Swoon Author Danika Stone: In Search of the Elusive Plot Bunny
Every writer has been there. You’re at the coffee shop, tucked into your favorite booth. You open your doc, ready to begin. Onscreen, the cursor blinks with excitement as it waits for the flow of words. You’ve got time to write. You’ve got caffeine. A half-empty cup sits at your elbow, and the shop’s murmur is at the perfect decibel for uninterrupted writing. But when your fingers settle down into position, ready to release your magic… nothing happens.
That plot bunny you’ve been chasing has up and disappeared.
Inspiration can fade in an instant. It’s the worst kind of frustration, and the point where many writers give up. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Successful authors know how to plow through to the other side. How? By chasing down a NEW plot bunny to fill the void.
There are as many ways to catch an idea as there are ways to write a book—which means the choices are infinite!—but for the sake of this blog, I’m going to limit it to five that work well for me.
1.) Take inspiration from your surroundings.
Look up from your computer screen. The café is bustling, but from that booth in the back, you can watch life unawares. See that couple by the door? (The ones being ever-so-careful not to touch one another). What’s their story? What argument happened before they came through the door? Or how about the waitress with the inked arms and the warm smile, helping the elderly woman to her table. What led her up to this point? Being an author is all about observation, so if inspiration runs dry, it’s time to take a moment and refill the well. Lift your cup, drink your coffee, and people watch.
2.) Ask yourself “What if...?” then twist your answer.
We are bombarded with news items from around the world. You can’t open Twitter or Snapchat without seeing a hundred different stories. So when you’re stuck for inspiration, take one of them and turn it on its head. Kids stuck in a cave? Ask yourself: What if they weren’t able to be saved? Tesla planning to launch a mission to Mars? Consider: What if the arrival didn’t go as planned? Using reality as a springboard gives you any number of choices.
3.) Revise / Retell / Reinvent.
Another place to discover your own way is to take an old story and make it new. The closest avenue for this is fanfic, but a retelling like Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, is a fantastic way to explore a new concept within your writing. And since you aren’t forced to follow the same rules as the original author, you might discover yourself heading in a completely new direction!
4.) Start with a character and let them speak.
I begin with an idea for a story, but it’s not until I really know my characters that I can tell where it’s going to lead. Planning is great for some projects, but others require complete freedom. Let go of the reins and see what your character wants to do. You might discover an exciting new plot!
5.) Let go.
This is the hardest, but best, writing advice I know. When you’re stuck for inspiration, stop trying to make it happen. Write openly. Write honestly. But above all, WRITE. If you imagine yourself back into that coffee shop again, you could start by describing what you see. Let the physical details come first: sights, scents, and textures. With every word you write, the next comes easier. It’s strange but true, and it’s a phenomenon that more than one author has noticed. As Louis L’Amour once said: “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” So get your fingers moving and let them think. You can edit it all later.
These inspiration hacks have gotten me through any number of tight spots, but how about you? What are YOUR tricks for getting (and staying) inspired? I’d love to hear. Pop into the comments and share!