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Bob Nailor




2nd Banana - The Sidekick

Every story has several basic "must have" requirements, such as, a hero(ine), a villain(ess), a plot, a beginning, and an ending. Along the way we pick up several other options, including other characters, different scenes, sub-thread plots and whatever else the author deems is necessary to tell the story.

A sidekick is not a secondary character. A sidekick is an important and critical aspect of the story. Where would Sherlock Holmes be without Dr. John Watson? Could Harry Potter managed to exist in several novels if Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger hadn't helped? Yes, Hermione Granger is a sidekick, if she'd been romantically involved with Harry Potter, then she would have been a love-interest, a totally different story element. Remember Robinson Crusoe? He had Friday to help him on the island. Even Frodo had Samwise Gamgee as a sidekick.

So exactly what does a sidekick do? Sometimes a character can stand alone, not need another to assist in the tale, but many well-known (as mentioned before) characters have had sidekicks to rely on. Why? They offer a different prospective and sometimes, even add a twist to the story by their actions. The sidekick's purpose is to enhance the characteristics of the hero or possibly offer a comic relief. Also, the sidekick will be the one who performs the less than desirable duties or those deemed below the lead's station. Yes, the sidekick is the grunt, the common laborer.

What are a sidekick's characteristics? Their flaws stand out, as do their physical features. Consider Ron Weasley: awkward, clumsy, red-haired, poor family. Sometimes the flaws or features aren't as obvious, such as Dr. Watson being a "retired" military doctor of great skills but those skills are advantageous for assisting the main character, such as Holmes, during his deductions.

Comic relief? Again, using Ron Weasley's inability to get it right, he often screws up an incantation with less than stellar results. Some of the results are quite comical and brings forth a smirk or giggle as one reads. This is especially true when the situation is straining with tension and Ron Weasley foils Harry Potter's attempt to perform.

Did I just state "foils Harry Potter's attempt to perform" in the prior sentence? Yes, another aspect of the sidekick is exactly that. Foiling the hero. How many times does a sidekick step forward to attempt their own form of justice only to be wrong causing either comic relief or total chaos of the hero's plans. I remember watching, as a child on that small, black and white televisions screen, the adventures of Roy Rogers, Sky King, The Ciso Kid and several other shows. They all had sidekicks. It never failed, Roy Rogers' friend, Pat Brady would be driving Nellybelle, the jeep, and Pat would bungle Roy's attempt to fix the situation. Even Nellybelle would pull a stunt to steal the scene. The same held true for the Cisco Kid with his sidekick, Pancho. I don't know how many times Pancho would try to be the hero, only to fail, foiling the Cisco Kid.

Yes, I love the sidekick character. This person can add much to a story: humor, tension, and a very much needed, second observation point.

How does one write a sidekick? What are the "rules" or guidelines?

(1) They are friends. Both the sidekick and hero are buddies, no matter what! They are loyal and trust one another.
(2) They enjoy several of the same things, but not everything. Each have their own area of expertise but the lead character is the stronger of the two!
(3) Detail the hero's character, life, love interests, etc but keep the sidekick vague with just minor references. Don't overshadow the lead!
(4) Dialog! Let the two talk to work things out. Let the hero bounce the hints off the sidekick so the reader doesn't get side-blinded with the finale.

Another aspect to consider: Villains do not have sidekicks. They can have minions or assistants, but a villain usually is a stand alone character. Why is this so, you ask? See rule number one - They are loyal and trust one another. A villain trusts no one and is only loyal to one person, themselves.

Does your next story need a sidekick? Only you can decide, but it might be a refreshing approach to consider.

And, as a special Christmas treat, I offer a short-story for your holiday reading enjoyment.




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~ COMMENTS ~

Scott Bury
2014-12-22
Great advice. I know of the sidekick trope, of course, but until now I had never thought of employing it.

And I loved the Christmas story! I totally did not see the ending. Even up to about two-thirds of the way through, I thought "where is he going with this?" I even looked up "quean," and it wasn't in my Oxford dictionary.

Well done!
~ Reply to this comment ~

Bob Nailor
2014-12-22
I usually find abstract things and then try to figure out how to use it. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/quean?s=t might help you in your search.

As to the story, I like to keep the reader guessing although I do try to make sure all the hints are there. Elyse just finished my "Pangaea: Eden Lost" novel and never saw the ending happening as it did. I had her in a hate/love relationship with the characters. BTW, she loved the book.
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Charles Dougherty
2014-12-22
Good job, Bob. I find sidekicks to be useful in my own stories; they lend new depth to the primary character, and can show reveal hidden aspects of the primary character's personality.
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Bob Nailor
2014-12-22
I've yet to use a sidekick but am now considering a series with on. They do provide a means to reveal the lead character.
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James Prescott
2014-12-22
Spot on as ever Bob, thanks!
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Elyse Salpeter
2014-12-22
I'm heartened to read that for the most part I'm doing my villains proper! They do tend to act alone, but have tons of minions to do their bidding. I love sidekicks so much - I think they make a story stronger. Great post.
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Bob Nailor
2014-12-22
I'd like to say that Desmond is a sidekick in your Kelsey series, but he really is more of a love interest. I guess he walks a very narrow line - almost a sidekick, but not quite.
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Nichole Hall
2014-12-22
I also like to think of a side-kick as that person who is a voice of reason to the hero. The one who tells them what they need to hear to continue their journey.
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Bob Nailor
2014-12-22
Thanks for the input. I saw an analogy with your explanation. A sidekick is like a rudder on a boat - unseen, but guiding the vessel in the proper direction.
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Lisa Jey Davis
2014-12-26
Great tip Bob! You are the BOMB of writing tips! :)
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