This is part 6 in a series called The Epic Guide to Character Creation. In this part I will show you different sidekick archetypes. I will provide examples of characters from both literature and movies/TV-series to provide you with an overall understanding of fictional characters. Let’s get started:
Who is the Sidekick?
The sidekick is basically a secondary character. He/she travels with the protagonist and is the main support to the hero/heroine.
The sidekick should be a contrast to the protagonist (in personality, abilities, qualities, etc.) in order to highlight the other one’s traits. In this way both of the characters will complement each other one way or another.
Categorizing the Sidekick
If you want to know more about the categories that follow, you can read the first post in this Epic Guide to Character Creation-series: The Epic Guide to Character Creation, Part 1: Categorizing Your Characters
Dynamic or Static, Round or Flat? A sidekick can be either dynamic or static, even though static sidekicks are more common.
A dynamic sidekick will change throughout the story, either because of his/her friendship with the protagonist and/or his/her involvement in the main events of the story.
A static sidekick, however, won’t have a significant change throughout the story. His/her static development often encourages the hero/heroine to grow.
A sidekick can also be either round or flat.
A round sidekick may be a good friend to the protagonist, and may have a background story that’s significant to his/her loyalty to the protagonist. He/she may also have qualities that will be significant for the protagonist to meet his/her goal.
A flat sidekick may provide a further contrast to the protagonist by having opposing qualities. Where the protagonist may be courageous, the sidekick may be timid. There are many opposing qualities that you can choose between (chatty/quiet, confident/self-conscious, cynical/optimistic, etc.).
Black, White or Grey? Sidekicks often contrast the protagonist within this category.
If the hero/heroine is purely noble (white), the sidekick is often a grey character. This offers the protagonist a way to look at the world from a different perspective.
If the hero/heroine is an antihero (grey), the sidekick will often be good, a white character, in order to encourage the protagonist to become an improved version of themselves.
Common Sidekick Archetypes
- The Muscles — Chewbacca in Star Wars
- The Brains — Hermione Granger in Harry Potter
- The Humanizer — Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes
- The Friend — Friday in Robinson Crusoe, Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings
Descriptions of the Sidekick Archetypes
This sidekick archetype is mostly about the muscles. Can be crafted as a fighter who fight beside (or instead of) the protagonist, a protector of the protagonist, or someone who just scares away the opponents of the protagonist with his/her strength (big frame, muscles, etc.).
This type of sidekick may also be a more grey character, depending on how he/she use his/her strength (to beat the shit out of people for fun or to just protect the smaller built protagonist).
This sidekick archetype is often resourceful and bright. This type of character may be the smartest one in a crowd. He/she may also come up with the solutions to problems most of the time, and offer the protagonist different ways to handle problematic situations.
This sidekick archetype is often used to contrast an antihero protagonist. The humanizer is used as a stark contrast to the protagonist in which he/she sees the better parts of the antihero.
This sidekick archetype is often loyal to a fault. They usually stick with the protagonist until the very end (whatever the outcome may be). The friend is the epitome of the reliable companion.
How to Choose a Sidekick (or Several)
There are some general guidelines that may help you choose a sidekick to your protagonist.
A sidekick that is a contrast to your protagonist is the best way to go. A sidekick is meant to be by the protagonist’s side throughout the journey of your story, so make sure that they complement each other (through different personalities, abilities, qualities, etc.)
Even though they should contrast each other, you need to have a sidekick and a protagonist that are compatible. The sidekick is the protagonist’s main support, and they should therefore be capable of forming (or already have formed) a friendship.
In many ways, the relationship between your sidekick and protagonist may be your protagonist’s most important relationship. Make sure that these characters matter to each other.
Your sidekick should, above all, be supportive of your protagonist. He/she can be supportive by defending the protagonist (physically, verbally, etc.), by encouraging the protagonist to deal with their fears, to help the protagonist solve problems, etc.
Your protagonist can also use the sidekick as a means to fight the antagonist by delegating tasks, and through that getting the sidekick active in the plot on another level (just make sure the sidekick does not overshadow the protagonist’s actions too much).
Next week I’ll post about mentors. If you’re interested, make sure to come back here next Tuesday. Until then, have a great week.