"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fun with Google Earth

I've discovered Google Earth is a handy tool for doing research. I like to use it when I’m writing about a place I can’t visit. Even when I’ve been to a location, I usually find I need more information when I get into the actual writing, so rather than revisit a place, which is usually impossible, I turn to Google Earth. You can virtually visit nearly any place on the planet without leaving your office chair. You can get the geographic image of a place from space and also zoom right down to travel roads and streets as if you were right there. Just click on the “yellow man” icon and drag him to where you want to be on the map and he’ll put you on the ground. So if you haven't done so already, give it a try the next time you have to travel from home for research. It’s a great feature.

To download, go to: www.earth.google.com

Sunday, December 2, 2012


The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Laurel and Hardy. Han Solo and Chewbacca. Captain Kirk and Spock. Batman and Robin. Sherlock Holmes and Watson.

Did you ever wonder why a story’s hero or heroine more often than not has a sidekick? Now imagine that main character without the sidekick. It would be pretty dull, wouldn’t it?

A sidekick is one of those major secondary figures whose main purpose is to show the hero’s good side as well as his not-so-good side. They have to be a pretty cool character themselves and both you and your reader might find yourself liking them just as much as the main character. But they aren’t there to steal the show. They are there to make the show better. Their function goes deeper than just having someone for the hero to talk to. If they weren’t important, the hero could just talk to a horse, a dog, a cat, or himself. And, unless the horse is Mr. Ed or the cat is Midnight Louie, it can get pretty dull pretty fast.

A sidekick is a way to show your hero’s personality. How does he respond to the sidekick? Is he nice to him? Does he treat him with respect? Or does he act superior to him and treat him rudely? Will he die for him? Chances are if he won’t die for his sidekick, then he isn’t much of a hero. As a reader, we get to see the hero’s true personality simply by the way he interacts with his sidekick.

His sidekick can come from just about anywhere. He can be a friend, a servant, a business associate, a sibling, even a parent. He will act as a sounding board for the hero. Dialogue between the two is a good way to show the hero’s thoughts without long, boring passages of introspection or narrative. A lively interaction between a hero and his sidekick advances the plot. And it’s always a good idea to have somebody who has your back because we all know the hero is going to get himself into a pickle and somebody is going to have to rescue him.

The fun thing about sidekicks is that they are usually polar opposites of the hero or heroine. They can be combative, contrasting, or complementary, but they need a strong personality of their own that allows them to stand up to the hero who is often willing to push his weight around if allowed. The sidekick keeps the hero grounded.

Of course, you don’t have to have a sidekick. Your hero could just talk to his cat, but he’ll be much more interesting to the reader, and your story will have a rich layer it might not otherwise have.

*Image "Dancing Dogs" by Federico Stevanin courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net