General · Writing

X is for X Placeholder

X_GI use X as a placeholder. His friend X, Uncle X, baby X, pet X, and event X and so on.

Lots of times I don’t know what the character’s name is and I don’t have time to go searching baby name websites for a good name. So the picture-placeholder-femalecharacter becomes X on the page. It’s a silent reminder to find a name later.

It’s the same thing for scenes. Sometimes I’ll be writing and I need a scene to show something somewhere in the middle of the story. I’ll insert Scene X in big bold letters wherever the scene needs to be.

As for why X and not A or – or some other symbol as a placeholder? I don’t really know. I suppose X represents the unknown to me. No doubt this is a result of spending years in the classroom being told to Find X.

How do you deal with unknown characters?

24 thoughts on “X is for X Placeholder

  1. In the book I’m two steps away from releasing (final edit then formatting), there are characters named XXX, YYY, ZZZ, and AAA. Three letters doesn’t appear in any common English words, so it makes a global search/replace (when you do finally figure out their names) pretty easy.

  2. Interesting. X is sometimes used for the mystery person in stories.

    I’ll usually insert a ? or […] for sections or titles to fill in later. I use the second, sometimes with notes like [edit: finish…] something I can quickly search the document for.

  3. This is a great post for X – I’m so impressed by everyone who managed a good one today! Your method is a great idea; I’m more likely to spend way too long researching names. I think I should adopt your way instead 🙂

  4. I use the letter X when I’m writing book reviews and I can’t think of what to say for a part-then I know I need to come back and fill in the spot later on-funny that you use it as a filler/come back to this spot letter too 🙂

  5. That’s a good idea, but I don’t think I could use it. It would drive me nuts to have an unnamed character in the middle of my story or have a blank spot that would need to be filled in. I couldn’t go forward with the story until I’d named and filled in. Just one of my weird idiosyncrasies.

  6. What a great post for “X”! I am like Lori in that I usually just make up a name on the spot, but then I go back later and fix it. I tend to enjoy doing research about names so I often do go back and change them as I write…

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