Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here, with the second of a series of posts on Supporting Characters:
Supporting Characters – The Sidekick
Here is the link for the first in the series: The Comic Relief.
We know supporting characters add depth and reality to any manuscript, and the sidekick is an important layer. This is the partner in crime, the best friend, the confidant.
But it’s also so much more.
The Intangible or Even Invisible Sidekick
In some cases the sidekick may not be obvious to spot. It could be a pet, or even a security blanket or teddy bear. It doesn’t have to speak or even be alive. But it still supports the character by being there for them, giving a sense of safety and bravery when needed.
In picture books, the sidekick is often hidden. But even a purple crayon can fill the role. Look closely and often you’ll find that there is something, some causally mentioned grandparent or piece of clothing that is there for the character all the way through.
And ultimately, that’s the sign of the sidekick, it’s a role that has the MC’s back early on, and, (even if it’s in a different way), is still supporting the main character in the final scene.
The Best Friend
Often the most obvious type of sidekick, this is the person who is there to pick the main character back up, tell them a harsh truth or remind them of why they’re on this journey in the first place.
And just because it’s the best friend doesn’t mean there’s no conflict. Often times a reoccurring conflict throughout a story resides here. Any true friendship can withstand arguments, and nothing is ever perfect.
Harry, Ron and Hermione are a great example of this. Clearly best friends, along for the journey, they’re also constantly fighting. I mean, at almost any given point, one of the three of them is usually on the outs with another.
Not all sidekicks are overtly good! Sometimes the character feels stuck with someone, or simply can’t shake ‘em off. They get them in trouble, seem to always be distracting them or messing things up.
At some point in the story, the main character may try to cut off from this person, thinking that they can’t have them in their life.
Wait, that sounds like a nemesis? How is that a sidekick?
Ah, but the distinction here is that the irritant is actually an important part of who the main character truly is. They may have to learn to interact DIFFERENTLY with the irritant, or establish boundaries. But they can’t be cut out.
No story is complete without trouble, mischief, and someone who is always finding it. And sure, the main character may learn they can’t get too lost in the antics or they end up down the wrong path, they also may need to learn that it’s still a part of who they are.
In life, we don’t always pick who needs us, who loves us, or who we love. Our own sidekicks are almost never perfect, but they’re an integral part of who we are and where we are going.
And no matter what, when we turn around, they’re always there.
Our main characters deserve that same uniquely human experience of never being truly alone. So take a moment and whether your story is 500 words or 75,000, think about what sidekicks your manuscript has, and how they represent aspects of the protagonist themselves.
Our characters, and our manuscripts are worth it!
Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!
Thank you Erika for another great post.