Sidekicks and Besties: Why are They Important?
The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, the Joker and Harley Quinn. The heroes and their sidekicks. It is a scenario we have come to expect. But what is the role of a sidekick? Why do we use them in our stories?
Sidekicks are there to back up the Protagonist. In my book, Shark Bait, the detective is so deep into the case, his partner serves as the voice of reason. He is there to physically back up, provide a bit of comic relief, and bring in ideas the Protagonist might not have thought of.
So let’s make a list. Sidekicks….
Mirror Ideas- Protagonist: “So what do you think?” Sidekick: “Let me get this straight. You want to go around to the back and try to get in that way.” Sometimes when your idea is reflected back to you, it may or may not sound like a good one. The idea needs tweaking.
Reflect the hero’s ideal- The ideal is the hero’s main goal. So if his/her goal is to find the Antagonist in an attempt to bring justice. The Sidekick is onboard with that ideal and may remind the Protagonist of the human factor, bringing the Protagonist back from the edge.
Challenge the Protagonist’s views- “Are you crazy? That is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. You might as well walk up to the door and introduce yourself.” Sometimes it isn’t an immediate situation but more generalized. The Protagonist needs to be reminded of the original goal.
Discuss possibilities- This is a lot like mirroring ideas but with original input from the Sidekick. The Protagonist is open to ideas from others and incorporating into a solid plan of action.
Encourage Protagonist: In the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy, Samwise is by Frodo’s side. He won’t let Frodo quit even if he had to carry him to Mt. Doom in Mordor. It is the Sidekick’s job to keep the Protagonist on track even at his/her own expense.
Present options. “Well, we could go back to that village and wait out the storm or sit it out here where we will be soaked to the skin.”
And they are always up for a good drink or fight.
The one main rule for Sidekicks is that he/she must remain loyal to the protagonist. Even if their relationship becomes estranged, the Sidekick returns to fulfill his role.
What could divide the Protagonist and Sidekick?
Not taking the Sidekick’s advice?
Intentional alienation by Protagonist?
Sidekick is also a love interest?
Sidekick and Protagonist as rivals for love interest.
I’ve been trying to think of a Female Protagonist with a Sidekick and haven’t been successful. A friend reminded me of Xena and Gabrielle; Buffy and Faith; Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. Quite often, with Female Protagonist, the sidekick often appears in the form of a Bestie…best friend.
The way women interact is different than men. Women are more open with their Bestie. In my opinion, they are also more direct, especially after a few martinis. We are more emotional but also creative in our response. We tend to look at difficult situations and figure out how to avoid conflict instead of wading in with swords drawn. Women think things through.
Men are highly visual. Images stimulate them. Just get several together to watch a football game and see how they group, recognize a leader, and respond together to wins/loses. They focus intently on what they are doing at that time.
Women tend to be less visual and more perceptive to what is around us. We have to be. Try going to Wal-Mart with two kids (not bound into strollers). Our heads are on a 360 degree swivel to potential wandering, possible dangers, and the picking up of items they will not be getting.
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In conclusion, Sidekicks are a necessary tool to humanize, encourage, protect the Protagonist. Don’t underestimate their usage in your stories.