Friday, March 13, 2015
Here's the question this time around: How do sidekicks enhance a hero's character?
The best characters are studies in contrast. Contrasting looks, style, interests, and personality all serve to make an interaction more vivid and dramatic, and increase the tension and impact of a scene. The most effective sidekicks provide an ongoing contrast and backdrop against which the character of the hero can stand out, and contribute to the push-pull of the scenes they share. Where the hero is whimsical, the sidekick is practical, where the hero is brilliant, the sidekick is befuddled, and so on… Sidekicks shouldn’t overshadow the hero, but serve as a foil against which the strength, bravery, or intelligence of the hero can shine.
Sidekicks enhance the hero’s character in other ways as well; by showing how they cope with friendship, closeness, loyalty in a relationship, and by acting as a sounding board for the hero’s doubts, ruminations, and deductive efforts throughout the story.
The right sidekick can complement the hero's character, speaking about him or her in a way the hero couldn't speak about her or himself. Sidekicks are great at getting the hero to engage in passionate conversation, revealing character with every sentence. Also (if picked with care) the sidekick can take care of some of the more mundane daily activities, leaving the hero free to be heroic. A sidekick can also do things necessary to solve the dire situation that the hero might not be willing to. Blow things up, for instance, or steal cars. I am speaking of my own wicked sidekicks here, not of my blushingly well-behaved heroes.
Sidekicks are fun. They add dimension to the main protagonist. They can also be a counterbalance. While sidekicks don’t usually share the same personality traits as the main protagonist, their personality will compliment that of the main protagonist. When writing with more than one POV, a sidekick can also provide another perspective of the story not shared by the main protagonist. They can also be used to convey information not known by the main protagonist. Often in a series with an amateur sleuth, the sidekick is a policeman or woman in order to provide the police procedural aspects in the solving of the murder. I think every good crime story needs an engaging sidekick or two.
Linda Wiken/Erika Chase:
You've heard the old adage about knowing a person by the friends they keep -- well, that's one big reason for choosing sidekicks with care. He/she or they can either enhance the protagonist's image or make a reader question whether or not they like this person enough to read on. They can be used to draw out the hero's ideas and views, to add contrast to scenes where the hero might need to be serious while the sidekick can add some humour, and to say things your hero really shouldn't be saying. These are secondary characters so that's the role they should always be playing. But the main thing is, everyone needs a friend, even our characters. Especially our characters.