Does your main character need more than a confidant? This post is about sidekicks and what their roles are in novels.
Sidekicks are generally used in quests, thrillers, police procedurals, military or espionage novels, adventure stories, and capers.
What Is A Sidekick?
Sidekick (noun) – A person’s assistant or close associate, especially one who has less authority than that person. (oxforddictionaries.com)
Where does it come from?
The term ‘sidekick’ was used by gamblers testing their luck at cards in the 1600s. It meant an ‘ace in the hole’, or a power card held in reserve.
Why Do We Need Them?
A sidekick is not the same as a confidant, or friend, in novel-writing terminology. They are most often employed when the protagonist is isolated or an anti-hero or a maverick. Protagonists, in stories with sidekicks, are often called upon to be heroes, or to be in charge, and they need support.
[Suggested reading: Nine Ways to Make Readers Care for an Amoral Protagonist]
We often have characters thrown together in tense situations and they develop a relationship where a sidekick is needed to get a job done. They may have knowledge or skills that the protagonist needs. They may be able to gather information. A sidekick’s role is to help the protagonist move the story forward and achieve the story goal.
3 Reasons Why You Need Sidekicks In Your Novels
- Relief. A sidekick can offer comic relief or give readers a character they can identify with, especially when the protagonist is an anti-hero. For example, Holmes becomes a neurotic, overbearing sociopath without the humanity and sense of humour Watson brings to the narrative.
- Perspective. A sidekick has a different way of behaving with the protagonist. This strengthens the reader’s connection to the protagonist. The sidekick can show the main character’s likeability either through their mutual loyalty to each other, or because the sidekick highlights the protagonist’s best qualities.
- Tension. A sidekick offers a chance for tension and disagreements that are not life-threatening on every page. For example, a detective’s sidekick could argue about how the investigation is being handled, or where they should stop for lunch.
Sidekicks are more than companions and assistants. They can alter the course of a story and offer a contrast to the protagonist, highlighting his or her behaviour for dramatic effect. They provide a humanising view of the main character, making him or her a little more tolerable despite their extreme behaviour. They may not be the lead characters, but the stories in which they appear wouldn’t be the same without them.
10 Examples From Fiction:
- Robinson Crusoe and Friday (Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe)
- Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain)
- Sal Paradise and Dean Morarity (On the Road by Jack Kerouac)
- Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes)
- Tyrion Lannister and Bronn (A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin)
- Frodo and Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien)
- Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson (Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle)
- Harry Potter with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasely (Harry Potter series by JK Rowling)
- Bertie Wooster and Jeeves (Jeeves series by PG Wodehouse)
- Inspector Morse and Sergeant Robbie Lewis (Inspector Morse series by Colin Dexter)
Five Examples From Screen:
- Batman and Robin
- Han Solo and Chewbacca
- The Lone Ranger and Tonto
- House and Wilson
- Captain Kirk and Mr Spock
Why villains don’t have sidekicks
The primary relationship between the main character and the sidekick is one of trust and loyalty. They do not have a physical relationship as this creates opportunities to break this trust or to change characters fundamentally.
Do you need a sidekick? You decide
Suggested Reading: 3 Super Sidekicks & What They Do For Your Story
by Amanda Patterson
© Amanda Patterson
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