T.J. Masters
Passionately Writing Passion

#nanowrimo

Teaser Tuesday: NaNoWriMo Day one.

ursa-major2Yes I have decided to set myself the challenge of writing a novel during the month of November. The story is called Ursa Major which for those whose first language isn’t Latin, means Great Bear. Many of you will know this as the name of a stellar constellation so it will be no surprise to know that the Bear in the story is a Professor of Astronomy and Space Science.

There are five Tuesdays in this November so you can expect teasers from the novel on each of those days. Here are the opening paragraphs written this morning.

PART ONE: Good Morning Rosetta.

There’s something quite unique about the experience of driving late at night through the countryside. This is especially true when the journey takes you along quiet country lanes on cold winter nights. Sitting in the warm comfortable interior, the car somehow protects you from the elements and yet it connects you to them. This man-made bubble of metal and glass with all it’s glowing internal lights, reaches out to it’s surroundings with bright white beams. They progressively reveal your route as you speed along it.

English country lanes are certainly not uniform. Night driving like this can have you traversing open countryside one minute, then the next you are racing through a tunnel of branches where the trees are attempting to reach over the road and shake hands with each other. Just occasionally the brightest of the stars can be spotted through the wooden lattice but even on a crystal clear night like this, the envelope of light around the car obscures most of the myriad jewels twinkling above.

I’d left the sprawling city of Manchester madrid_060508_mxalx_078behind almost an hour ago and was hurrying south to my destination on the Cheshire plain. I closer I got, the more I felt the stresses of the day falling away. Anticipation and excitement grew as I neared my goal and I thought about the significance of what was to unfold over the next twenty four hours. Meeting with the funding board was one of the less pleasurable duties expected of a head of department and this evening had been hard work. Even the most modern of universities could take on an air of pomposity and stuffiness when you were dealing with the upper levels of academic management.

I smiled to myself at the irony of the evening. The last few hours had been spent justifying and defending the funding of my department. The next few hours would hopefully be spent successfully using the resources of that same department to make a major contribution to the exploration of space. One of the last great frontier explorations to challenge the human race.

Bunnies Aren’t Just For Easter

Or: How The Plot Bunnies Stole My Life

The inside of a writer’s head is a scary place to be. Whether focussed upon the current Work In Progress (WIP) or planning a future project, the corridors of the mind can be overrun by that ubiquitous creature, the plot bunny. Definitions for the term are many and varied, but it is most commonly used by writers to refer to that state of mind where they have more plot ideas than they can use. It can also refer to that condition where your characters or your plot have taken on a life of its own and refuse to bend to your will. More of that later.

The term plot bunny has really been popularised by the NANORIMO movement. I’ve even seen it claimed that the term originated here, but there is clear evidence that it was in use long before the writers claimed November. In fact most people now believe the term to have its origins in the famous John Stienbeck quote : Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them and pretty soon you have a dozen.

Some writers see the wild plot bunny as a plague. It’s true that untamed and undirected they can drain a writers energy and clog up the creative flow to the point where Work In Progress can become Work With No Progress.

Personally I love my plot bunnies. They are a valuable resource which, with the application of a bit of careful animal husbandry, can fuel creativity enormously. Bunnies like attention and when they wander, all cute and fluffy into your brain you must welcome them lovingly. Provide a home for these little friends and nourish them, but then allow them to do what they know best, grow, find mates and multiply. If you are dismissive, unwelcoming or just careless, you will scare them away. Plot bunnies are timid creatures who are easily scared off and are very hard to entice back again.

 

For me, the plot bunny comes in as many forms as there are breeds of pet rabbit. One might be a song, a phrase or a quote. Another might be a person who I have seen or met. Buildings, places and events also inspire me. It may be that none of these can be used in the current WIP but it is essential not to discard or lose them.

Plot bunnies by their very nature will stroll into you headspace at the most inconvenient moments. You may be busy writing, eating dinner, out with friends or even sleeping. It is all too easy to tell yourself that you will remember this new idea later, but in my experience that rarely happens. You need to record every fluffy friend the moment it appears, or risk losing it for ever.

Personally I find a notebook to be the easiest way to store all these random thoughts and I dip into it frequently. This notebook has proven to be a treasure chest for plot ideas and there is great joy to be had from introducing two or more disparate plot bunnies and watching them breed. Do beware of sharing this behaviour with the uninitiated unless you are prepared for the pitying looks and confused responses. The brain of the writer is someplace akin to that part of  town you don’t venture into after dark, or if you do it is with the car windows wound up and the doors locked!

How can you expect your nearest and dearest to understand your mood when your characters have stopped talking to you? Have you ever tried to explain to your Significant Other how your story is not progressing because your main character is refusing to do what you want them to? This is the plot bunny reverting to its skittish wild rabbit origins.

Of course it’s not all so stressful. I clearly remember a new character walked on to the page while I was writing my first novel. I hadn’t planned Mrs Perkins in any way at all, but suddenly she opened the front door and there she was, a named and fully formed character who I had never met before! Mrs. P. remains one of my best loved plot bunnies and I thank the goddess of the burrows for delivering her to me.

I know that bunnies in pots are not a popular image but let me suggest a way to overcome that view. How about having a Plot Bunny Pot? Write down all your plot bunnies on pieces of paper and put them in a pot or box of some sort. When you’re in need of inspiration, start pulling out the ideas and arrange them in front of you. Unexpected matchings will breed new ideas. New characters and settings will be born and the writing will flow.

Be kind to your bunnies. Give them a good home but don’t fence them in. Let them run free and make friends with each other. Care for your plot bunnies and they will reward you with a constant flow of new ideas to feed your stories. Just remember that when you are chatting with your plot bunnies, do make sure that you’re alone.