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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Do You Need a Sidekick in Your Novel?

On my last post, I wrote about protagonists and antagonists, so today I thought I would continue the character journey with sidekicks. These character types are in novels of all genres, including literary fiction and children's fiction. You can probably think of your favorite sidekicks in a heartbeat, as these are often the characters that really stick out in stories and movies.

The sidekick is a character in your story who is the protagonist's assistant, best friend, sibling, pet, or close associate, and usually this character has less authority than the main character.
EXAMPLES are Robin (Batman), Ron and Hermione (Harry Potter), Watson (Sherlock Holmes), Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer), Johnny (Ponyboy, The Outsiders), Piglet (Winnie the Pooh), and Grandpa Joe (Charlie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

Your novel may need a sidekick or one might naturally appear while you're writing. Don't you love when that happens? Maybe your protagonist (or even the antagonist can have a sidekick) needs a lot of support to accomplish his goal, and the sidekick has skills that your main character doesn't have (Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, anyone?). A lot of time the sidekick is there to push your main character into doing what he or she needs to do. This companion is a sounding board, but not a mentor--that's a whole other character type that I might get around to sharing one day!

Another reason a sidekick might be used in your novel is because your main character might be an anti-hero or not very likable. Let's take Batman for example, He is consdered an anti-hero sometimes because he is so mysterious and serious (and rich!). But Robin is more relatable, more the everyman. He likes and respects Batman, so shouldn't the viewer then, too?

The problem with this is that your sidekick can often take over the story and become more popular or well-liked than your protagonist. This happened to my critique partner, Camille Faye, when she was writing her drafts of Voodoo Butterfly. In our critique group, we would often tell her how much we loved Poppy (sidekick), but we had trouble relating to Sophie (MC). So Camille used some of Poppy's characteristics that everyone loved to soften Sophie up. Their friendship is one of my most favorite things about Camille's book series.

If you have a very serious book, a sidekick can sometimes lighten the mood and allow readers to take a break from the drama or tension. This is especially important if you write for kids. In my middle-grade historical fiction novel, Finding My Place, Anna has a lot of very serious things happen to her in the middle of a war, but her brother James is often doing silly stuff, and they bicker. I put this character in there to create places for readers to not feel so tense.

Do you need a sidekick in your novel? After reading this post, you may be asking yourself if you need one. Every story does not need a sidekick. Sidekicks are often used in: quests, thrillers, police procedurals, military or espionage novels, adventure stories, and mysteries. If you feel something is lacking in your novel or you can’t figure out how your main character will solve a problem with his or her skills, then you might need one—more than just a friend, not a love interest, almost a partner in the adventure. But remember, your main character has the starring role.

So, who's your favorite sidekick?

Margo L. Dill is a writing teacher, author, publisher and the managing editor of WOW! Women On Writing. Her middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, is currently free on Kindle through 8/22.  Her latest book is out as an ebook and is a prequel to Finding My Place, titled Anna and the Baking Championship. Join her next WOW! novel writing class which starts on September 4 by clicking here.


  1. Margo, such food for thought about sidekicks in a novel. I have a sidekick in my work in progress novel that is the daughter-in-law of my main character. She has her own narrative but offers my protagonist an alternate and encouraging point of view. As far as favorite sidekicks, since my granddaughter is reading Harry Potter and discussing it with me, I will say Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.

  2. Hi Margo,
    I meant to have a sidekick. Actually, there are supposed to be two. But they aren't holding up their end of the bargain.

    I know they both need to play bigger roles as do the Love Interest and the Ex. But that is something to fix in my rewrite.


  3. Margo--I've always loved Samwise, ever since I fell in love with JRR Tolkien back when I was in 8th grade.

  4. I love a good sidekick but they're not always obvious. And I can't think of any beyond the ones you mentioned. However, I thought immediately of one of my favorite TV shows...Barney Fife is the perfect sidekick to Andy Taylor (though Don Knotts always got the Emmys)!


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