I’m usually pretty good at handling the plot bunnies when they take up arms and attack. At least, that’s what I’ve always told myself. Upon reflection, however, I’ve reason to question that.
Trish Marie Dawson wrote a funny little blog post on this topic (I grabbed the drawing from her article). Check her out, folks. Very talented.
But back to my dilemma. They’re sneaky, those bunnies. They usually hit me when I’m not paying attention. In the middle of a basketball game, or while I’m proctoring a test, or (most often) while I’m driving home from work. Never in the shower. Not sure why.
My strategy for dealing with them is to keep a notebook with me at all times. Except in the car, this doesn’t work, and the bunnies have finally figured this out, I think.
Anyway, a story idea will strike like an invisible punch to the face. I’ll gasp, get wide-eyed with excitement, garner a few sidelong glances from anyone nearby, then whip out my notebook and begin scribbling as fast as I can. A tricky feat when I’m supposed to be running the clock during the JV Boys basketball game, but I’ve only had folks scream “start the clock!” a couple of times, so it’s all good.
It’s the drive home that’s killing me. With no notebook handy (and I don’t use a dictation app because my brain isn’t good with verbal stuff), I have no shield to protect me from the bunnies. They attack me, defenseless, and burrow in deep. I spend twenty or thirty minutes mulling over the “what if,” inventing characters, hearing snippets of dialogue, visualizing a setting, a scene, an entire world.
By the time I get home, it’s too late. I can’t let go of the story. Even if I head straight to my desk, plop down in the chair, whip out my notebook and start writing it all down, the bunnies have nested.
The result? My current project loses appeal. It fades, becomes uninteresting. I’ve got something new and shiny to play with. Am I playing with it, or am I being played? I don’t know. Either way, the outcome is the same. I accumulate unfinished projects.
I try to make myself feel better about this nasty tendency to start stories, write like a demon, and then abandon them to start something new. It’s a bad habit, but I tell myself, “I’m a new writer, which means I’m also sort of a crappy writer. These story ideas are great, and in a few years, I’ll have gotten the whole storytelling thing figured out well enough so that when I finally go back to them, I’ll be able to do them justice.”
So really, I’m just building up a library of great ideas and practicing my writing skills as I do it. I’m still in control. I’m still winning. The plot bunnies aren’t the boss of me. Just let me have it, okay.
Meanwhile, I now find myself in the irresponsible position of juggling three novel projects simultaneously as I approach my (almost) final residency for my MFA in Creative Writing program at Lesley University. Dystopian YA, Steampunk Piratical Fantasy MG adventure, and now let’s add Feminist YA Epic Fantasy to the mix. Sure, why not?
Don’t blame me. Blame those adorable plot bunnies.
How cute. I’ve never heard it referred to as ‘plot bunnies’ but I’m adopting the phrase!
I think I first heard the term from one of the students in the creative writing club I sponsor at the school where I teach. I also loved the term and immediately started using it. 🙂
Thanks for the words of encouragement, C. G. I genuinely appreciate it. I’m not dead yet! Hope your own writing is going well. Happy belated solstice to you!
The idea for Harry Potter came to JK Rowling when she didn’t have a pen (and she was on a train). It gave her time to let the story unfold in her head and by the time she got home, she swore she forgot most of it. But look at the empire it is today. 😉
Some of the *best* moments are when you allow yourself to be lost in that living-image of a story. It’s like a movie in your head; like you can feel it. If you’re lucky, you’ll get these again and again and each one will beg you to write it. BUT, you’ll fall in love with one slightly more than the others – my suggestion is focus on this image. Replay it again and again and again. Other stories will fight for their chance but you have to commit to stepping through one door, into one world, so you understand the reality of the characters needing you to write them.
You are *so* a writer by the way. I can hear it in your excitement and determination. 😉 Don’t let either die.