When Plotbunnies attack

Plotbunny: A tempting idea for a story that hares off into strange territory upon pursuit. Known for breeding rapidly and dividing a writer’s attention to the point of achieving nothing at all. (unword.com)

I think we all know the scene. We’re working away, dutifully writing our current WIP, enjoying the character development, the fight scenes and the build towards a showdown between the forces of good and evil (or the showdown between dog and cat for that matter – it’s your story). Maybe you take a break, listen to some music or read a book.


“What ifs?” explode all over your brain. The entire plot for a new book arrives in a blinding vision of glory. Characters start yabbering away inside your head, telling you everything their life story and all the intricacies of their conflicts with each other.

And it won’t. Go. AWAY!

The plotbunnies have got you. aka Teh Shiney!

You try in vain to continue on with the book you’re writing. You try to ignore them, telling them that if they’re so very very shiny they can come back later, when you have time.

Yes, this has just happened to me. So I’m going to hold forth try to explain what I’m doing about it and why you cannot trust plotbunnies further than you could throw them.*

Plotbunnies are instruments of evil sent to torment us and keep us from the one true path of… bad. This is why:

1) “What ifs” explode all over your brain – but generally don’t give you answers to their questions. Oh no, that’s for you to work out. You’re the writer.

2) The entire plot for a new book arrives in a blinding vision of glory – and will fade as soon as you try to do anything with it until you’re lef there going “Well, there was this elephant… and a girl… and the disintegrator gun… and General Eisenhower…

3) Characters start yabbering away inside your head, telling you everything their life story and all the intricacies of their conflicts with each other. – These characters always seem to suddenly get very shy or find something else really important to do as soon as you give them any attention. They are passive agressive characters. They lie.

I am writing a YA Urban Fantasy with romantic elements. I love it. It is awesome. So when I went to take a break I decided to read something completely different. What could be more different than Lisa Hamilton’s Queens Consort ** – biographies of the medieval Queens of England (review here)? And being a history book, a non-fiction book, and a delight to leap in and out of at will, the perfect thing for me to read while writing without fear of impacting what I’m writing.


Wrong. I’d only got as far as Matilda of Boulogne when they started to ambush me. By Isabelle of Angouleme I was in deep trouble. By Isabella of France I knew for sure that I was doomed!!! And Philipa of Hainault just did for me.

So now I have  a side project. Aha, you might say, a historical novel. Historical fantasy perhaps, or alternate history or some such thing.

No. It’s a freaking Space Opera with Steampunk elements thank you very much. Yes, I know. Really. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…

What I’m doing, as a way of staving off the inevitable is this. I have made a rule (which my brain, obstinate to the last is sure to ignore sooner or later) that I cannot let this monster near the computer until GA is finished. I have a fairly lengthy blurby type overview. I have two scenes. But they are confined to the written word (although a shortened form of the blurb made it onto the Romance Divas boards – damn! Sound the alarms, we have a breakout!). And once I have made wordcount (or more) for the day on GA, done a bit of beta reading and other writerly things, I can play with this.

I only hope it works.

Oh yes, and this is on top of all the plotbunnies for May Queens sequel. They have their own notebook. The two must never be brought together in one place and time or it could be the end of us all. *sobs*

So, my question today is, what do you do when plotbunnies attack?


*I do not in any way advocate throwing real bunnies.  I have friends who would never forgive me.

** Despite the trouble it has caused personally I heartily recommend this book.

15 thoughts on “When Plotbunnies attack

  1. I got ambushed by three in one week. They made me buy 8 books. They are the complete evil.

    I’ve written them down and I can feel them squeeking at the back of my mind as I edit Gambit. Still they have a long wait. I have older, more muscle-bound and aggressive bunnies already lined up till the end of the year.

    Good luck with yours.

    (and a quick yay for the Steampunk Space Opera bunny!! lol)

  2. I get hit all the time. Generally, I sketch out all the details they’ve given me, and do my darnedest to get back to work on what is already nearly done.

    If they stay around long enough, they get a full-fledged story. If they don’t, I’ve found (at least for me) the notes they leave behind usually start breeding plotbunnies of their own.

    Usually. …sigh…

  3. Ah,The Attack of the Plotbunnies…I know that story well. I have lots of snippets stored on my hard drive, on scraps of paper tucked in my bag, in my head screaming to get out.

    And yet, I can’t help but be grateful for every one that hops my way, because I also have this deep fear that one day I’m going to run out of ideas…and as long as there’s a bunny or two around, I’m safe. 😉

  4. Absolutely fascinating how the brain works! More specifically, how your brain works. You know I’m going to forever claim that it’s not fair you live in Ireland. The creativity flows from the water there or something.

    My bunnies are few and far between. Sometimes leading me to the fear that the next idea will never come. Here bunny, bunny…

  5. don’t listen to kim, she said one line and gave me about 15 plot bunnies. evil evil woman.

  6. For me, the only cure for plot bunny syndrome is to write it all out in the same frenetic frenzy in which it comes. Sometimes, it’s akin to the ramblings of a college student on a bender. Other times it actually makes sense. This is how I distinguish plot bunnies with potential, and those frauds that were cranial vomit.
    The only sure way I have of getting it out of my head is getting it into the computer.

  7. Was that the mirror one, Ayla? 😉

    And ooh, a Tiara would be cool. It’d been nice and shiny and would distract me from the bunnies… Maybe.

  8. LOL Great post. I hate and love plot bunnies with equal venom. Without them, I’d never write anything, but with them… ugh, I can never finish anything.

    Break out the shotgun ladies, let’s do some bunny hunting!


  9. I’m doing my best to evade a bunny right now. The firefighter character from Kay & Nate’s story seems to think he needs a story, too. And no, he doesn’t see the reason to wait or that I honestly do not want to research forest fires or jumping out of planes. Yeesh.

  10. Since I don’t outline, I need plotbunnies. Usually the ones that have nothing to do with my story get put in a mental file marked “Next year’s NaNoWriMo”.

    The ones I have at the moment are trying to change the gender of half the characters in my novel. *sigh*

  11. The bunnies, the bunnies, the bunnies are coming!

    When one ambushes me, I surrender to it for an hour or so. I open a new Word file and everything the bunny throws at me goes onto the screen, plus anything else my mind throws up during the process. I empty my brain of it. Then I close the file and walk away from it.

    I just checked. There are seven plot bunny files waiting for me.

  12. Hmm, I generally open up a word doc and type up as detailed a description of the plotbunny as I can.
    Knowing that the information/idea is there for the next time I have a free block of time to write in, sometimes makes it easier to go back to what I *should* be doing.

    Failing that, I sometimes offer them up to other writers on the grounds that if I know that somebody else has given them a home, then I’m less likely to think about them (until I start thinking that it would be interesting to see what different writers would make of the same plot, and then i’m back where I started!)

  13. It depends on the quality and quantity of the plot bunnies in question. I usually attempt to ignore them for as long as possible. The weak ones wander off without nourishment or love. The smart ones make themselves a nuisance, hopping up in front of me whenever I least expect it, until I appease them by writing down “a few” notes or adding them to my list of story ideas. And the strong bunnies, well, they attack with a ferocity unnatural to their species, only letting up once I take extensive notes and promise that “I’ll work on them next.”

    The scariest situation is when the plot bunnies attack in hoards, though. Even the weakest bunny can get attention if it comes with enough friends.

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