Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Plot Bunnies and Holy Hand Grenades

From the Urban Dictionary:

Plot Bunny – “An idea for a story that gnaws at the brain until written.”

Plot bunnies are soooo irresistible - those story ideas that come to you in all their lop-eared, cotton-tailed, twitterpated goodness. Their big, shiny eyes promise untold adventure, wealth, and fame if you just give this one, Best Ever, idea a shot. Their ever so fluffy fur is almost hypnotically soothing – everything will work out this time, the story’s practically written itself in your head already, it’ll be easy as pie to put it down on paper. You’ll be hailed as a literary genius (and seal the deal on the movie rights) by the end of the month.

Who could resist them? I can’t. Plot bunnies scamper around my feet as I blearily pack school lunches in the morning. They run errands with me in the car. And, although I don’t have cats like Sarah, plot bunnies have been known to sit on my face and wake me, breathless, with The Idea™ in the wee hours of the morning.

I love plot bunnies.

In the beginning, at least.

But my bunnies have a dark side. If I give in and pick one up and stare into those limpid eyes, that wascally wabbit mutates. What seemed like such a perfect, bouncy idea begins to contort. My plot grows fangs. And claws. It misbehaves. I know what kind of story the plot bunny should turn into, but it doesn’t cooperate. I have the nose of the story, and I have the tail, but everything gets lost and muddled somewhere in all that middle fluffiness.

My bunny turns from this:

To the rabbit in Monty Python:

And that’s when I know it’s time to bring out the Holy Hand Grenade:

So here are five – no three, sir – er, three posts I’ve recently found helpful in subduing evil plot bunnies (with big pointy teeth).

My Favorite Outliner:

Okay, everyone has some sort of outline thingy that works for them – hero’s journey, 3 point plot, 5 point plot. Well, mine’s got them all beat. It’s got seventeen points – yeah, baby! Go ahead, click on the link, I’ll wait. For me this way of plotting from Helene Boudreau totally works. I added in a B (and C and D) plot sequence and suddenly there’s hardly enough space to write all the things I want to pack into that middle of the story. The plot just hums along. AND, if you really wanna see something interesting, line those 17 plot points up to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (I’ll give you a hint – perfect match).

The Nuts and Bolts of Plotting:

I liked the way Rachel Aaron explained her creative process in this blog post, “How I Plot a Novel in Five Steps.” Her candor and insight are great. I especially appreciate that someone who is a multiple times published author is willing to admit that she gets stuck, too (whew, you mean all those published guys are like…human?).

Hare Writing:

No, not as in harebrained, or harried - but like the tortoise and the hare. Once again, I found inspiration in a Rachel Aaron post. This time, how she was able to bump her writing speed and quality up from 2k per day (already amazing) to 10K !!! a day. Way cool. And her writing trifecta (knowledge, time, and enthusiasm) is applicable in almost any creative endeavor. Kudos to Rachel for using such scientific objectivity to figure things out.

So, when those cute, cuddly plot bunnies turn on you like non-sexy vampires in the night, take heart and calmly pull the pin.

What plotting tools and ideas have you found to be indispensable?

~ Susan

*Many thanks to for the Monty Python image


  1. I love Monty Python, and that scene was hilarious.

    Great advice on plotting. Thanks for the links, especially the one on increasing word count. I really needed that.

    And I love plot bunnies. So cute.

  2. More writing should refer to Monty Python skits. Just sayin'... The plot bunnies is an excellent term for story ideas. Thanks for the links to your "holy hand grenades"!

  3. Wonderful post, Susan. I wish I could write books that someone else had plotted out for me, but until that dream gig comes along, I'll have to keep trying to wrestle mine into submission. I can use all the help I can get. Have you looked at Larry Brooks has a lot of articles on structure.

    THANK YOU for the great tips!

  4. Fantastic metaphor - there are so many plot bunnies lurking under my bed with the dust bunnies (vacuuming becomes a very delicate chore).

    Anyway, I keep them all nicely corralled in a file until such time as I publish a short story and have time to fight a new battle.


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