I have always been a fan of Alice and Wonderland. It is one of my all time favorite books. My favorite characters are Cheshire Cat and Caterpillar. What I love most is that by chasing her curiosity Alice meets new and fascinating creatures. She is not afraid of these characters or her surroundings, instead, she tries to apply her logic to them and when that fails she finds a way to adapt to their strange way of thinking. In the end it turns out her adventures were but a dream.
There is an interesting literary phrase that parallels Alice’s chase of the curious. When writing a story, sometimes an author is said to ‘chase a plot bunny’. Many times chasing these rather bizarre or intriguing ideas leads to a dead end and subsequently takes away from the main story. However, there are times when chasing plot bunnies add enrichment and depth to a story.
My character of Katnes was created for a RPG. In that RPG there is a set background for her and a set group of characters she has met and interacted with. Katnes begs to be written in her own story. So do many of the other characters from our game. How does a player, who is also an writer, begin to capture a years long campaign? More over, how does the writer grasp every possible facet of the character and round her out so she comes alive on the page?
What started as an exercise of “let’s see what happens” soon presented itself as a useful tool to complete characters. Many may see the idea of writing Alternative Universes as a strictly fanfiction and juvenile endeavour. They should not be so quick to judge.
Writing a story that involves multiple characters using the simple exercise of having different characters meet up at different time periods of those characters lives and under different circumstances gives the writer a better understanding of how the characters feel, react or work out problems. Writing the characters into different scenarios and periods of time in their lives gives a richer, deeper understanding, much more than brainstorming a cluster of words on a page. These pieces of short writings also allows the writer to begin development of the character’s voice and development of the writer’s style outside of the main story. The framework, structure and limitations of the main story do not impede the process of voice and style in these offshoots of story. In some instances the offshoots may even be woven into the main story. The only thing that is lost by chasing plot bunnies is time but even that is not a loss if it makes a better overall story.
Chase the plot bunnies. Follow the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole. You may find a whole new world of unique characters and interesting places for your story to go.