"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Sidenote: This week I'm a coffee shop writer. My son is at golf camp from 8-11 each day, so I'm parked here at the free wifi coffee shop and getting tons done. Even with the internet available, the lack of home distractions is amazing.

Second sidenote: I changed my icon. No, it's not the final cover yet, but it's much closer. You can see it better here.

Back to Peripherals.

It used to be something I never thought about, but now, looking for creative, peripheral characters has become fun.

Let's face it. So many peripheral characters are cliche. There's no other way to say it. Did you ever read Sol Stein On Writing? He has a great section on making memorable characters who aren't cliche.
(I think it's Sol Stein). I'm not at home right now, so I can't check.

The basic idea is when a very minor character makes an appearance, put just a little more thought into them. Eliminate the first description which comes to your mind. Maybe even eliminate the second. Surprise your reader.

The private investigator
The waitress in the diner
The personal trainer

The mere mention of each of these characters conjures up a common description we expect from them. And, you know, sometimes it's OK to use some elements. But why not twist the characters a little - give them just a hint to make them more memorable.

I'm working on it. So why not give it a try.


Tasha said...

Love the new cover!! I know it's not final, but it's still really cool.

I do like the peripheral characters. I think they add something special to the book and it helps us see how the main character reacts with people that aren't close to them.

PJ Hoover said...

I love it too, Tasha!
Playing with peripherals is like a really fun writing exercise. And I love the reaction part. This is so key. Thanks!

christine M said...

the cover looks great!

And that's great writing advice on peripheral characters. Thanks!

PJ Hoover said...

You know the funny thing, Chris. I was sitting here in the coffee shop and the girl at the next table had pink hair and nose piercings. No tattoos that I saw, but I wouldn't have been surprised.

Unknown said...

Yay! Love, love, love the new cover! FANTASTIC!!!

As for peripheral characters, I totally agree...they need to be unique. I was thinking about that just this morning. I have one MC and two side characters in my current story. I think the MC is unique, and maybe one of the side characters, but I'm really struggling with the other one. I tried thinking of all my favorie books and their side characters, and by and far, most of my fav books also had my fav side characters. For example: the Weasley twins in Harry Potter (heck, every character in HP is pretty unique--it's one thing that made JK's writing stand out).

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Beth, so true about the HP books. They are all such cool characters. It's neat when we start to examine our own WIPs for these kinds of things!

Alison said...

I like writing in places like coffee shops, but my laptop battery doesn't last long enough! That's why I was happy to discover recently that the library in the next suburb over has several desks with plugs and allows food and drinks in! My local library doesn't allow drinks, so lately I've been making the drive.

My manuscripts are all so different... I realized that in some of my YA stuff, most of my peripheral characters seem to be interesting, but in the midgrade I'm working on now, a few characters blended together so much that I forgot several characters by the time I got to the end. Whoops! I'll try to make them more memorable on the second pass....

RR2 said...

I LOVE the new cover.

And, yes, we are two different people. :)

PJ Hoover said...

Oooh, which library, Alison? Is it near me? What part of Austin do you live in? BTW, I must get on the workshop critiques! Are you done?
And, yes, the second pass is where I'm picking them up. And the third. And fourth. As I improve, hopefully I'll figure these things out first.

Thanks, RR2! I love it too. I love the RR1 and RR2 blog. How fun is that!

Jim Danielson said...

Really, really, really like the new cover!

Now you'll need to update the book markers!

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Jim. It's still not final, but once it is, I'll post!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like it would be a great workshop/writing exercise.

Like the cover, can't wait for the final.

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Amy! It would be a fun exercise to come up with for a workshop. Taking a current scene, modifying a peripheral character, and seeing how the scene changes. Nice.

Keri Mikulski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keri Mikulski said...

Working on this concept right now as I revise. Thanks for the extra push. And I LOVE the new cover. :)

PJ Hoover said...

You're welcome, Keri! I love when I start thinking about these things as I revise because it means I am improving.
Have fun with revisions!

carla said...

I really like the new cover as well!!


PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Carla! It is way cooler!