We all know them, the funny sidekick to our favorite characters. Since TV shows are more universal than specific books, and easier to use for my examples, I’ll stick with TV sidekicks for this post. But the premise is the same with literary sidekicks ;). Many times sidekicks get more attention than the main character (on TV- Jim Parsons (actor who plays Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory) has been nominated/won many awards, whereas the “main” character hasn’t). Most of the quoted one-liners from fans come from his character. The sidekicks for both Lost Girl (Kenzie) and Grimm (Monroe) regularly steal the show in my book.
So, if these sidekicks are so cool, and so popular, why can’t they be the main character?
Because their strength lies in playing off the straight man/woman- the main character. Sheldon is hysterical, (Big Bang Theory) but his character would be too much and cross into just annoying if the show had him as the centerpiece (Big Bang Theory is an ensemble show, but all of the characters revolve around their connection to Leonard).
Since the sidekick is often comic relief, putting them as the main focus often weakens them since the scriptwriter is taking away one of their strengths to make them more serious for a heavier role. The same can happen if a novelist decides that they want to give more weight to a comic relief character- doesn't always work.
The sidekick character gives the main character depth, by allowing the reader (or watcher) to see different sides of the character without the author telling us or pounding us over the head with it. Through the sidekick we often get a reprieve from the drama of the main plot, a chance to relax before the next "big bad" comes our way. Also,a lot of true character development comes about from seeing how the character relates to different people and different situations. A sidekick allows you to show aspects of your character that you want the reader to know, but other characters are unaware of.
One rule of caution about a great sidekick, if your sidekick is TOO good, too interesting, too much fun to write, you may have actually created two main characters. I’d look at them carefully and see who is really the story teller? Who is the main character for whom the rest of the world (in the reader’s eyes) revolves around? Hate to say it, but in some cases you may be telling the wrong person’s story.
What about you? Do you consciously have sidekicks in your books (I do. The one time I tried not to, it drove me insane- but that’s another post ;)). Who are some of your favorite sidekicks?
Thanks for coming by!
I adore sidekicks. Because I know that I will never to a hero. So I can suppose a hero so they can go out and save the world. Sidekick is someone I can identify with. I'm close the the action, but not in it. What would Batman be without Robin? What would Zena be with her Gabriela.ReplyDelete
Thanks for coming by and commenting Mary :). I hadn't thought of the identify issue, but you're right. Many times the sidekick is our way into a story with a complex main character.Delete
I agree with Mary, that the sidekick gives us someone to identify with. I think sidekicks can also fill the role of being the reader (or watcher's) link to the hero. The hero may be too unattainable, to cerebral, to distant to be touched or understood. However, his sidekick can understand, get through to or actually change the hero's actions and motivations. Think of Sherlock's Watson. Inspector Morse's Lewis. The sidekick can be the hero's sounding board. She can supply answers to questions the hero has, or more especially, the reader has. Why did the hero do that? The sidekick is always willing to ask the hero "WHY?"ReplyDelete
Great point Sharon! The sidekick (when done well :)) can ask the questions the reader can't. Can you imagine Sherlock Holmes WITHOUT Watson? The stories wouldn't work at all.Delete
Thanks for coming by and commenting- excellent insight!
Love this post. I also love that the side kick can be wacky, and out there. Janet Evanovich's Lola for instance, even Gramma Mazur. You can push them to the edge of absurd and it works.ReplyDelete
Thank you Suzanne :).Delete
I can't believe I didn't mention Lola or Gramma Mazur, those are two great examples of the absurd sidekick. Stephanie is pretty wacky herself, but having those two offsets some tense situations.
Thank you for coming by and commenting!
Great post, I agree, Sheldon as the main character would be too much. He is the perfect foil for Leonard's straight character. The sidekick in my RS isn't a person, but rather a voice in the Heroine's head.ReplyDelete
Thanks for coming by Scarlet :). I like that idea of a sidekick as non-person (or part of a person in your case?) that lends a whole new aspect to the sidekickness!ReplyDelete
Thank you for commenting :)