Percolate Easy


Transitive and intransitive verb to make a liquid or gas pass through a filter or porous substance, or filter through in this way:

Intransitive verb to pass slowly through something or spread throughout a place.

• I let the idea percolate through my mind.

I took the title of this post from the history of Headquarters company, Third Battalion, One-seventeenth Infantry. To summarize what the quote below says, Percolate was a code word used in WWII by many units to designate the order for attack on the enemy. Easy was a word derived from the Time of day the attack was scheduled to take place. In this case 8am because eight starts with the letter "E." If the attack was to take place at 5am, the command would be "Percolate Foxtrot."
Percolate Easy is the Master Thesis written by Capt. William P. Buttler. It was written in June 1947. Percolate Easy takes its name from a simple but effective strategem used by regiment to indicate that an attack was due. When a battalion staff officer answered the ring of the field telephone carrying a call from Regimental HQ, the only words needed for the latter to order an attack for the following morning were "Percolate", followed by the word indicating the hour for jump-off. A word beginning with "E" designated 8:00...thus "Easy".

Now that I've given the history lesson for the day, allow me to discuss "percolate" as it relates to the craft of writing.

I like to let ideas percolate. At any time, I might have five or six story ideas and numerous characters percolating in my head. Most of this percolating is done on the subconscious level but, occasionally, a character bubble will bump into a story bubble and magic happens. I imagine some kind of chemicals are released in my brain and an idea comes to the surface. I sometimes dream of this character within my story idea.

Do other writers do this? Post a comment and let me know what you think.

I imagine that some writers can keep all this information in their head and begin putting words to paper. I know of many writers that simply take their character and story idea and let them develop as they write the story. I, on the other hand, am somewhat of an outliner. I take my percolated ideas of story and character and put them on paper in the form of an outline and character sketch.

I start with just one or two characters and a single plot story arc. I then add characters and plots as I write, being careful to update my outline as I go.

What about the rest of you? Do you start simple or outline in great detail. Do you begin to write and add plot lines as you go, or do you have it all figured out before you start?

And one last question. Do you ever leave any of your plot lines open or unresolved at the end of the story. My current project will end with one minor plot line unresolved. I feel this allows me a  spring board for a sequel that is already percolating in my mind. Is it wrong to do this or is it common practice?

What are your thoughts?


  1. I'll jot down ideas as they hit. When it's something I really want to work on, then I compose a full outline.

  2. I find that my writing kind of "possess" me. The word possess or "to take control or own" is as close a definition I have found to explain what happens to me. I get this basic idea and then all of a sudden I am writing like mad. Have you ever seen ghost writing on TV where they are taken over by a spirit? All I know is I look down and Ive got a story. I have never writen a story from beginning to end. I will "be given" a middle, then an end and so forth. I then wait on my characters to tell their story. I can usually fill in the blanks to tie it together but for the most part I just let the story tell itself. Its always such fun waiting on what or who will speak up next. I think if you are lead to leave a story somewhat unresolved its because your characters still have something to say. Hope to get to read your new book soon because I really admire your writing and I thank you for your encouragement and inspiration. See you next meeting! Jennie Fiumefreddo

  3. I think that's where most of my ideas stay. Percolating inside my head. It is a great description of the process really.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Thanks for you comments. I've got just one scene to draft in this current project, and then I will let it sit for awhile. I've had a couple of story ideas "percolating" while I wrote this so, as the current work stews, I'll be starting an outline for mystery featuring a female main character - kind of a Stephanie Plum meets Erin Brakovich amateur sleuth. Or a thriller with a science fiction element.

  5. I wish I had an army to help me attack my writing- but I am singularly responsible for my attack strategies. We must be thinking on the same wavelength because I was reading the military science for warriors and applying it to my disipline in writing.
    On plots- I think if your characters are stong enough- there is always room for another path to go on. My present stories are all in outline form and I have the "path" but the adventure is not formulating as it needs to but I have got to do it. perculating is not a good place for my writing now, unless it is for the attack!

    OH yes, I did not forget- SCREAM!!!!! I'm thrilled for your finished manuscript!!!! SCREAM!!!!

    sorry not helpful with a beta reader. :(

  6. My short stories come from one liners that just pop into my head. The whole Ricky Stokes Vietnam story came from "I smell soy sauce, that means ninjas".


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