I just watched a movie where, for a variety of reasons, super heros were placed in one of two categories: Hero or Sidekick.
In our stories do we have heroes and sidekicks? They may not be wearing tights or a cape, but as writers, we definitely use the compare and contrast tool that the sidekick/hero relationship presents. By adding a sidekick to our MC, we open up all sorts of doors for the reader to discover the true nature of our hero or main character. Sidekicks are not only useful, they are often the most likable characters. Think Ron Weasley, Samwise Gamgee and Dr. Watson. These characters were placed next to the MC (Harry Potter, Frotto Baggins and Sherlock Holmes) for a variety of reasons.
1. Sidekicks provide comedic relief. In most cases they are funnier than the MC. Their blunders, jokes, shortcomings, etc. reflect not only on them, but on the MC as well, making him or her, look even smarter or more put together.
2. Sidekicks are usually more down to earth and relate-able to the readers. I connect much more with Ron Weasley than I do Harry Potter ... though I love them both. And the fact that Ron stands by Harry, inspires me all the more to believe Harry, as well.
3. No matter how intelligent or unintelligent your MC is, if you make the sidekick more dense and simple minded, then POOF! Just like that, your MC looks like a genius.
4. The sidekick performs an invaluable service in giving us a peek inside the secret lives of the MC. Sidekicks are usually the MC's one confidant or best friend. Usually MC's come loaded with secrets and dark pasts. But with a sidekick, we writers can showcase all sorts of expository conversations that reveal the true nature of our MC. This helps increase the likability of our MC's and strengthens the bond between them and the reader.
5. Even the physique of the sidekick vs. the hero serves a purpose. We can describe the sidekick and contrast that with the description of the hero. If the sidekick is large and not-too-bright, then perhaps the hero is scrawny and brilliant. If the sidekick is rich and sloppy, maybe the hero can be poor, but clean cut. Whatever the hero isn't, the sidekick is and vice versa. This gives us, the writers, such incredible power. Often a reader's opinion of our hero is shaped by our description of the sidekick.
6. Sidekicks also make great villains. Disgruntled, once-loyal friends who are always in the background, never sharing in the glory or the power that usually surrounds the hero. There are many stories where the understudy or best friend or apprentice decides they've had enough and WHAM! We've got conflict. Now the one person who knows more than anything about the MC, is their greatest enemy. I love it!
If I may use Angie's story as an example (dont' worry Angie, there are no spoilers!), it provides an awesome example of the hero/sidekick relationship. Her MC, Taggert has a best friend, Breck. Not only do these soldiers have fantastic names, they are amazing characters as well. Breck's down-to-earth, open-book friendliness helps us get inside of Taggert's more guarded personality. Much of my initial opinion of Taggert was based on his friendship with Breck. Breck is drunk half the time, usually laughing and always making a joke. He's completely likable and helps increase or decrease the tension as Angie crafts and carves out her story. He's a tool and a handsome one at that.
And so I salute you, Sidekicks, for the depth you bring to our stories and our characters. We couldn't do it with out you!
Do most of you have a 'sidekick' in your story? What ways do they enrich your book? Do any of them literally wear a cape and tights? Just kidding!