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 Spi's Random Fic Advice: Lesson Three, How to catch a plot bunny.
Spiletta42
  Posted: Apr 20 2005, 07:33 PM


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What's a plot bunny?

A 'plot bunny' is a story idea. Sometimes they are very elusive. Hopefully, I can help outline a few successful methods of catching one.

Looking back over my best fics, I find that my most successful plot bunny capturing method is pretty simple. Enter the JCFicHaven chat room on IRC and say 'hey Anne, I need a plot bunny.'

This has resulted in many strong plot ideas.

The fic I'm writing right this moment is from a plotbunny by Ris. The one under it in the pile came from Kim. Over the last year, I've written plotbunnies gifted to me by Anne, Dakota, Kim, and Jade.

This leads me to believe that I'm not the most qualified person to discuss this topic, but I'm going to ramble on anyhow.

Cornering bunnies without help:

Episodes generate lots of plotbunnies. If you are stuck for ideas, draw episodes from a hat. Writing single scene episode additions and drabbles is good writing practice, and sometimes starting one will lead to an actual original take on the episode, with some twists and turns, and a full blown plot.

Fics by other authors may well inspire you. The smallest detail in their fic may nag at you until you want to write something based on that idea. Getting permission is best, but more often than not, you'll get it. Always credit the other person, of course, but often you'll find that the two fics have very little in common at all by the time you finish, so don't immediately assume that borrowing an idea will result in a poor copy.

All of those wonderful 'non-fiction' Star Trek reference books are overflowing with plot bunnies. Any time I come across a cool canon fact that I want to use at some time, I write it on an index card. Eventually, it'll bump into another index card and make friends.

Many good plots come from the collision of two vague concepts that together make a darn good idea. If I could think of a good example, I could prove it. Remember, though, you already have one plot element that's always floating around: that pairing you want to explore, or the Star Trek setting itself, for example.

If you're really stuck, browse through a list of words and see if anything comes to you. The dictionary probably works for this. I use lists of racehorse names. You can find many of those here:

Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall of Fame

Using the bunnies you catch:

To actually be considered a fully formed story, your plot needs to have a beginning, with some sort of situation that needs resolution, conflict, action, and a resolution. Shorter forms of fanfic, like episode additions and fluff scenes, borrow those other elements from the episode in question, and focus on just one thing. Those are great practice, and fun to read, just remember the difference.

The absolute best way to think of many plotbunnies in a very short time is to work on something specific, that absolutely has to be done, and soon. Other ideas will attack every few minutes. Write them down, set them aside, and continue with the work in progress. (I recommend having a notebook, or a specific container, for these, so you don't lose them. Don't save them as one-line text files loose in your documents folder. You'll never remember to back them up or look at them again.)

Several of my fics are a result of the phrase 'that can't be done.' It's probably a dreadful way to come up with an idea. If something has been done badly 99 times, trying to prove it can be done right will be challenging, and frustrating, and quite possibly fruitless no matter how well you do it, because readers will glance at it, think "oh no, not THAT idea again," and move on with their lives.

Finally, the following bunnies should be shot on sight:

1. Average character from 20th century suddenly wakes up on the ship. Just no.

1b. Character from a completely different fandom suddenly wakes up on the ship

2. Anything involving rape. It's brutal, and horrible, and not to be trivialized, and does not result in true love, and is a forbidden topic on this board, as well as on many lists and in many contests.

3. Extreme angsty situations (ie dead children) created solely for the purpose of the comfort scene. Our characters have pretty complicated lives, and can find enough reasons to comfort each other without the most shocking and horrible scenarios you can imagine. If you want a big mushy comfort scene, just snag a traumatic event from canon, don't use shock value as a shortcut to emotion.

This post has been edited by Spiletta42 on May 20 2006, 08:55 PM
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anne3rose
Posted: Apr 25 2005, 05:44 PM


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QUOTE (Spiletta42 @ Apr 20 2005, 07:33 PM)
Looking back over my best fics, I find that my most successful plot bunny capturing method is pretty simple.  Enter the JCFicHaven chat room on IRC and say 'hey Anne, I need a plot bunny.'


I love helping with plot bunnies because they're often ideas I don't have time to write or don't feel like I'm up to executing.

But often the way I generate a bunny is to ask someone for their least favorite episode, and why. Then suggest a fix, or ask how do you think it should have gone?

Other times they just come out of starting at a random point and imagining what would happen next. Like in Rainforest, that got titled when I entered a contest, before being written. And I thought, what would Chakotay and Janeway be doing in a Rainforest? Ahem, besides that, it's a PG board! Plus, ewww, uncomfy ground with roots and bugs and stuff!

Anyway, it's either part of a mission which leads to action/adventure (not my strong suit), or maybe they were headed out on shoreleave, but I don't want the crew meddling, so they're stranded sort of. Hmmmm, so, they're out of the shuttle, cause I need them to have stuff, so no transporter, and they're hiking along...and talking, and I'm wondering what they're going to find. What do they talk about? Hmmm, so I close my eyes and listen to them as they walk along and chat.

QUOTE
2.  Anything involving rape.  It's brutal, and horrible, and not to be trivialized, and does not result in true love, and is a forbidden topic on this board, as well as on many lists and in many contests.

3.  Extreme angsty situations (ie dead children) created solely for the purpose of the comfort scene.  Our characters have pretty complicated lives, and can find enough reasons to comfort each other without the most shocking and horrible scenarios you can imagine.  If you want a big mushy comfort scene, just snag a traumatic event from canon, don't use shock value as a shortcut to emotion.


Can't agree more. It's cheap emotion and doesn't make good fic. People talk down fluff sometimes, saying it's easy to write but angst is art. Well, good fluff is as hard to write as is good angst. The keyword being good. I can kill or main a character for shock value and to setup hurt/comfort in 1 sentence. But it lacks any real impact and leaves the whole story feeling flat.

Tom was killed in a senseless popcorn popper accident. Kathryn couldn't go on without Chakotay's healing smoochies. So they smooched in the turbolift. They smooched in the corridors. They smooched in the readyroom. They even smooched on the bridge, until Tuvok had them both confined to sickbay for medical observation.

- Anne Rose
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