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Sidekicks: Add a Kick of Flavor to Your Main Character’s Journey

Sidekicks: Add a Kick of Flavor to Your Main Character’s Journey

The significance of a well-crafted sidekick in storytelling cannot be overstated. These characters, whether the best friend, sassy co-worker, or fellow thief on the crew, hold the power to elevate a narrative, aiding protagonists through their personal journeys while injecting secondary tension and unique perspectives. 

Crafting a sidekick is an art, and ensuring they add real and memorable value to your story requires careful consideration. Read on to find out how you can your story the sidekick it needs.

Does Your Story Need a Sidekick?

The role of a sidekick is pivotal in the narrative structure, acting as a secondary character primarily designed to assist the protagonist in achieving goals, overcoming antagonists, or undergoing internal development. But before anything else, you have to ask yourself: Does this need a sidekick?

The decision to include a sidekick hinges on the unique demands of your story. Assess whether your protagonist truly requires peer assistance or if a sidekick seamlessly aligns with your narrative's essence. If the protagonist could benefit from a companion, embracing the versatility of sidekicks opens avenues for various roles, ranging from friends and confidantes to co-workers, each contributing to the rich tapestry of your narrative.

Another aspect to consider is the dynamics of your story. Explore whether the plot and character arcs would be enhanced by the presence of a supporting character. Introducing a sidekick becomes a strategic choice if the narrative thrives with an additional perspective, emotional support, or complementary skills. 

However, if the essence of your story centers around the protagonist's individual journey without necessitating external support, omitting a sidekick may streamline the narrative focus.

The Common Mistake: A Disposable Sidekick

A prevalent misstep in storytelling is treating sidekicks as disposable characters, crafted for a singular purpose and discarded once that purpose is fulfilled. To create a truly memorable sidekick, it is essential to grant them the same care and attention as any lead character. 

Dismissing them as mere comedic relief or confining them to the role of a sounding board undermines their potential impact. Instead, invest time in comprehensive development, ensuring that sidekicks not only provide support to the protagonist but also fulfill secondary purposes crucial to advancing the story's plot.

Consider sidekicks as individuals with their own aspirations, challenges, and growth arcs. Develop their personalities, backgrounds, and motivations, allowing them to evolve beyond their immediate connection to the protagonist. The most impactful sidekicks are those who contribute unique perspectives, skills, or narrative complications. By integrating them seamlessly into the fabric of the story, sidekicks become indispensable components, enriching the overall storytelling experience.

Six Ways Your Sidekick Can Shine

By now, you should have an idea of whether or not your story needs a sidekick. If it does, use these six tips to play around with how your sidekick can help the main character and move the narrative along.

1. Serve as a Foil

Crafting a sidekick with a personality or mindset that sharply contrasts the protagonist can be a storytelling masterstroke. This intentional dichotomy amplifies the protagonist's defining qualities. 

For example, consider the dynamic between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. Han's cynicism and rogue attitude provide a stark contrast to Luke's idealistic optimism. The interplay between these characters not only enhances individual traits but also adds depth and nuance to the overall narrative.

2. Aid the Cause

A sidekick's role extends beyond mere companionship; they can actively contribute to the protagonist's mission. By possessing unique skills and insights, a sidekick becomes an invaluable asset in advancing the story's central cause. 

An exemplary illustration of this is found in The Lord of the Rings, where Samwise Gamgee's unwavering support and courage aid Frodo in the monumental task of destroying the One Ring. The sidekick's contributions extend the narrative beyond the capabilities of the protagonist alone, enriching the storytelling experience.

3. Provide Encouragement

The protagonist's journey is rife with challenges and tribulations. Here, a sidekick's role transcends mere physical assistance. They become a source of emotional support, offering encouragement during moments of doubt or adversity. 

The sidekick serves as a motivational force, urging the protagonist to take specific actions or reminding them of their core motivations. This emotional dimension not only strengthens the bond between characters but also resonates with readers, fostering a deeper connection to the narrative.

4. Create Secondary Tension

Sidekicks introduce a layer of complexity to the narrative by becoming a source of secondary tension. Whether through interpersonal disagreements or involvement in unforeseen events, they contribute to the ebb and flow of the story. 

A notable example is Hermione Granger's encounter with a troll in the bathroom in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Such incidents, fueled by the sidekick's presence, add dynamic elements that propel the narrative forward and keep readers engaged.

5. Confront the Hero

Protagonists, despite their virtues, are not infallible. There are moments when they make questionable decisions, and this is where the sidekick becomes the voice of reason. Dr. Watson's interactions with Sherlock Holmes serve as a classic example. 

Watson, despite his admiration for Holmes, doesn't hesitate to confront him when necessary, urging the detective to reconsider his actions. This role not only adds depth to the sidekick's character but also contributes to the protagonist's growth and self-awareness.

6. Deepen the Story-World

Sidekicks serve as conduits to explore and deepen the intricacies of the story world. Through conversations, they can reveal expositional details, discuss past events, and provide different perspectives on themes and realities. 

In the Hunger Games series, Finnick Odair's revelations about the Capitol's continued abuse of surviving competitors deepen the understanding of the story-world's complexities. The sidekick becomes a narrative tool to expand the scope of the world, offering readers a more comprehensive and immersive experience.

Developing a sidekick who fulfills multiple purposes ensures they contribute significantly to the story. While this list provides essential functions, sidekicks can offer value in various ways. 

Reading critically and analyzing how sidekicks function in other novels can inspire fresh and exciting approaches to your own creations. Intentional character development goes a long way in crafting unforgettable fictional sidekicks that enrich your readers' experience.

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