So You Want to Write a Story (Appendix C) — Gliding over the Details

There’s a flow to writing.

For most of us, it takes a few minutes to truly get into our writing state. A few minutes before the words come easily. With enough practice it gets a little quicker to achieve this flow, but for most of us mortals, it takes a few minutes to get the wheels turning.

And, unfortunately, it’s easy as hell to get pulled out of that flow state.

Sometimes all it takes is a phone call or an Email notification. Maybe the kids drew all over the walls or all over the youngest sibling, or the family pet had an accident.

Sometimes we do it to ourselves. Have you ever been writing and you need to come up with a new character on the fly? Name, physical description, quirks, etc? What about a town name?

Really, names are the bane of a writer’s existence.

Stopping to think of a name can pull you right out of that flow state.

So, don’t stop. Use a placeholder.

I like putting my placeholders in ALLCAPS. In A Battleaxe and a Metal Arm #12, (vague spoiler incoming) the characters make it to the top of the Godpeak and one of them sees a memory of their father. Do you know what that father’s name was while I was writing?


That’s it. I’m in the process of editing that episode, and he still doesn’t have a name. I know exactly what he looks like and how the memory plays out, but I didn’t stop to think of a name.

Every time his name would’ve been used in the sentence, I wrote DADNAME instead.

Does it look silly having a bunch of ALLCAPS in my current project? Yeah.

Does it keep me in the flow while I’m writing? Does it save me time having to stop and start, and stop and start? Yes to both.

Names are gravy. Gravy is a garnish that gets added after the meat and the potatoes are done.
There were four or five characters in that BAMA episode that had placeholder names. VILLAGER1, DADNAME, OWLDUDE, CENTIDUDE. My editor gets a kick out of it.

The beautiful part is, as long as your consistent, you can use the Control + F function in your word processor to instantly search for those placeholder words. Then you can Replace all of them at the same time.

For that matter, most details are gravy too. Don’t let the color of someone’s shirt slow you down. Add it in later.

You can do ALLCAPS PLACEHOLDERS with names, details, colors, and it’s not limited to characters. You can do this with settings as well.

Hell, if there’s a scene that you know needs to be done, but you don’t feel like writing it then, you can write a quick summary of what might happen and then come back to it later.

The most important thing is to be consistent with whatever PLACEHOLDER you use.

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