A recent post by theryanlanz, called Inspiration Point, turned my attention homeward to an English-language, writer-oriented phrase I’d never heard of: “plot bunnies.” I had to look into that one. My first thought was to relate it to “dust bunnies”, which could have worked if it meant something about cleaning up the plot or removing extraneous elements, but didn’t feel quite right. I’ve never like the term “dust bunnies” anyway. Who wants to get rid of bunnies?
A quick search found plenty of information on this phrase, which apparently is used to refer to those stories that jump into your head and refuse to leave until you write them – which I suppose does in fact relate to clearing dust bunnies. I see this as a more positive use of bunnies, though. You’re not clearing them so much as exercising them or organizing them. Maybe brushing them and trimming their nails and making sure they have a nice, clean hutch.
My favorite informational site on the term, WikiWriMo, which is the wiki site for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), believes that this term’s origin is the John Steinbeck quote, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
I think it could have other reasons as well, such as the fact that these types of ideas often lead you straight down a rabbit hole (another fun phrase, courtesy of Lewis Carroll), or that they really are like dust bunnies and you just have to get them out to keep them from cluttering up your mind and keeping you from the story you need to be writing. Maybe it’s all three.
What I really like about this site, though, is that they have named a variety of different “breeds” of plot bunnies, from Spazzy Bunnies (who make you write slapstick comedy but are difficult to find when you want them) to the Killer Bunny (who abruptly kills off a character, but at least leaves you some new plot opportunities as an apology) and everything in-between. It’s pretty darn adorable.
I find myself seeing plot bunnies as gifts, and not just because of the cute and fuzzy connotations. They give you ideas that you can use later with different stories or maybe even with continuations of your current plot, and they let you exercise your creativity to play around with what works and what doesn’t. So by all means, feed them, nurture them, and let them out to play.