Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sidekicks Unite!

I'm not really sure why I'm such an unabashed fan of sidekicks--I mean, the spotlight always seems to shine on the hero and heroine. Secondary characters like the heorine's best friend or the hero's younger brother are always fascinating to me. When I sat down to analyze my preference for the sidekick, I realized a few things about myself:

1. Sidekicks often provide the humor in a story. Since humor plays a vital role in the stories I write, it isn't surprising that I am drawn to these little gems. They ease tension and the give the reader a chance to catch her breath before the momentum of the hero and heroine builds to the next crescendo. Everyone needs an intermission.

2. Sidekicks provide great backstory. As a self-proclaimed backstory slut, I will gladly sit at the knee of any sidekick and listen with rapt attention every initmate detail of the hero/heroine's unhappy childhood, grossly embarassing adolescence or rocky love- challenged adulthood. Sidekicks are the gabsters--freely sharing their knowledge to any and everyone who'll listen. They are the story's grapevine (hearing all the best rumors), the hero's sounding board (listening when the rest of the world has written the hero off as a jerk of the first degree) and even the reader's mouthpiece (If you're reading a romance and thinking, "Hero, don't do that!" chances are a page or two later, the sidekick will say it.)

3. Sidekicks reveal the h/h by showing a relationship dynamic. Remember when your mom told you that you can learn a lot about people by the friends they choose? Well, that's true in stories, too. The pairing of hero with sidekick can become a study in counterpoints which leads again to backstory. If the hero is reserved and the sidekick is chatty, why are they friends? Why would Alpha tall, dark and brooding put up with Beta short, fair and gabby? Is blood really thicker than water? Are friends really the family you choose rather than are born into?

4. Sidekicks can save the sagging middle. As a writer, thank the stars for sidekicks. They provide the subplot that lifts the middle of a story out of a quagmire of words and pushes the story forward. While the hero and heroine are getting their acts together, I love a little one on one with a sidekick to stir the soup of story development.

So who is/are my favorite secondary characters? Julia Quinn's Bridgerton siblings. All of them are sidekicks/ secondary characters in each other's stories. JQ does a brilliant job of present the same episode in the POV of one sibling and then revisiting that same instant in time in another book from the POV of a different sibling. That is a thing of beauty because just like every reader brings her own baggage to a story, so does every character. Seeing that baggage from different angles is fun and enlightening.

So long live the sidekicks!



  1. Hm, I wonder if I've been working my sidekicks hard enough. Now that we've confirmed there'll be no NAG breathing down our necks, perhaps it's time to revisit :)


  2. Yeah!! You go lady! Work them sidekicks!!



  3. Great breakdown of all the work the sidekicks do. What a boring world it would be without them.