Sidekicks. They’re the lovable other halves to our favorite protagonists, but they are also so much more. Side characters have their own lives, their own philosophies, and their own individual purpose to the story being told. I sometimes find myself more drawn to the characters surrounding the protagonist than the protagonist himself. The characters surrounding the protagonist are more than props for the hero to lean on. They are complex and unique, and without them storytelling just wouldn’t be the same.
The Center of the Universe
In most stories, readers perceive events through the eyes of the protagonist, but what’s going on around them may be more important than the character himself. Readers experience this greater meaning through interactions with supporting characters. A sidekick does not merely exist to serve the needs of the protagonist. He existed and had a life before whatever fates steered him into the hero’s path. When you think about it, the sidekick isn’t really a sidekick at all. He’s the center of his own universe.
There are many times when side characters are used to teach lessons, usually indirectly, by helping the hero make some sort of personal or philosophical discovery. It’s a very important and time honored role to play. However, I find more complex supporting characters go beyond this general arch type and, at least for me, are far more enjoyable to read about. In addition to helping the hero develop throughout the work, a sidekick should be developing and making his own discoveries. No matter the closeness of their relationship, the protagonist and sidekick are individuals. Individuals do not always agree and even those with similar experiences and viewpoints often have their own personal value and insights to offer.
Alright, I admit it. I love a story with a good bit of romance. A lot of times romance develops as a part of the protagonist-sidekick relationship. For example, Peeta and Katniss from The Hunger Games, or Percy and Annabeth from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (both of which are wonderful and should be read immediately by everyone). Yet, there can be a fine line between a developed side character and one who is inserted to merely serve as a love interest. It’s a grey area to be wary of, and something I have struggled with in my own writing. As I mentioned in earlier posts, romance is not a requirement, and sometimes removing characters who don’t serve a major theme or plot purpose can improve the quality of the work.
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P.S. — Who are some of your favorite sidekicks/supporting characters?