The Magic Bracket, or It’s About Story
I have a new friend. It looks like this:
Or, if you look at it with from the other side, more like this:
Full on, it’s a bit more complex and robust:
Brackets. Or, if you want to call them by their official writing name, that would be: placeholder. (In the editing life, it’s more often referred to as Important Question or Explanation for Writer to READ!!!!!)
I’ve always liked brackets. They work well for those days when my brain is functioning poorly, when I can’t bring up a word I know I want, or can’t remember whether the handle on the ceiling at The Mystery Spot is inside the first or second doorway. (My son swears they did not move it.)
I’m using them more in this WIP than I ever thought possible. With all the history, I have read, you’d think there would be fewer gaps in the details I can supply about Chicago in 1913. Well, okay, you’d only think that if you were me, hoping against hope! I have names for, wait for it…yes: Four characters. Not counting the parents, who must have first names (and last) in there somewhere. I refer to the young, male possibilities characters as [LI1] and [LI2]. LI=Love Interest.
Don’t even get me started on that.
To another person (i.e., the person I was during the first few days of writing), all these holes might be irritating. Nerve-wracking. Terrifying like having to kayak back to the dock when your glasses are at the bottom of the ocean. (No, you can’t hear that story today.)
The last couple of days, though, I’m starting to remember the grace of these two little pieces of punctuation. They give me speed. And freedom. They give me permission notto concentrate on the words, which will change, anyway. (And change…and change.)
Instead, I’m thinking about the story. About what needs to happen next, about what each of the characters is thinking about in any given scene, about their reactions to events and to each other. I’m not getting that story down, not yet, but it’s gelling as I write.
And the uses of those brackets are growing. They’re not just for gaps anymore.
They’re for ideas.
They’re for letting me see that this seed of a book will, with work, grow into something strong. Strong enough to be read.
Do you use brackets? Italics? Bright pink font? What do you leave placeholders for, and how do they affect your writing? Chime in!