April 27, 2013 by KWills
So there you are, with a story flowing beautifully from under your fingers, filling page after page with gripping… wait, this is a new character, and he doesn’t have a name! Suddenly, your mind goes blank, and the only names you can think of are hopelessly inappropriate for this story. The writing grinds to a halt, and you spend the rest of the day raiding baby name sites.
It could be something else that trips you up, of course. It could be that you have to write a passage of witty banter, and you can’t think of any. Or perhaps you want to describe the setting, but you haven’t decided on a time of year yet. What do you do?
You have a choice – stop or go. If you are stuck on a crucial plot point, you may need to stop. You haven’t decided which side of the conflict your hero will join? You need to research a matter of real-world fact that will make or break your story? Yeah, you need to stop. Not to be a broken record here, but having an outline will prevent most of these problems from occurring mid-draft. You will have sorted them out before you started writing. But what if it’s a minor point that has you stumped? Such as the name of an incidental character, or the details of a fight scene? That’s where [X] comes in.
Good old [X]. Whenever I need a place holder name, [X] is at hand. Sometimes he comes along himself, as in “Hurry up! We’ve only got [X] hours to travel over [X] miles!” with a note to research a good walking speed, and the relative locations of A and B. At other times, [X] arrives with just his brackets and caps lock function, ready to stand in for any and all as-yet-undecided items.
Hence I have characters called [GAMEKEEPER] and [LITTLE-SIS], places known only as [CASTLE] or [SCHOOL], and even whole scenes of [Praer & [VILLAGER] ARGUE. Teyorn INTERVENES], and [Garesh CONFRONTS Varristock].
Of course, there is no place for [X] in the final draft. Piece by piece, [X]’s disappear, and a completed story emerges. But let’s take today to pay tribute to [X], the herald of the unknown. Valiantly, [X] takes the burden of indecision from our shoulders and allows us to keep right on to the end of the story. Thank you, [X].