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"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." --John Steinbeck
A plot bunny is a story idea that refuses to go away until it is written. The term's origin is unknown but is known to predate NaNoWriMo. Because plot bunnies tend to multiply quickly, the term is thought to be related to the oft-quoted John Steinbeck quote about ideas and rabbits.
The NaNoWriMo forums offer several resources for the care and handling of plot bunnies. Unwanted bunnies can be put up for adoption in the Adoption Society forum--prior to this forum's creation in 2010, they were offered in the Plot Doctoring forum. Plot bunnies that the writer wants to write later can be left in the Plot Bunny Day Care Center in the NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul forum, where they can breed with the plot bunnies of other Wrimos and be cared for in the finest fashion.
The care and history of plot bunnies is described in detail in Ilea For's "Plot Bunny Fields Forever: A Study in Plot Bunny Care and Husbandry", transcribed by Leo Fair.
Despite the similarity in name, the plot bunny is not synonymous with the plot ninja.
There are various breeds, thousands of them, and many aren't even tied to writing. Inventors and scientists have their own breeds of plot bunnies that lead them to discoveries where A leads to B which jumps to G or even Z.
Some well known plot bunnies that have been positively identified by Wrimos are:
The Lopearred Sitting Around Talking Shorthair
Physical Characteristics: Lop ears, short brown/grey flecked fur
How to identify his presence: When your characters inevitably come to a point where the plot simply won't advance, so they sit on a couch/the ground/ a golf cart/ a pirate ship and start talking about nothing in particular. Some couple thousand words later, a plot bunny pops up, grins, and heads off! It can always be discovered in this kind of plot stall, and it's known for waiting until the last possible moment (the moment when you are about to throw your laptop across the table) to come and create a diversion.
The Mystery Plot Bunny
Physical Characteristics: Black, short hair with small, pointed ears.
How to identify his presence: This bunny is attracted to plots which aren't usually intended to have any mystery. The bad guys are known, the goal is visible, but suddenly the Mystery Plot Bunny appears and there's a piece of information lacking, a lost object, or an unknown baddie that needs to be discovered and stopped.
This bunny is known to complicate plots far more than they need to be. Usually can be made happy with a missing item, but sometimes demands the more involved mysteries.
Physical Characteristics: Small, white, red eyes
How to identify his presence: Not unlike the much-feared Monty Python variety, this little white bunny looks harmless as you're writing along, and then up close, abruptly kills off a character you weren't expecting to kill - at least, you didn't intend for it to go right THEN! In its wake, it leave behind a host of new plot opportunities... as well as some definite Closed Paths.
Physical Characteristics: Varies, usually white with a super hero emblem pattern on the back/chest
How to identify his presence: When you have a semi-normal plot, and before you know it for some odd reason one or more characters can suddenly fly or read minds or is very strong or can control water, or some other thing making your normal character into some kind of alien, superpowered human or fantasy creature.
"Who the Heck are You?" plot bunny
Physical Characteristics: An unpresuming brown lop-eared rabbit
How to identify his presence: This one wanders in and once he has attached himself firmly to the story, introduces a new character who immediately begins re-writing said story. Or else he sneaks in and makes friends with a minor character, who immediately begins plotting to takeover the storyline.
The magic bunny
Physical Characteristics: A pure white rabbit with large ears
How to detect his presence: Turns up even in non-fantasy stories and insists on putting in some sort of magic system.
The Luuuuuuuuv Bunny
Physical Characteristics: Little, pink, big eyes, floppy ears
How to detect his presence: No matter what you write, no matter how, no matter who, no matter what, characters will always fall in love. Even when you're not asking them to.
Physical Characteristics: a small but intimidating black rabbit with glowing eyes that change color. Their default color is red.
How to detect his presence: He makes the main protagonist's life a misery: klutziness, pain, even a death of a loved one. Almost ninja-like, Depression bunny leaps on your back and demands that he be listened to.
Physical Characteristics: range from pocket-sized to about as big as one of the larger breeds of housecats, with floppy ears, and often come when an author least expects them. However, because of the fact that they come in outlandish colors and patterns, they can be spotted from a mile away, with some even glowing in the dark.
How to detect his presence: WTF Bunnies get their name from what a given author will utter when given an idea by one of these colorful specimens: "What in the name of fudge brownies is this? I can't put ninja grizzly bears in my sci-fi novel!" If treated well, WTF Bunnies are a mighty force, pulling an author out of the swamp that is Writer's Block. If ignored long enough, they will give an author ever-increasingly outlandish plot elements until either the author caves in...or the bunny goes away to find another author lost in the murky pit that is Writer's Block.
Physical Characteristics: various colors but always the nose is a bright red color
How to detect his presence: makes you write slapstick humor (they seem to really like slapstick) some like more complicated jokes that are really specific to a certain character. Unfortunately whenever you want these bunnies around they make you chase them down... they're really hard to find when you need them.
Physical Characteristics: always has a bit of a sneaky/sadistic grin on his furry face
How to detect his presence: This Bunny insists on making your characters be constantly on the move, very powerful, to the point of conjuring random monsters and obstacles just so your characters can't have a decent place to crash.
The Two Things at Once Bunny
Physical Characteristics: All of them are particularly long bunnies, in a variety of colors, as there are subtypes such as:
"The Headache" has particularly strong, sharp teeth. It leaps at an author and sinks those teeth into the author's skull. After some wriggling around to assure maximum agony, the bunny begins supplying terrific ideas to the author who is in too much pain to do anything with them.
"The In the Shower bunny" is small, with very sleek grey fur. It waits for you in the shower, makes sure you are well into shampooing or shaving or whatever takes you the longest, and then begins to spout wonderful ideas that, again, you can do nothing about.
"The Nothing to Write With Bunny" that almost always shows up when you are walking down a busy street or on an overcrowded bus without even a newspaper to write upon (or a pen with which to write upon your arm).
"Almost Asleep Plot Bunny" Due to its' nature of appearing at night, we cannot supply a description of it, but it always shows up after the glasses are off and the pen is capped and the notebook closed.
Physical Characteristics: lush fur, all-seeing eyes, and twitching nose. Perpetually pregnant, the IB breeds plots at an astonishing rate, so owners must be prepared to accommodate a flood of new arrivals on a daily basis. For optimum health, this bunny must be allowed to roam free and must be supplied with a steady source of caffeine.
How to detect her presence: This promiscuous fluffball turns absolutely anything and everything into a story idea. A news story? A song lyric? A seminar on inventory management? That weird way your dog is looking at you? Yep, they can all become novel ideas in the paws of this productive lagomorph.
Warning: this plot bunny never sleeps.
The Cheese bunny
Physical Characteristics: The Cheese bunny is orange, obviously not really made from dairy, cheddar cheese.
How to detect his presence: This cheese rabbit doesn't eat carrots or any other vegetable. It only eats cheese. And it eats it in such a way that all the cheese turns slimy and drips all over the wonderful characters, settings, details and plots that you have finally found. Everything it touches turns - well - cheesy. That very serious character with all that deep conflict and angst? The cheese bunny leaves her gushing out lines she would never say, flirting in a most embarrassing manner, and twirling around in pink dresses. That well researched setting with all the logistic details worked out? Suddenly it's filled with melodramatic dungeons and secret rooms and rainbows over rivers for no reason what so ever. It will turn a good character relationship building scene into a dripping pile of orange. In the cheese bunny's sticky paws even mute characters start making bad puns!
The cheese bunny is definitely related to the WTF bunny, but it tends to infect preexisting ideas and turn them soppy and random.
Foreign Ambassador Plot Bunnies
Physical Characteristics: varies greatly depending on country
How to detect his presence: Just when you've politely kicked out the Scottish Bunny, the New England Bunny, the Icelandic Bunny and the London Bunny and safely set your novel in Southern California, the extra-fluffy Swedish Bunny flies into your face and demands tomtes and trolls be involved. And lingonberries. And before you know it your novel is set in Lund.
Complicated Relationship Geometry Bunny
Physical Characteristics: Short-ish, upright ears, maroon-colored fur
How to detect her presence: Unsatisfied with a nice romantic plot or subplot, the Complicated Relationship Geometry Bunny will muck it all up by bringing in a vengeful ex-lover, a handsome or beautiful stranger, or a best friend who, prior to this bunny's appearance, had no romantic interest in your MC whatsoever, in order to bring some conflict to the table (and up that wordcount!). When they sense that they're not needed, they tend to hop away, and are easily lured in with graphing paper, tea, and scones. May or may not be related to the Luuuuuuuuv Bunny.
Inappropriate Romance Bunny
Physical Characteristics: Electric-pink fur, medium-length, moderately floppy ears
How to detect her presence: No matter how much you try to prevent it, no matter how many more appropriate love interests you send their way, your Main Character will suddenly fall in love with their boss, married neighbor, the incarnation of a God of Evil, or whatever else as long as it's mildly--or wildly--inappropriate. Since this bunny's electric pink and smells of chocolate and shortbread, this one is fairly easy to see coming. With proper care and feeding, however, the Inappropriate Romance Bunny helps to inspire those star-crossed love stories of love conquering all, or ending in a fantastically tragic demise. Cousin to the Complicated Relationship Geometry Bunny, and as such, the two can be seen in tandem at times, may or may not be related to the Luuuuuuuuv Bunny.
Physical Characteristics: Vary according to novel being written; difficult to identify as it often strikes at random before going into hiding again. Often female. Named for the confusion of plot and smut that often occur in its presence.
How to detect her presence: The plut bunny, a particular subform of the plot bunny, commonly strikes any writer dealing with romance. It appears to be a form of hybrid of the Inappropriate Romance and Luuuuuuv Bunnies; may occasionally breed with the Complicated Relationship Geometry Bunny. It gives birth to several ideas, most or all of which are related to the romance area of the plot and which typically take shape as smut. Smells strongly of anything that may attract two characters to each other.
Physical Characteristics: Usually a vibrant neon color, yellow being the most common. Long ears that often twitch at every little thing, be it unusual or completely normal. Fluffy tails that quiver in new situations.
How to detect their presence: The Pointless bunny can create a new plot or out of anything, no matter where you are or when it happened. Unfortunately, these plots are often silly or stupid. The paint can you were using to paint your living room? A character falls into a paint can into an alternate dimension. That toast you burned last week? A character becomes fire-proof and shrinks herself to fit into the toaster to prevent burning it in the future. This bunny is a pain to keep around, but hard to get rid of. Giving into the urges to write these silly plots is a surefire way to calm him. Do try not to kill the Pointless bunny, but instead nurture him as much as possible, and they will occasionally give you half-way decent ideas, or cheer you up on a bad day.
Physical Characteristics: Half white or very light brown, half black. Short ears that stand on end at all times. Often found hiding in a dark corner.
How to detect their presence: Half-Baked bunnies can strike anyone at any time, whether they are in the middle of a novel or story or not. They're very shy, and often whisper their ideas in your ear, before stepping back and watching it implant fully. They are very useful bunnies to keep around. Save for one thing: Their ideas are incomplete. The Main Character goes on an epic journey, and each step is planned out until you get to the middle. From then on, it is simply blank. These bunnies are often too good not to write, but to difficult to finish. Writing it is a risk, it could end up as a half-finished story that hides under your bed, or you could come up with a brilliant ending.
Physical Characteristics: Slightly puffy, pale pink fur, ears that are only slightly floppy.
How to detect her presence: The Breakup Bunny sometimes strikes romance writers without warning, and can sense when two characters just should not be together, whether the writer agrees or not. The Breakup Bunny makes the separation fit the story and characters, so that the content, yet bored married couple has an amicable split, and the constantly-bickering lab partners end their relationship with a probably literal bang as one of them throws a mysterious beaker of chemicals at a wall as their exit. Breakup Bunnies mean no harm, they just know that an ending to a relationship leads to conflict and increased word count depending on how messy the separation is. The Breakup Bunny, however, does not always act alone. If a Breakup Bunny shows up, a Complicated Relationship Geometry Bunny or an Inappropriate Romance Bunny just might hop onto the scene. A distant relation to the Luuuuuuv Bunny, which may or may not also show up after the Breakup Bunny has exited, stage left. They can be lured to an author with sad love songs and comfort foods.
Physical Characteristics: Very puffy fur reminiscent of cotton candy. As such, Fluff Bunnies come in white or pastel colors, floppy ears, and sometimes they toss sugar sprinkles all over the place. This is intentional, however.
How to detect her presence: The Fluff Bunny often comes to romance writers, but unlike the Breakup Bunny, the Fluff Bunny can be seen--and smelled--coming from a mile away. As such, everything the Fluff Bunny touches turns to sugary-sweet fluff with the power of sugar sprinkles, bouncy pop music, and puffy, pastel clouds. The Fluff Bunny lives to brighten up the darkest of stories, turning tortured heroes into master poets and making even the most hardened-by-life heroine want to buy lace curtains. The Fluff Bunny shares a lot of characteristics with both the Luuuuuuv Bunny and the Cheese Bunny, but unlike the Cheese Bunny, Fluff Bunnies are rather fastidious, and any sugar-sprinkles that wind up on the author are intentionally thrown. Fluff Bunnies are easily domesticated, and since their fluffy fur makes them look larger than they are, they can be used to ward off any Complicated Relationship Geometry Bunnies or angst-related bunnies that may try to slip in.