Character Creation 101 (part 3)

Hello, and welcome to Character Creation 101! I haven’t worked out our syllabus yet, so bear with me. It’ll take some time to work out what we’re going to do in here.

Or… maybe we could just take it one character at a time.

Yeah, let’s do that.

For the next seven weeks, you and I will be exploring various character types and traits, and delving into how to write them well, no matter the story you’re working on. After all, characters are some of the most important parts of writing, whether you’re writing novels, novellas, or even short stories. If the characters are awful, no amount of amazing story will help you. Trust me on that.

The last two weeks, we’ve discussed both protagonists and antagonists, and it seemed to me that the most logical progression would be to talk about…

The Sidekick

 

The sidekick is the secondary character who aids the protagonist. They’re not quite a primary character, but they’re almost there. It’s like Robin, in Batman and Robin. Batman is the cool one, the one we all care about, but Robin is very important as well—especially if you’ve been paying attention.

 

How to create a worthy sidekick

As always, this character isn’t exactly the easiest to write. Though at this point I’d venture to say that there are no characters who are supremely easy to create. I think some are simpler, depending on what you’re used to, but there are no easy ones. Not at all.

 

Use Your Protagonist

What does your protagonist need? What quality are they lacking? What one thing didn’t they have, that you really wanted them to have? That’s what your sidekick should be. Essentially, the sidekick is the character who fills in a hole and completes the protagonist. I’ll use Frodo and Sam from The Lord of the Rings, as an example. Frodo is a strong character, one who’s determined to get the ring to Mordor, but it’s Sam who has the heart to get it there, Sam who refuses to give up along the way (not the best example, since both Frodo and Sam are protagonists in that story, but you get my point).

 

Use Your Feelings

The best thing about the sidekick, to me, is that they’re always more feelings-centric. And I don’t mean that they’re emotional, but that they cater to the emotional needs of your reader. Your sidekick needs to be someone who can take a beating (whether verbally or physically will depend on your story and your protagonist), someone who stands up for what’s right, who never wavers, but who will never steal the spotlight. They need to be loveable, yet entirely forgettable when it comes right down to it.

 

Use Your Head

When writing a sidekick, you need to be using your head. You need to be thinking, thoughtful, considerate of every single thing they do—primarily because it’s not always a difficult thing, for them to steal that spotlight from your protagonist. Your sidekick needs to be someone who stands against the antagonist, and someone who is (unfortunately) expendable.

They’re not easy to write. In fact, I might venture to say that they’re even harder than either the protagonist or the antagonist, but they’re just as important. For many of us, our protagonist isn’t enough to move the story forward on their own, and our antagonist is just too powerful for them to overcome alone. And that’s where the sidekick comes in.

When you’re writing one, be prepared to fall in love—but be ready to let go at a moment’s notice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost my sidekicks, my one character I loved, who’d propelled the plot forward when my protagonist refused. But they’re always the one to make the ending work out for the best, the one who completes the story.

 

They’re a character we’re always going to need.

 

Rani Divine
Associate Editor, etc.