Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fictional Friends

What do Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, Lucy and Ethel, Batman and Robin, and Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern (remember them?) have in common?

Obviously, these pairs consist of the main character in a story or TV program and their close friend/sidekick.

Wikipedia defines a sidekick as “a close companion who is generally regarded as subordinate to the one he accompanies.” In real life most of us have or have had a best friend, but unlike in novels we don’t think one of us is subordinate to the other. If we’re really lucky we’ll have a ‘best friend forever.” In fiction our heroes usually have a sidekick too and they function in important ways in the story.

Often the protagonist conveys her thoughts and feelings through dialogue. Without a sidekick to listen to the hero and act as a sounding board, the reader has to get this information through the hero’s internal monologues and thoughts. Boring – or it can be if it goes on too long. A little bit goes a long way. These chunky paragraphs are the parts readers often skip so they can get to the good stuff like the action and the romance.

Sometimes less important characters and villains have sidekicks to help them out with their dastardly deeds. Then they’re called henchmen or lackeys. These types are commonly found in romantic suspense, thrillers, and romantic mysteries.

A sidekick can enhance a story. I’ll use Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, one of the most famous pairs.

Narration. As the narrator Dr. Watson tells the story of Holmes’ exploits and most importantly, shields the thoughts of the detective. The reader can’t see what goes on in Sherlock’s clever little mind. Watson is the reporter giving us the information that the author wants us to know.

Admiration. Dr. Watson praises Sherlock for his cleverness, something Holmes couldn’t do himself without seeming arrogant and boastful. As readers we get an impression of the protagonist through the opinions of other characters. If a character is universally hated by those he knows then the reader is influenced by that. Watson is a reliable narrator so we take his word about the detective.

Normalcy. It’s so much easier for readers to relate to Dr. Watson than to the super-smart and super-odd Holmes.

Humanizing. While Holmes isn’t always nice, he is kind to Watson and that makes him seem more human and likeable. The sidekick can highlight the hero’s best qualities and show mutual loyalty. A character like Sherlock Holmes is so hard for many of us to relate to, he needs to be humanized!

Different Point of View. The sidekick narrator gives a different interpretation to the story events. He often acts as a sounding board to the detective and might add new opinions and ideas for the hero to consider. Differing opinions certainly could add a lot of conflict and interest to the plot.

Developing Your Sidekicks
A close friend of the hero needs specific traits to make her unique. In this respect she’ll be just like any other character. She’ll need her own bio with personal qualities that make her stand out among the cast.

Things to consider as you’ve creating your sidekick:

How does he sidekick complement the hero?
The friend should bring something to the story that the hero lacks. Different backgrounds, different abilities, temperaments, talents etc. He shouldn’t be a clone of the hero.

How does the sidekick compliment the hero?
Does the sidekick admire, respect, or dislike the protagonist? If she hates the hero then why does she hang around? For money, power, blackmail?

Can the sidekick help the hero to grow?
How will the friend help the hero to change and grow?

What perspective does the sidekick offer to the story?
The friend might see events very differently from the hero, and this will add depth to the story.

A sidekick is usually the same gender as the hero. So romantic entanglement usually won’t happen. That would only complicate the story. Of course I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions.

A novel written in first person doesn’t need a sidekick. Some stories have multiple close companions. It’s your book so write it the way you think is best!

Who are your favorite sidekicks – fictional friends who are as memorable as the hero?

If you’d like to win a copy of A Path toward Love please leave your e-mail address with your comment.


Helen Gray said...

How about Dobie and Maynard. The youngsters probably won't know know who I'm talking about. :)

The coffee pot is set.


heididrukortman said...

Bunter and Lord Peter Wimsey.

Kara said...

Great post! There are a few examples to come to mind:
Frasier and Niles
Abbott and Costello
Agent J & Agent K from Men in Black

They all make me laugh :)
Thanks for the giveaway, Cara, blessings!

Vince said...

Hi Cara:

I had to come up with a sidekick for my plotting bootcamp class. I didn’t have one and now that I do, I can see how helpful it is to have one. It’s late but I can think of these:

Achillies sidekick in The Iliad, Patroclus

Don Quixote sidekick in Don Quixote, Sancho Panza

Cyrano de Bergerac sidekick in Cyrano de Bergerac, Rageneau

Gatsby sidekick in The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway

These are the ones I really liked.


I’d like a chance on your new book. Vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

Tina Radcliffe said...

GREAT POST CARA~~ I love sidekicks. They help prevent back story dumps! They often become the moral compass for the protagonist!

Shrek and Donkey

Captain Kirk and Spock

Maverick and Goose

Mary Cline said...

Marshal Dillon and his side kick Festus Hagin. Pne of his side kicks anyway.

In one of my WIPs the hero's dog is a side kick. Is that okay? It seems to working so far.

I have already read A Path Toward Love. I loved it.

Cindy W. said...

What a great post Cara. Some of my favorites are:

Lucy and Ethel
Abbott and Costello (loved Costello)
Daniel Boone and Mingo
Grizzly Adams and the bear Ben :)

Would love to be entered to win your new book.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

I like the idea of the side kick moving the MC toward facing her fears and overcoming the obstacles to the HEA.

Like in 'The King's Speech'...

I guess the speech therapist would be the sidekick.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, I love sidekicks, Cara-mia!!!!

Elizabeth and Jane are sisters in Pride and Prejudice, but they're sidekicks as well. They balance and complement each other and rely on one another despite their differences.

Han Solo and Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.... a trifecta in sidekicks!

Buzz and Woody....


Mad Mardigan and Willow in "Willow"

It's tricky to use real sidekicks in category romance because of the length constrictions, but strong secondary characters can do like Tina said, push the moral premise of the story to a pivotal point. I think that works because it happens so often in real life.

Great post... Now I'm going to re-examine my WIP for rewards per page and make sure my seondaries have every bit of strength I can give them!

Danish this morning... from Jackson's Bakery in Rochester. Melt-in-your mouth delicious and reasonably priced. Love it!!!

Mary Curry said...

This is such a great post, Cara. Thanks. I have to go ponder some sidekicks. I like what Tina added about them providing a moral compass also.

Love when (as usual) Seekerville gives me something to take into my day and ponder.

Jackie said...

Great post.

My stories are romances and always told from the hero and heroine's POV. I never considered writing from a sidekick's POV. I include friends in the stories I write, but you've made me realize I don't give them a big enough role.

So on Castle, do you consider Kate a sidekick to Richard or are they on equal standing?

You've given me a lot to think about today.

Jackie L.

Cara Lynn James said...

Helen, thanks for the coffee. I remember Dobie Gillis and Maynard G. Krebbs really well! It was one of my favorite programs. Maynard was a great sidekick because he was so different from Dobie -- and really memorable. Obviously.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Heidi! Thanks for mentioning Lord Peter. I love mysteries, so I think I'll re-read a few Dorothy Sayer's books.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Kara with a K! Abbott and Costello is a great pair. I used to watch them on TV every Saturday morning when I was a kid.

Glynna Kaye said...

Wonderful ideas, Cara, for incorporating a "sidekick." I think the interactions between them can really highlight your hero or heroine, giving the reader insights into who they really are.

Remember Hannibal Heyes & Kid Curry? Butch and Sundance? Shirley & Laverne?

Rose said...

Great post, Cara!

Bambi & Thumper

The Hardy Boys

Bob Hope & Bing Crosby

Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis

Can you tell I like classic movies?

Cheryl Hart said...

My all time favorite - Andy Griffith and Barney Fife!

I read the description to A Path Toward Love on Amazon. Katherine and Andrew have an interesting story going on there, and I'd love read about it. :)

Thank you for the giveaway, Cara. Love the cover art!

Janet Dean said...

Great post, Cara! Donkey is my favorite sidekick. He's loyal, adds levity and forces Shrek to face his demons.


pol said...

Hello Seekers, like your post today Cara on sidekicks, wow there are a bunch arent there and bet we have only touched the made me think of the Bible verse talking about two better then one, and the woven strand of three for strength.
thanks for making us think...
I would love to read your new book, looks like a winner to me.

Paula O

Jeanne T said...

Ah, Maverick and Goose. I love that pairing! :)

CARA, what a helpful post! I'm starting to think through my characters for my next wip, and your things to remember is great as I craft a side kick/voice of truth for my mains. Thank you so much!

Some of my favorite side kicks are Anne Shirley and Dianna Barry. :)

Please don't put me in the drawing. I already have your book. :)

Bridgett Henson said...

Cara, I loved your book. No need to enter me in the drawing.

Hmmm. Sidekicks. I love Donkey in Shrek, but my favorite would be Spencer in iCarly. Especially the earlier episodes. My daughter and I loved that show. :)

The goose in Balto.

As for my own writing, I can see where my secondary characters compliment my protagonists. Maybe I can make the distinction more real. Thanks.

Carol Moncado said...

I love Lucy and Ethel!!!!

Andy and Barney!

Lightning and Mater!
Doc and Lightning!

Sully and Mike!
Buzz and Woody!
Mr. Incredible and Frozone!
Flik and Princess Atta! [romantic entanglement alert!]

Timon and Pumbaa!!
Phineas and Ferb!
Mickey and Goofy!

Young children? Why yes. I have young children. Why do you ask?


CatMom said...

Great post, Cara--and very timely for me, as I need to add more depth to my heroine's BFF! ~ Two of my favorite characters (who are also classics *smile*) are Charlie Brown and Linus. I've especially always loved Linus, and as a teen even named my cat Linus. ~ Please put my name in your book drawing!
Blessings, Patti Jo

Tina Pinson said...

Good post. Sidekicks abound. And they each bring their own character to the story. In some you wonder who the side kick really is. Some of my favs would be (adding to the growing list)

Abbott and Costello

Shaggy and Scoobey

Fred and Ginger

Fred and Barney

CSI cast

Castle & co

Andy and Barney

Apple Dumpling Gang - Don Knotts and Tim Conway.

I was trying to think of sidekicks in my storylines. I know I add children, animals and friends to tell the story as well.

Tina P.

Tina Pinson said...

I think siblings have a tendecncy to be that sidekick, as do other family members.

I was just thinking of Princess Bride and Andre the Giant and Mr. Montoya

Ruth Logan Herne said...

The captain and Gilligan....

Wilbur and Mr. Ed....

I learned to love horses watching Mr. Ed.

Don't laugh, it's true. Sad... but true! :)

Tina and Vince.... :)

Cara Lynn James said...

Great examples, Vince!

Sidekicks aren't always necessary, but if they fit into the story they can serve an important person.

karenk said...

a wonderful posting...thanks for the chance to read this novel

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Cara Lynn James said...

Tina, you're right -- sidekicks can play many different roles. Some can be mentors, provide comic relief, helpers etc. Roles can also be combined so the character serves more than one purpose.

Cara Lynn James said...

Ruthy, Tina and Vince!!! LOL.

Misty Russon said...

Jesus and Peter, or any of the apostles for that matter. Has there ever been a better friendship than theirs? Jesus is THE main character of all time and Peter is the prime example of bumbling loyalty and love.

Julie Lessman said...

Cool post, Cara!!! I've never given sidekicks much thought before, but WOW, you nailed them good.

One thing I've noticed in my two series about the O'Connor family is that sometimes sidekicks support a hero or heroine so much that they literally beg their own story. For instance, Collin McGuire, my hero from book 1 in The Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Most Pure, is best friends with John Brady, who ends up being the hero in book 3, A Passion Denied. Likewise, my heroine from book 2, Charity O'Connor, is best friends with Emma Malloy, who becomes my hero in the 2nd book of the 2nd series.

Which leads me to believe that as writers, we have to give as much attention to detail and depth to our sidekicks and subordinate characters as we would our main characters, no matter how brief their foray into our novels because I believe that enriches and deepens the entire story ... which can then easily become a series.


Mary Connealy said...

I keep thinking of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, but that's probably just because there's a new Lone Ranger movie coming out.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Cheryl Hart has a face!!! How loverly!!

Mary Connealy said...

Batman and Robin

Helen Gray said...

Archie and Veronica

Helen Gray said...

The Cisco Kid and Pancho

Helen Gray said...

Chip and Dale

Mary Connealy said...

Frodo and Sam
Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon
Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble
Han Solo and Chewbacca

I need to do better sidekicks. You're right Cara, they're fun.

In my books the 'sidekicks' tend to be the characters I'm setting up for the next leading man.

Mary Connealy said...

Harry Potter and Ron Weasley
Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton
Mary Richards and Rhoda Morganstern
Chuck Norris and his ROUNDHOUSE KICK TO THE HEAD (there's your real sidekick!)

Cara Lynn James said...

All of you have come up with an amazing number of sidekicks!

I think a writer is freer to write more interesting sidekicks than hero or heroine because they don't have to be heroic! A sidekick doesn't have to live up to anyone's ideal. Anyone agree or disagree?

Helen Gray said...

But they have to be loyal.

Cara Lynn James said...

Mary, a sidekick can continue in his role for an entire series AND he can have his own arc. That would be fun to write.

Digging for Pearls said...

Great thoughts Cara. Please enter me in the drawing.


Jodie Wolfe

Digging for Pearls said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

Vince and Tina?


Don’t you think we’d be more like: Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs? I’m about as much older as Bobby was and I’d stand about as much chance in a writing contest as Riggs did in tennis.

Now, sidekicks would be nice, but it would probably have to happen in a paranormal. : )


Mary Connealy said...

Helen Gray, and old beloved joke:

You know you're classy when you hear the word Chippendale and think of furniture instead of two chimunks.
I think we can now add underdressed male dancers to that............

Jan Drexler said...

Mary, Chippendale has to be furniture, because we're all about class around here!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Hahaha, Vince and Tina !!!!

Vince said...

Get Your Sidekicks* on Route 66!

Now that I’m awake and ‘over-thinking’ (again) about sidekicks, I believe the essential element of a sidekick is being by someone’s side for a good part of the day. I think sidekickery also suggests an inequality in status in some way. One person leads and the other follows along by his/her side. If I remember right, not wanting to be considered a sidekick (of lesser status) caused problems for Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

A sidekick can be a friend but most friends will not be sidekicks. A sidekick could be a mentor but this is not very likely unless the sidekick was an animal (and thus of lower status than a human regardless of his wisdom.)

A key role of a traditional sidekick is to get the main character out of trouble. It is amazing how competent funny sidekicks can be in an emergency when the hero needs saving. Festus and Gabby Hayes could gun fight very well. I don’t know about Barney and his one bullet. He was a comic sidekick.

Sidekicks come with dangers. There is a temptation to use their conversations to convey information to the reader. The problem comes when the two already know what is being spoken about and it is apparent that the dialog only exits to talk to the reader.

I can hardly watch any of the CSI shows because they spend so much time explaining science to each other when they both know the subject inside and out.

Castle is also terrible when they have all four ‘sidekicks’ in a little room explaining something (which they all know, btw) to each other and they all come in on cue -- after each has spoken their one sentence -- and thus this competes the entire summary for the viewer. It is so bad at times I cringe!

My wife has given up on Castle. The magic is gone now that the two are sleeping together. I don’t care how bad the writing gets, I’ll still stay with the writer. I mean, how often does "A Murder She Wrote," come along. : )


* The two sidekicks for Tod Stiles over the years on “Route 66” were Buz Murdock and Lincoln Case.

Cara Lynn James said...

I think of both Chippendale. What does that make me? Not quite classy.

Marianne Barkman said...

Trixie and Honey?
Shirk and Donkey
Chip and Dale
Bambi and Thumper

Helen thanks for the coffee, but now my coffee pot is dry 'cause i had to think so hard. Would love to be in the drawing for the novel! Thanks

Jan Drexler said...

Thanks for the great thoughts about sidekicks, Cara! I'm in the middle of revising my WIP, and adding depth to a side character is exactly what I need. She'll be the perfect sidekick!

I'm trying to think of some sidekicks that haven't been mentioned...

Rick Blaine and Sam

George Bailey and Clarence

And of course, Shawn Spencer and Burton "Gus" Guster.

Cara Lynn James said...

Great points about sidekicks, Vince! My favorites sidekicks are ones with both wit and wisdom.

I also hate the 'as you already know' kind of conversation that only conveys information the characters know but the reader doesn't. You have to be a lot smoother or the reader will just roll her eyes. Or worse.

Jenny Blake said...

I guess in NCIS its Danozo and timmy (sp)
Happy Days it was potsie was the sidekick for most of the show.

Cara Lynn James said...

I loved Happy Days! Everyone is restoring old memories of books and old TV shows I've forgotten. Thanks!

Well you can see how often sidekicks are used.

Jeanne T said...

Oh, Marianne, I loved Trixie and Honey! So glad you mentioned them!

VINCE--I laughed out loud at "Get your side kicks on Route 66." Now that song is going through my head.

Okay, a couple more:
Manny and Diego (and Sid the Sloth)
Gerry and Julius. Anyone know what movie this pair hails from? :o)

Mary Cline said...

Reading Vince's awake, over thought post. I think a dog would be the perfect side kick. Maybe, except for the conversation part.

Now on the flip side and I really don't mean to be flippant but could God be a side kick? I mean, always there, always on the protagonists side, brings the story to a pivotal point, knows the person very well. Or is God really the main character in all of our writing? There is the story of Esther, God is not mentioned but it is all about Him. God would definitely not be subordinate. Just thinking . . .

kaybee said...

Dobie and Maynard! The.Best.Ever!Also Wimsey and Bunter. Really anyone who has chemistry...
I'd like to be in the drawing but I just won something last week! Cara, I'll catch you on the next round!
Kathy Bailey
Unpubbed in NH

Tina Radcliffe said...


I need to watch that again!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Kathy Bailey you need to send us your address for that win unless someone contacted you privately.

Sherida Stewart said...

Thanks for your post, Cara.

I decided yesterday my WIP short story should be a novel, so I think a sidekick would be perfect and add depth. You suggest some interesting ways for me to use a sidekick. Thank you.

I'd love to win your book! sheridastewart at gmail dot com

Thanks for the coffee, Helen, and the pastries, Ruthy! These should fuel me for a good writing session.

Sidekick favorite: Maverick and Goose

Joanne Sher said...

My antagonist has a "sidekick" - and I'm considering telling his part of the story from the sidekick's POV. I'll definitely be reviewing this post as I make that decision. GOOD stuff!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Love this analysis of the sidekick! So often the sidekicks become so interesting that they demand their own story! LOL.

I'd love to win a copy of your book, Cara.

sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Cara Lynn James said...

LOL, Susan! I could get carried away developing sidekicks, but I'm afraid I'd let them take over the story. I'm wondering if it would be hard to turn a sidekick into the hero of another book. It might change his character too much.

Clari Dees said...

I love sidekicks, and my hero in The Marshal Meets His Match has one, but you've made me think about giving future sidekicks more depth and maybe their own future roles. Great Post!

Mary, Chuck Norris is the best sidekick of all. Still laughing over that.

Ruthy, I loved Mr. Ed, too. My horse, Jack, reminds me a lot of him. He's just as lovable and twice as goofy.

The sidekicks from some of my favorite classics:

Anne and Diana
Nancy Drew, Bess and George
O'Malley and Struts (from High Road to China)
Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes

Missy Tippens said...

Cara, thanks for the great advice on how to make a worthy sidekick! It just hit me that I don't have one in the proposal I'm working on for LI right now! My heroine does have a sister who I guess is serving as one. But my hero has no one but his dad. Maybe have to come up with some new characters!

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, Tina gave my very favorite! Donkey (for Shrek)!! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Bridgett, my daughter and I loved iCarly too! :)

Myra Johnson said...

Popping in late today--computer problems and had to take my "baby" to the Apple hospital. Of course, it's over 5 years old so probably due for a major overhaul. Can't complain (much).

Anyway, great post, Cara! Sidekicks are fun to read about and fun to write. It's good for the hero and/or heroine to have someone to talk things out with or maybe keep him/her accountable.

I think my favorite fictional sidekick would be Frodo's friend Sam. I also really like Watson on the Masterpiece Mystery version of Sherlock Holmes.

Lyndee H said...

Great advice, Cara. I already have your book, BTW, on my TBR, so guess I better get to it!

Raquel Byrnes said...

Wonderfulinsight. I had not thought of how much a sidekick brings to the table within a story. :)

Cara Lynn James said...

From reading the posts I can see sidekicks appear in all genres of books and all kind of stories.

When I was in college and read Lord of the Rings I thought if I ever had a dog I'd name him Frodo and his sibling Fido. Fortunately I never did get 2 at the same time. But Frodo and Sam sound good.

Jeanne T said...

TINA R--One of my all time favorite movies!

cynthia said...

My favorite side kicks are Bess and George (for Nancy Drew). Bess always made things light and funny, and George was always the serious one. But they were always loyal to Nancy, and I loved that. I always wanted to have friends like them.
cynthiakchow (at) earthlink (dot) net

Debby Giusti said...

Thanks, Cara, for reminding us of the importance of the best friend in a story. I'm stopping in late this evening. Have been getting ready for Murder on the Menu in Montgomery, AL, this weekend.

I'll invite the folks I meet to join us on the blog. Maybe we'll have new Seekervillager friends next week! :)

Nancy Kimball said...

Cara, I'm sorry I'm late! Working hard though I promise. Sidekicks rock when done right and Julie is right, they can turn into the stars in the next book.

My favorite sidekick EVER has not been mentioned yet much to my horror.

Jacopo in the Count of Monte Cristo.
One of the best lines of the 2002 film was his.

Why not just kill them? I'll do it! I'll run up to Paris - bam, bam, bam, bam. I'm back before week's end. We spend the treasure. How is this a bad plan?
I still laugh, ten years later.

Please enter me for your book, Cara.

Mary Connealy said...

Bert and Ernie

Mary Connealy said...

Bill and Ted

Mary Connealy said...

Rocky and Bullwinkle

Mary Connealy said...

Kate and Allie

Mary Connealy said...

Cagney and Lacey

Mary Connealy said...

Cliff Clavin and Norm

Mary Preston said...

Doby & Maynard - that takes me back.

I do love Sid the Sloth from ICE AGE.


Walt Mussell said...

I meant to read this yesterday but didn't get to it until this morning.

I now have Nat King Cole's "Get your kicks on Ruote 66" running through my head. However, I also own a copy of it, so I guess that's acceptable.

Sidekicks that I didn't see mentioned (or, if they were,I missed them)

McGarrett and Danno

And, the sidekick pairing to end all sidekick pairings

Inigo Montoya and Fezzik

Walt Mussell said...

and if there is still time for the book wmussell(at)hotmail(dot)com

Cindy Regnier said...

Frodo and Sam

Sarah said...

I would love to win,Enter me!!!
Thanks for the giveaway and God Bless!!!
Sarah Richmond

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

This is a wonderful perspective, Cara. Thank you so much!

Need to cogitate on this awhile... And today is the purrrfect day for it! We're iced in! :)

** And to Mary Cline **
but of COURSE a dog makes a great sidekick! BOL!

Veronica Sternberg said...

Anne of Green Gables and Diana! Bosom friends forever! I'd love to win! shopgirl152nykiki(at)yahoo(dot)com