Author Post: Plot Bunnies – Unspeakable Words by Sarah Madison
People often ask me where I get my ideas for my stories. We as writers frequently joke about plot bunnies, as though they were entities separate from ourselves that needed special care and handling in order to thrive. To a certain extent, I think that’s true. So here are my tips for the care and feeding of plot bunnies:
- It’s incredibly difficult to be creative when you have huge drains on your time and energy. Chronic illness, a heavy workload, large family responsibilities—all of these things can make it very tough for plot bunnies to thrive. Even if you can find the few minutes to yourself to write, the words often will not come. Write anyway. Write anything. Write something, even if it is only to recount a dream you had the night before or a childhood memory. Writing is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. You don’t have to turn out a literary masterpiece with every sentence, but you must write sentences every day. In your spare time, think about your plot bunnies. Pet them. An unloved plot bunny will grow weak—or worse—run off to live with someone else. So even if you don’t have much time to spend with them, think about them a little every day. Carry a little notebook with you to jot down ideas regarding particular bunnies. What seems brilliant at the stoplight on the way to work may have vanished from your memory when you sit down to think about it several days later.
- Turn off the electronics. I know, I know. You need access to Wikipedia and Google or you can’t progress in your story, right? Well, plot bunnies don’t fare well in the constant blare of social media. You get distracted and forget to feed them. Or you start comparing your plot bunnies to someone else’s and yours comes up short. You can’t view a baby plot bunny with a critical eye. It must be free to grow and play until it reaches a point where you decide if there’s a story behind it. Premature scrutiny will cause it to curl up and die. Too much noise around you will cause them to fade away like the Cheshire Cat, without even a grin to show you where they were. You must spend some time unplugged in order to nourish your bunnies. Alternatively, listening to extremely familiar music works for some people. It is the very familiarity of the songs that allows the brain to zone out, but given that most of us are inundated with noise round the clock, a little quiet time can be extremely beneficial to the health of your plot bunnies.
- Speaking of zones, find your “zone” and spend time there. Believe it or not, entering the plot bunny zone is a lot like mediation. Your brain is emitting alpha waves as you develop your walking daydream, and that’s when your creative self is in a heightened state, enhancing learning, imagination, and concentration. For me, this occurs most often when I am performing a non-demanding physical task that I do on a regular basis, such as walking the dogs, or long car commutes. Household chores are another good ‘zone’ for me. The trick is to let your mind wander while you wash those dishes or log in another mile. Picture your plot bunnies frolicking in great detail. What do they look like? What do they say to each other? Athletes have long been told to imagine in great detail making that golf swing or performing that skating routine. In some cases, the act of visualization has been shown to be just as effective as actual training. This is because detailed imagining of an act fires the same neurons and synapses in the brain as if you were actually taking a swing. Some of the muscles involved may also fire and twitch with the active picturing of the act. I find that imagining what my plot bunnies are doing in great detail polishes those potential scenes in my mind, making it easier for me to commit them to paper when I get the chance. Even better, sometimes I’ll have a ‘eureka!’ moment, in which I figure out a tricky plot point that had eluded me before.
- Feed those bunnies! They may be caged in neat little hutches around your mind or they may be running loose across the yard of your brain, but you must feed them. The most nourishing food comes from watching your favorite shows and movies, or reading your favorite authors. Maybe your plot bunny was a bit unformed when it was born, but after watching Karl Urban take out the bad guys in a movie, suddenly a backstory for your bunny comes to mind. Brainstorm with your fellow authors! Talking about your bunnies often forces a leap in plotting when you try to explain what you were thinking when the bunny first showed up on your porch. A well-cared for bunny is content to wait for years for the right time to get his or her own story, so as long as you are feeding them, all is well.
- The best way to encourage bunnies to take up residence in your brain is to ask yourself: what if? What if a vampire wanted to live a normal life? What if that instant attraction you felt when you met someone meant you’d met in a former life? What if gargoyles came to life every evening? The simple act of asking ‘what if?’ not only opens the doors in invitation but also puts out fresh clover for bunnies to enjoy.
When I wrote Unspeakable Words, Book One in the Sixth Sense series, the question I asked myself was this: what if someone who had it all—looks, talent, and charm—accidentally acquired some kind of superpower, and instead of making his life even better, it turned his world upside down? From that premise, I sat down and figured out what I wanted the extrasensory gift to be, how it came about, and what effect it would have on his life. As soon as I answered a question to my satisfaction, two or three more arose—and the Sixth Sense series was born.
The revised and expanded version of Unspeakable Words is available for pre-order now, and will be re-released on March 10th, 2017.
I’m currently working on the fourth and final installment in the series, tentatively titled Deal with the Devil. Current release date sometime in 2018. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the relaunch of the series, or coming to the party for the first time. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Blurb: 2nd Edition
The Sixth Sense: Book One
Special Agent John Flynn is everything Jerry Parker is not: dangerously handsome, coolly charismatic, and respected by his peers. Special Agent Parker is dedicated and meticulous, but his abrasive personality has given him a reputation for being difficult. When new information on a cold case appears, Parker is assigned to work with Flynn, and the sparks fly as their investigative styles clash. Contact with a strange artifact changes everything when it bestows unusual and unpredictable powers on Flynn… and the two men must learn to trust each other before a killer strikes again.
First Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, 2010.
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Jerry abandoned his conversation with Flynn to look for the owner of the voice from his past. His heart squeezed painfully to a halt at the sight of Derek standing on the sidewalk behind him, only to restart at double-time.
Jesus. Talk about running into your ex.
Derek wore a brown blazer over a tan turtleneck, with a brightly colored scarf carelessly thrown around his neck. Jerry had a momentary spurt of irritation for the affectation and then felt his heart sink. There was no way he could avoid speaking to Derek without looking churlish, and he didn’t want to give him that satisfaction.
“What are you doing down here?” Derek’s voice was inappropriately coy as he raised an eyebrow in Flynn’s direction and gave him the once-over. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?”
His sun-bleached hair was overly long and curling at the collar, and Jerry was secretly amused that it appeared to be getting thin on top. Derek had creases at the corners of his eyes as well. Too much time in the tanning booth, no doubt.
He must be having a cow over that.
It must be harder now for Derek to catch the attention of some sweet young ass, unless the young thing was desperate for a sugar daddy.
“Derek Collins,” Jerry said smoothly, “my partner, John Flynn. We’re here on business, Derek.”
This is the guy that I thought I loved once. Boy, was I an idiot.
“Partner?” Derek glanced swiftly at Jerry’s left hand and then gave a little laugh. “Oh, partner,” he repeated without explanation, shooting a sly smirk at Flynn.
Jerry felt Flynn go rigid with tension, like a dog with his hackles up.
Relax. Gayness isn’t catching.
Flynn shot him a wounded look, and Jerry felt ashamed when he realized Flynn wasn’t embarrassed by Derek’s innuendos, he was pissed off on Jerry’s behalf. That was just…. Wow. Warmth suddenly flooded him, and he was both embarrassed and comforted at the same time.
Inexplicably, Flynn’s face relaxed, and a lazy smile appeared. “Yes, partner.” He practically purred as he placed a hand on Jerry’s arm. “Come on, Jer. We don’t want to be late for that interview.”
He guided Jerry away with a decidedly possessive hand on the small of his back.
“What was that about?” Jerry hissed as they left Derek openmouthed behind them.
“That asshole,” Flynn growled. “I can’t believe he cheated on you with a twinkie.”
Jerry stumbled and then laughed. When he quickly glanced over his shoulder, he saw Derek staring at the two of them speculatively. He laughed even harder and clapped Flynn on the back.
“It’s ‘twink’ if you really want to be cool,” Jerry corrected him.
“Asshole.” Flynn repeated the epithet for good measure, sounding pissed off again. “I wanted to punch him, but then I realized what would jerk his chain.” He appeared insufferably pleased with himself.
“You’re an idiot,” Jerry said with amusement. “A nice one, but an idiot all the same.” It’ll be all over town by this evening that I have a hot boyfriend. He fixed a sharp look on Flynn to check his reaction, but Flynn merely whistled innocently. “Come on,” Jerry sighed, not knowing what to make of the gesture. “We’ve got work to do.”
AUTHOR BIO FOR PUBLICATION
Sarah Madison is a writer with a little dog, a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. An amateur photographer and a former competitor in the horse sport known as eventing, when she’s not out hiking with the dogs or down at the stables, she’s at the laptop working on her next story. When she’s in the middle of a chapter, she relies on the smoke detector to tell her dinner is ready. She writes because it’s cheaper than therapy.
Sarah Madison was a finalist in the 2013, 2015, and 2016 Rainbow Awards. The Boys of Summer won Best M/M Romance in the 2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards. The Sixth Sense series was voted 2nd place in the 2014 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Best M/M Mystery series, and 3rd place in the 2105 PGR Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Best M/M Paranormal/Urban Fantasy series. Fool’s Gold was voted best M/M romance in the 2016 PRG Awards.
If you want to make her day, e-mail her and tell you how much you like her stories.
I often hear authors talk about plot bunnies so it was really cool to read this. Great post. I love the excerpt. Thank you to Sarah Madison for stopping by!
Never in my life have I had a plot bunny but it all sounds right to me. It has to be hard to work and then allow the plot bunnies freedom when you can find the time to write. By the way, I really enjoyed that book where the gargoyle came to life of an evening – Raincheck by Sarah Madison 🙂