Does The Sidekick Make The Hero?

I had the good fortune of participating in RMFW’s Colorado Gold writing conference this weekend. While I attended several productive workshops, I found a few to be especially informative, including one about sidekicks in fiction. With the permission of presenters Mario Acevedo and Warren Hammond, I’m writing this post so you can also benefit from what I learned.

I confess; I didn’t plan to attend this workshop. I had a gap in my schedule and wandered over, thinking sidekicks only applied to Batman. I figured if that was the case, I’d listen for a few minutes and then wander somewhere else. Instead, I absorbed every word, because the presenters not only turned my concept of sidekicks on its head, they effectively showed how an author can use them to enhance the depth of the hero (or MC, if “hero” doesn’t sit right in your mind). If you’re like me, you’ll discover where the sidekicks you didn’t even know you had fit in your story.

There are several “types” of sidekicks, including:

leonard-nimoy-393861_1280

Photo source: pixabay.com

1.The Foil (example: Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock)

The Foil enhances the MC through contrast. He is in almost constant conflict with the MC, challenging him and generally making life difficult (though not just for the sake of making life difficult). Through these “safe” conflicts, we can see the MC develop and predict how he’ll react when faced with a real conflict.

2. The Mentor (example: Luke Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi)

This is the classic teacher/student paradigm. The MC can’t develop to his full potential without the teacher.

3. The Indispensable Loyalist (example: Frodo and Sam)

Similar to The Mentor, the MC can’t succeed without The Loyalist, but in this case neither is “ranked” above the other. The Loyalist is the MC’s partner and comes to his rescue when needed.

4. The Resource (I forgot to write down the example, but maybe we can think of one. Write it in the comments if you do.)

This sidekick fills gaps in the MC’s skill set (like Stella was to Charlie in The Italian Job, perhaps). Also, he’s the one who always “knows a guy” who can help get a job done.

5. The Understudy (example: Batman and Robin)

There’s Robin! The Understudy is basically the opposite of The Mentor. He has to learn all the things and provides a way for the MC to relay important information. Hopefully he isn’t too annoying.

There are other ways a sidekick can develop the MC or the greater story both outside and within these types. They can:

  • Provide romantic tension
  • Test familial or professional bonds
  • Accentuate issues of class or station
  • Provide comic relief

The sidekick can also be in a close partnership with the MC to the point that they take turns being the MC, so to speak (example: Mulder and Scully). In addition, it’s a good idea to consider sidekicks for the antagonist. When this point came up in the class, I immediately thought of Magneto and Mystique.

At the end of the class, I realized I have two types of sidekicks represented in my two WIPs – The Foil and The Resource. This is useful information because now I can consider their motives in this light – what would The Foil say to the MC in that scene? Or what would The Resource do in that situation?

What kinds of sidekicks do you have in your fiction? Share in the comments! 

20 thoughts on “Does The Sidekick Make The Hero?

  1. Pingback: Story Stuff: B Is For Best Friends | Allison Maruska

  2. Reblogged this on The Beauty of Words and commented:
    This is an excellent post on the uses of sidekicks. I know many of us get attached to our characters (I certainly do) and maybe don’t think of ‘using’ them, but it can be productive to take a step back and consider how this type of character can fill a role in a story. It’s certainly worth a long look to see if your supporting characters are doing everything they can to make your story shine.

    Like

  3. Ok, just thought of a good one for The Resource – Win from the Myron Bolitar series of books by Harlan Coben.

    Although I guess he’s kind of foil-y sometimes too, so not sure if that counts…

    What can I say? I tried!

    😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I take more of a Batman/Robin approach in my view of sidekicks, because I believe in interesting characters in supporting roles, but I definitely have created a sidekick in some of my stories. My MC Mike has a definite sidekick in his female assistant Sam, and they have a great relationship. Even though he is her boss, she teases him mercilessly throughout the story because they are also friends, and she is loyal to the point of resigning her job rather than get him in trouble. She may also have feelings for him, but as his wife’s best friend, she would never act on them – or would she? And of course, AS his wife’s best friend (and probably Mike’s), she has to step in and help patch things up at the end.

    So I guess she’s a sidekick!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! I realize I need to make my sidekick a little stronger as she is unwittingly being the foil for the MC. But reading this post gave me that lightbulb moment, and now I know I need to make that thread stronger throughout my WIP. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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