Sidekicks: The Loyal Companion Your Hero Needs
Sidekick characters. The unsung hero of so many stories. They're the Robin to your Batman, the Luigi to your Mario, the Samwise Gamgee to your Frodo Baggins. They're the ones who are always there to lend a helping hand, crack a joke, or provide some much-needed emotional relief.
And let's be real, sometimes they don’t go unsung. Sometimes they're more interesting and lovable than the main characters themselves and end up stealing the show.
So how do you create a memorable sidekick? Let’s take a look at that by covering:
- The purpose of your sidekick character
- Benefits of having a sidekick
- Examples of different types of sidekicks
- Some famous sidekicks you’ve probably heard of
- Tips for making them memorable
- Ways to connect them to your main character
- How to incorporate them into your story and use them to advance the plot
Purpose of a Sidekick Character
In most books, the main character is the head honcho. The big kahuna. The leader of the pack. But sometimes, there’s another character, often a trusty sidekick, that comes in to steal the show. They’re the comic relief, the voice of reason, or a shoulder to cry on.
Sidekicks are supporting characters who have a strong tie to your hero. They may be a friend, family member, or loyal companion who helps your main character on their journey. The sidekick helps your hero achieve their goals, overcome obstacles, and provide emotional support. We can all use that, right?
Usually, sidekicks have a little less sparkle than the main character. They don’t have the same magical powers or wicked fighting abilities. They aren’t the chosen one. Like, ever.
What they do have is the ability to hone in on the problem, see things objectively, and steer your plucky hero away from whatever stupid thing they’re planning to do next. Some might argue those abilities are even more important.
One of the most endearing characteristics of a sidekick is their selflessness and their willingness to put their own needs aside to help the main character achieve their goals. This is often seen in the classic hero's journey, where the main character has a clear goal or quest they must complete, and the sidekick is there to support them every step of the way.
Sidekicks can be used to break tension with a well-timed joke or lighten the mood with a casual and profound observation. They’re determined and the anchor in the storm of your main character’s life.
Benefits of Sidekick Characters
Aside from everything we talked about above, here are some more specific benefits of including sidekicks in your story.
Provide Emotional Support: Sidekicks are often the main character's confidant and emotional support. They can be a sounding board for the main character to share their fears and concerns and offer comfort and encouragement during tough times. This emotional connection helps to create a more well-rounded and relatable main character, which in turn creates a more engaging story for the audience.
Add Depth to the Story: Sidekicks often have their own unique backstory and personality, which can add depth. This helps you create a richer, more complex world. It also provides opportunities for subplots and character development that can enhance the overall story.
Help Move the Plot Forward: Sidekicks can also be instrumental in moving the plot forward. They can provide the main character with information, skills, or tools needed to overcome obstacles or achieve their goals. They may also take on specific tasks or challenges that are essential to the story.
Offer a Different Perspective: Sidekicks can provide a different perspective on the story, offering insights and observations the main character may not have considered.
Examples of Different Types of Sidekick Characters
Different types of sidekicks can serve different purposes. Below are some types of sidekicks you can consider for your story.
The Loyal Friend: This type of sidekick is the ultimate ride or die. They’re fiercely loyal to the main character and will do anything to support them, even if it means putting themselves in danger. They are often the main character's best friend, and their unwavering support and encouragement are essential to your hero’s success.
The Comedic Relief: This type of sidekick provides the audience with sometimes much-needed comedic relief. They often have a quirky or eccentric personality and a unique sense of humor that helps lighten the mood and break up tension in the story. They might not take themselves too seriously, but they are still an essential part of the story.
The Mentor: This type of sidekick is often older and wiser than the main character—think the wizard with a graying beard sort. They may be a teacher, coach, or someone who’s been around the block who provides guidance and support to your main character. They offer wisdom and advice (that your hero sometimes ignores at their peril), and their experience is often instrumental in the main character's success.
The Love Interest: While you might not think of the love interest as a sidekick, they often serve similar purposes. They provide emotional support and can be instrumental in helping the main character achieve their goals. They offer unique perspectives on the story, and their relationship with the main character adds depth and complexity, while giving you the opportunity to show your main character’s emotions and personality through the relationship.
The Smart One: This type of sidekick is often the brains behind the operation. They may be a tech whiz or have a wealth of knowledge instrumental to your main character’s problems. If I were a sidekick, this would be me. No, really.
The Animal Companion: A popular style of sidekick is the loyal animal companion. Sometimes your character can communicate with them to varying levels of telepathy or even conversation. Since they’re usually cute and endearing, their presence in the story can be heartwarming and uplifting. An animal sidekick might also fall into one of the categories above if they’re able to speak with the hero.
Famous Sidekick Characters
Some famous sidekicks you’re probably familiar with include:
- Robin from the Batman comics and movies.
- Dr. Watson from the Sherlock Holmes novels and adaptations.
- Samwise Gamgee was Frodo Baggins' sidekick in The Lord of the Rings book and movie series.
- Chewbacca was Han Solo's furry sidekick in the Star Wars movie franchise.
- Tonto was The Lone Ranger's sidekick in the Lone Ranger TV series and movies.
- Sancho Panza from the Don Quixote novel.
- Garth Algar was Wayne's sidekick in the Wayne's World movies.
- Short Round was Indiana Jones' sidekick in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
- Kato was the Green Hornet's sidekick in the Green Hornet comics, TV show, and movie adaptations.
- Huckleberry Finn was Tom Sawyer's best friend and sidekick in Mark Twain's novels.
Tips for Making Your Sidekick Character Memorable
One thing to keep in mind when you’re writing sidekicks is to make sure they’re memorable and engaging. You don’t want them to take over the story but you also don’t want them getting lost in your hero’s shadow. As with any kind of character, you need to develop your sidekicks, too.
Give Them a Unique Personality
A memorable and compelling sidekick character has a unique personality that sets them apart from other characters in the story. They should have quirks, flaws, and strengths that make them stand out and make them interesting to the reader. Consider giving your sidekick character a distinct voice or manner of speaking, a particular style of dress, or an unusual talent or skill.
Establish Their Role in the Story
Sidekicks need a clear role in the story. They shouldn’t be there just for the sake of it. Determine how your sidekick character supports the protagonist and the narrative. Are they the protagonist's confidant, comic relief, or the voice of reason? Once you have identified their role, make sure it’s clear and consistent throughout the story.
Give Them a Backstory
Give your sidekick a backstory that explains their motivations, values, and worldview. It doesn’t need to be long, but it should provide insight into the character's personality and actions. Consider including details about their upbringing, relationships, or past experiences that have shaped who they are and what they believe.
Give Them a Character Arc
Don’t forget to give them a character arc that shows growth and development over the course of the story. You don’t want them to remain stagnant or unchanged. Consider how your sidekick character overcomes their own flaws, faces their fears, or learns valuable lessons that help them become a better version of themselves. The character arc should also be linked to the protagonist's arc, showing how their growth and development are intertwined.
Strategies for Building a Connection between Your Hero
Another important characteristic of your sidekick is how they connect with your hero. Here are some tips to ensure they do.
One of the best ways to build a connection between the hero and sidekick is to give them shared values. They can be based on a common goal, belief system, or worldview. When the hero and sidekick share values, it creates a sense of unity and purpose that strengthens their bond.
Complementary Strengths and Weaknesses
Another strategy for building a connection between the hero and sidekick is to give them complementary strengths and weaknesses. The hero should have strengths the sidekick lacks, and the sidekick should have strengths that complement the hero's weaknesses. When the hero and sidekick work together to overcome challenges, it creates a sense of teamwork and mutual dependence.
A shared history between the hero and sidekick can be based on past experiences, shared trauma, or even a simple childhood friendship. When the hero and sidekick have a shared history, it creates a sense of familiarity and understanding.
Moments of Vulnerability
Create moments of vulnerability for the hero and sidekick. They can be emotional, physical, or even comedic, and reveal a more intimate side of your characters. When the hero and sidekick show vulnerability, it creates a sense of empathy and compassion between them.
Shared Sense of Humor
Humor can be used to create inside jokes, lighten the mood, and even diffuse tension. When the hero and sidekick share a sense of humor, it creates a sense of camaraderie and mutual understanding, especially if they’re humor is a little off-color. We all have that friend.
Ways to Incorporate the Sidekick Character into the Storyline and Advance the Plot
Once you’ve given some depth to your sidekick, here are some ways to incorporate them into the story and use them to help advance your plot. After all, you included them for a reason.
Complement the Main Character's Personality
One of the best ways to incorporate a sidekick character into the storyline is to make sure they complement the main character's personality. If your protagonist is shy and introverted, consider making their sidekick outgoing and gregarious. This contrast not only provides some comedic relief, but can show your main character in a different light.
Give the Sidekick a Specific Skillset
This skillset could be anything from computer hacking to fighting to cooking. By doing so, you provide the audience with a unique perspective that wouldn't be possible with just the main character. Moreover, it also offers an opportunity to show how the main character relies on the sidekick character and how the duo works together to achieve their goals.
Use the Sidekick to Reveal Information
This information can be anything from backstory to character motivations to hidden agendas. By using the sidekick as a confidant, you can reveal information in a way that feels natural and organic.
Create Conflict between the Main Character and the Sidekick
By creating tension between the two characters, you can heighten the drama. This tension could be anything from a disagreement on how to approach a problem to a difference in values or beliefs.
Use the Sidekick to Foreshadow
This foreshadowing can be subtle, such as a passing comment or a glance between the main character and their sidekick. By using the sidekick to hint at what's to come, you can create a sense of anticipation and keep the audience engaged.
Give the Sidekick Character a Personal Stake in the Plot
If the sidekick character has something to lose, such as a loved one or a cherished possession, they’ll be more invested in helping the main character achieve their goal. This investment can drive the plot forward as the sidekick character becomes more determined to help the main character succeed.
Use the Sidekick Character to Discover Clues
These clues could be anything from a piece of evidence to a hidden location. By having your sidekick character uncover these clues, you can provide the audience with new information and move the plot in a new direction.
Use the Sidekick Character to Challenge the Main Character's Beliefs
If your main character is struggling with a decision, the sidekick character can offer a different perspective that forces the main character to re-evaluate their choices. This conflict can lead to new plot developments as your main character is forced to make a new decision based on the information provided.
Now that you have a handle on how to create a compelling sidekick character, I hope you’re ready to start writing. If you found this article useful, be sure to sign up to Dabble’s weekly newsletter where we share tips, tricks, and advice on the craft of writing and the business of publishing to help you fulfill your author dreams.
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