”. Superheroes and Nazis? “Captain America: the First Avenger.”
Believe me now? Great ideas aren’t just great ideas, they are fused ideas.
Chances are, if you’re dealing with a plot bunny, you’re bored with your WIP. Whether you were then the bunny struck or not, you are now. Your WIP is old, boring, predictable, cliché. (The plot bunny will be the same thing in a few months, but that’s not our concern.) Neither of your ideas can stand up by themselves. Can you fuse them? I did this when I came up with the idea for Pariah’s Exile, my summer editing project. I merged homelessness with knowledge in a bottle. I ended up toppling the New Regime.
See if you can’t take your plot bunny and add it in to your WIP. It might work, and if it does, your book will be deeper for it. But what if it doesn’t?
Characters developed in 3…2…1…
So, your WIP is a contemporary mystery, but your plot bunny is medieval fantasy. Long story short, you can’t mesh the two ideas. How do you use the bunny then? Throw your WIP’s character into the bunny’s story world and work the results through your imagination. Your bunny just wants to get out and run anyway. Clashing your current character with a new set of scenarios (provided by the bunny) will expose him to new and foreign situations, conflicts, and emotions which will help you get a deeper understanding of who he is. Then, when the bunny peters out (as all bunnies do) you can get back to your novel, and you’ll bring a closer relationship with your hero to the table.
And speaking of emotions……
Emotions sparked in 3…2…1…
Even if you can’t use your bunny’s setting, conflict, or plot in your WIP, there still might be something there for you to use. (Since this section is titled ‘emotions sparked’, you should have an idea where this is going.)
Chances are, you love the bunny because it makes you feel some emotion the way your WIP isn’t….
Whatever it is, take a little time to figure out what about your bunny sparks emotion in you, and see if you can do the same thing with your WIP. Basically, you want to capture the essence of your bunny and let it flow into your WIP.
Plot bunnies are the ultimate Achilles’ heel for many young writers. They can’t stay focused on any one project and they end up wasting all of their writing energy trying to chase a million different winds.
Don’t do that.
Instead, channel all the winds into one stream, and unleash the power of your hyper-active imagination onto the page of your WIP. Your novel.