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

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sidekicks

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

4 comments:

asabourova said...

Awesome post. Thanks! I love sidekicks, especially Watson. He really brings another angle to Sherlock Holmes that makes the hero easier to relate to.

Linda Sandifer said...

I think we often write a sidekick for our characters without consciously thinking about it, and the best ones are those who offer contrast to the hero or heroine.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. I love sidekicks as well. I like writing them as much as I do the hero and heroine. You can do so much more with them. :D


Sherry R.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to comment until now but I love this blog on sidekicks. In a cozy mystery a sidekick is mandatory. The sidekick helps the sleuth in so many ways.