For writers, ideas are prevalent when we open our minds to them. Every time we come into contact with another human being, watch a TV show or movie, read a book, or let our minds wander, ideas pour in whether we realize it or not. And for every story that is told, there are a thousand other ways it could have been told–a thousand more ideas.
Sometimes I’ll even sit down with the intention of coming up with an idea that is unique (or as unique as any idea can be in this day and age). I’ll hook up with my brainstorming buddy to flesh out these concepts and turn them into what I hope will one day be stories. Sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t. By this point, I have enough failures and successes under my belt to understand which of these ideas will evolve into something readable and which ones won’t. I’ll tell you what I’ve discovered.
The Bunny Farm
Every idea looks shiny at first. It’s new. You haven’t had to answer too many questions about it. You haven’t had to fact-check or create a sensible timeline. You haven’t yet spent hours (sometimes hundreds of hours) going over it and over it until your brain bleeds. But there will come a time when you reach the question of, can I take this potential story any further or is “an idea” all it can ever be?
Of all the ideas I’ve had in my life, only two have turned into full-blown, novel-length stories and they both have something in common: they originated from my deep-seeded convictions about human nature. They meant something to me.
I’ve come up with tons of other ideas that hit me on a superficial level. The ones that start of with, “wouldn’t it be cool if…” or “so I was thinking…” I’ve written some fun short stories from these concepts and even attempted a couple of novels with them but eventually, the questions, timelines, and hours of going over them got the best of me and I just couldn’t take them any further. The shininess wore off and I no longer had anything to say that felt like it was coming from my heart.
Which Plot Bunnies Do You Chase?
So what conclusion have I come to? I stick with the ideas that resonate with me on a deeper level. As fun as really unique ideas may be, I’ve never managed to turn them into stories unless they’re tethered to something honest. In reality, it may not even be the fact that they originated from my beliefs, but that they were only given the opportunity to grow because my convictions behind them drove them past the point of giving them up and letting them go.
I still write down every idea that comes because there’s no way to know which ideas might strike me later or which ones might combine to turn into something real. But now I recognize which ones are merely distracting me with their sparkle and which ones will leave me with something to polish when the initial shine has worn off.
How do you decide which plot bunnies to chase?