Plot bunnies are everywhere

There’s a question every writer gets asked at some point – aside from “will you read my manuscript? It’s only 700 pages long, single-spaced.” That question is, “where do you get your ideas from?”

Where do you not? I say. People who aren’t writers (and there are so many secret writers out there I begin to wonder if there’s such a thing as a person who isn’t a writer) think ideas must be hard. In fact they’re the easiest part of the whole game. Good ideas are harder of course, but even a bad writer gets lots of good ideas. Writers get far more than they can ever actually turn into stories. Some of them probably aren’t worth the attempt to turn them into stories as they are too thin a premise, too much of a novelty maybe. But some grow and grow. Less like a bunny and more like a pearl, they accrete layers until suddenly there they are, a whole story.

plot bunny
Coffee with extra bunny

My bunnies are often exchanges of dialogue between characters. A scene plays out in my head, I can hear them talking to each other, and that’s all there is, that one scene. Then I have to figure out a story around it “so why are the A-Team in a small boat in the middle of the ocean?” or “why are these guys stoned out of their gourds, driving a jeep along a road in Africa and dodging to avoid a hallucinatory moose? And what has The Rumble in the Jungle got to do with it?” Or, “so why is Jack Harkness asking Gene Hunt if he’s ever been to Cardiff?” Fan fiction bunnies especially tended to start this way, since I already knew the characters then I could quite easily hear them in my head having little conversations.

Others come from “what if?” ideas. The next draft I plan to write after my current one came from a what if scenario involving Osama Bin Laden! Some are even more oddly random. Liar’s Waltz came from a posting I made on the NaNoWriMo message boards, about mixing of genres. I posted that maybe one day I’d write a romantic comedy drama about the only gay bar on the moon. Of course it morphed somewhat – little comedy and it wasn’t on the moon, but that was the germ of the idea. My next book, Stowaway, has its origin in one of the albatross stories I wrote about a while back. The next draft I’m editing, currently called Higher Ground, came from a vivid dream. Though not all the elements of the dream are in it – I never found a place for the nightclub worker in the silver bowler hat. I suspect he escaped from Karl’s bar in Liar’s Waltz, though he also looked rather like a guy who works in my local Starbucks.

Bunnies are on my mind as I’ve started cooking up what I plan on writing after I finish with the current set of stories – so not for a while yet, but if I do it and it’s anything like what I’m envisaging, it will take a lot of prep work, so good to start early. I really only have a concept so far, no characters even, except maybe this guy I’m seeing in an image in my head. Young, wearing military uniform and handcuffed, thrown to the floor in front of some kind of leader, a king, or president or whatever. I don’t know who he is yet, but he appears to be in big trouble.

One day maybe we’ll know…


6 thoughts on “Plot bunnies are everywhere

  1. Oh, I’m so glad I’m not the only one getting ideas from dreams. It sounds a bit daft when you tell people who don’t write (and yes, there are a fair few of them about!), and sometimes even telling people who do write you wonder if they’re going to look at you funny! I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve woken up thinking “Wow, must get that written down!” Most of the time I don’t manage it – either I need to get up for work or, as was the case this morning, I’ve given myself a dead arm from how I’ve been sleeping and cannot physically lift a pen to write…

    The best one though is still saved for me *somewhere* in a folder of ‘ideas to work on’ and gave me around 10,000 words in two days – and that’s just the introduction to the characters and their world!

    1. Sounds fun! I don’t get all that many dreams that are coherent enough to turn into stories, or at least give me an idea for one, but when I do, they’re precious!

  2. Ha! Yes, I’m plagued by plot bunnies. The challenge is getting enough of them together to form one coherent plot. One little bunny on its own might be enough for a very short story, but you need a field full of them to flesh out a novel.

    I do love that moment, though, when a vague plot that’s been sloshing around in your head suddenly finds that extra element it needs to be ready to start writing. Only trouble is, do I have the time to write it there and then, or will I have to wait until the current project is out of the way (by which time I’ll have accumulated a whole new warren of bunnies!)

  3. I get the middle of the night bunnies and I always think “I’ll remember this” and never ever do. It’s infuriating because they seem brilliant at 4am. Must keep notebook by bed.

    I get my bunnies listening to the radio,(Mere Mortals came from a Book Programme report on cloning) or passing a monument or distinctive place (e.g. the Happisburgh lighthouse,) or suddenly I’ll get like you, a fragment of conversation (Just got one from Fleury, but it’s the last line of his book, and I can’t reveal it!)

    But yes, far far far too many to ever get down onto paper. Sometimes I go into my WIP folder and can’t even remember what that paragraph I typed out was supposed to be about!

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