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Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Sherlock Holmes and his worthy sidekick, Dr. John Watson

Not every story needs a sidekick, but stories that do involve quests, plots with mysterious or paranormal elements, or fights of good against evil are in need of a character who can uplift and enhance the hero or heroine much like Sam did for Frodo in Lord of the Rings. Sidekicks may also possess knowledge to help the champions weave their way through dangerous situations and roadblocks the way Gollum did, at least for a time, in Lord of the Rings. He knew the secrets necessary to avoid disaster.

Here are the archetypes for Sidekicks:

1. The Cheerleader
This is the character, maybe with humor, but certainly with kindness lifts up the spirits of the lead character and keeps that person focused on the goal of the conquest. It’s wonderful to have someone who gives encouragement when things seem dark, the guy who says, “You can do this. Don’t give up. I believe in you.”

2. The Class Clown
The clown has a way with words or actions that make the other characters laugh. They may seem a little annoying in some cases if they are socially inept or clueless, but that’s a good thing if it draws attention away from some miserable circumstances. Laughter really is good medicine. It’s such a relief to have someone with a sense of humor divert attention from the darkness of a situation.

3. The Muscle
Although the lead character is willing to fight to the death for the sake of the goal, the muscle sidekick, fights to the death for the hero without concern for the goal. They may have knowledge of or contacts in the underworld or superior skills with weapons or magic to protect the protagonist.

4. The Heart
Where cheerleaders uplift the protagonist with optimism, the sidekick with heart encourages the hero to keep going for the sake of the goal. These sidekicks have their eyes set on the endgame and will do what they must to get the lead character to that victory. They would speak encouragement such as, “You can’t give up; our people are counting on you to end the horror they suffer at the hands of the witch.” Or perhaps this character would say, “Get up! Move even if you don’t think you can. You can’t allow the wicked demons to breech the wall into the city.”

5. The Skeptic
Sometimes the protagonist needs a sidekick for a reality check. I’m not talking about the negative nay-sayers. I’m talking about the kind of character who believes in practicality, numbers, real science, and methodical calculations before jumping into the fray. The skeptics can keep the overly bold, emotionally driven protagonist from their wild speculations. They contribute to the quest by keeping the hero or heroine from making mistakes by going off path onto some unproductive tangent.

6. The Fish Out of Water
This sidekick often has a backstory of loneliness, lost or funny who may have a history of time travel, supernatural abilities, or cultural settings which have changed including a reversal of fortune. The fish-out-of-water sidekick can give the protagonist someone to protect while also learning something about themselves. Care must be given not to allow the fish-out-of-water to remain in a victim roll too long. Eventually this sidekick must learn to deal with his new environment. For this very reason, the writer would be taking a huge risk to include this sidekick in a series.

7. The Non-humans
The non-human sidekick can be a friend, counselor, and/or protector of the protagonist. These sidekicks include paranormal beings, space aliens, animals, robots, ghosts, and so on with human-like characteristics. In some cases, only the protagonist can hear or see this sidekick. They may do their own thing, but they will always come to the aid and support of the protagonist. Mr. Big, Tinker Bell, and Chewbacca are examples of this type of sidekick.

Whatever sidekick you choose for your story, you must make certain he or she is a contrasting character to your protagonist, but with similar goals. Remember to give the sidekick his or her own needs, values, and ideas. It’s important to remember to keep the balance between the protagonist and sidekick for the sake of purpose in your story.

Legends of Winatuke trilogy includes the novels, Dark Isle, Lake of Sorrows, and The Light of Valmora.

The legend begins when love and evil collide.
The legend continues with a curse, a quest and undying love.
A quest for an enchanted light...a Gypsy’s love...and a warrior’s sacrifice to save Valmora.

My favorite sidekick is the Gypsy, Pennytook, whom I included in every book of the Legends of Winatuke trilogy. He befriends the Nimway of Valmora and the humans from another dimension. Often he is the person who loves to have feasts for the warriors serving them good food, excellent entertainment, and “peculiar tobacco” to lift their spirits. But he is also a person who knows the magic objects and esoteric ways in which to fight against the evil of the Dark Isle and the monsters who obey the wicked queen. Pennytook may seem jolly, but he has a heavy burden of sorrow in his backstory and a perceptive wisdom of others and their secrets. Accustomed to leading his own tribe through the pits and perils of Winatuke, Pennytook has become a fierce warrior and has earned the respect of the other characters in the trilogy.
I wanted to make things right for Pennytook. A steadfast friend and warrior, he deserved his own story, his own happy ending. But like all the other adventures in Winatuke, he will have to overcome great obstacles to get that happy ending.

“Pennytook” is included in the fall anthology, Myths, Legends, and Midnight Kisses.
Myths are supposed to be false…but some are terrifying and true.

Pennytook is a war weary Gypsy who longs for peace from the past and wants something meaningful in his life.
Esmeralda, a Gypsy trick rider, has harbored a deep affection for the chieftain, Pennytook, for many years. But her dark secret will never allow him into her life.
A mythological creature is about to unleash its horror and change the destinies of Esmeralda and Pennytook.
"What are you going to do?" Sabo whispered as he knelt beside Pennytook and placed an arrow in his bow ready to strike.
"I'm going to kill that monster."
The heavy footsteps of the Niamso shook the ground as it made its way toward Pennytook and Sabo. Sabo launched an arrow that found its mark in the creature's arm. The beast roared. Maddened with the pain, the beast picked up its speed as it barreled toward them.
Sabo crossed himself. "God's bones, I hope you have a plan."
With his legs wide to give him leverage and his sword drawn, Pennytook smiled. "Is no need for plan, my friend; we kill the beast, or it kills us. Let me deal with the Niamso. While I distract it, get Esmeralda away from here. Take her to Valmora and find the Healer."
The beast was almost upon them, his red eyes glowing in the darkening twilight.
"It will kill you, Pennytook." Sabo stood, placed his bow over his shoulder and drew his sword.
"Go now, Sabo. Go!"
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Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


  1. yes, the sidekick does seem to balance the main character in one form or another


    1. Denise, thank you for your comment. That balance is evident in the BBC TV series, SHERLOCK. The lead character, Sherlock, is a study in eccentricity and has a full on focus on the serious. Watson, the sidekick, on the other hand, though he does contribute to the investigation, is a steadfast, grounded person who lightens the load by his witty comments about his friend, Sherlock. They would seem to be complete opposites--and that's a good thing.
      Thank you so much for coming by and commenting, Denise.

  2. I've studied "sidekicks" to some degree, but I don't recall any of my heroes having one. I don't write paranormal, but the premise is the same for any action/adventure series. The old black and white western movie heroes often had a sidekick. Those are the ones I remember best--Tonto for the Lone Ranger, for one.
    I forget that you write paranormal stories. Your Wilder Series are the books I most identify with "you."
    This blurb is exciting and chilling, and I see you write this just as well! You are a multi-talented author, for sure. Excellent post, Sarah.

    1. Celia, I've read most of your books and I don't recall a sidekick in any of them either.
      I remember Gabby Hays and Jingles in the old westerns. I think they were there as comedy relief. Tonto was a great sidekick. He was more like Doc Holliday--backup support to get the hero out of a pinch. Of course, Doc was a real life sidekick.
      I don't write that much paranormal any more. I am writing a little bit about Kyle Red Sky (cousin to the younger Wildings) who has a Lakota gift of "knowing". The Winatuke Legends were my first published books. I have wanted to write Pennytook's story for a long time. It bothered me that I hadn't written it yet when I was going through my health issues. It was like unfinished business. So, once I was back on my feet, I wrote it. I feel good that I finally wrote his story.
      Thank you for always being so kind and supportive. I so appreciate it.

  3. Hmm... The only example of a sidekick in my stories I can come up with right off the bat is a talking mule, of all things. His usual function was to give our hero someone trustworthy to talk to, so the reader could be fed information in a natural manner. It was either that, or have the hero go around talking to himself and that gets weird after a time.

    1. Your reply made me laugh, Gerald. A talking mule sounds like a very good sidekick. Shrek had a mule as his sidekick, too. What was the title of the story you wrote with the talking mule?
      Thank you so much for dropping by and giving me a little something to chuckle about.

    2. Oh, he wanders around all through my Appalachia series, but really becomes a traditional sidekick in A Ring for a Lady.

    3. You've cranked up my curiosity about that mule, Gerald. Thanks for mentioning the title.

  4. Like Gerald, I have several talking animals in my stories. In my latest series, the sidekick is a ghost. Nearly all my romance heroes and heroines have sidekicks, too. Excellent article, Sarah! And best of luck with your anthology. :)

    1. Well Jacquie, I am not surprised at your talking animal sidekicks. Besides reading a slew of your Much Ado books, I also visit your Pickle Barrel Facebook page--gets my day off with a smile.
      A side really gets some of the backstory out and personal details the hero or heroine may not bring up--or maybe is reluctant to reveal. A sidekick doesn't mind bragging up a friend or spilling some information when it's necessary.
      Thank you so much for coming by. I know you're a very busy lady, so I certainly appreciate the time you took to visit, Jacquie.

  5. I enjoyed your blog tonight, Sarah. I'll have to think about the sidekick issue. I know the idea is sound but I'm not sure I have made use of it. You have written a variety of genres and done it well. I wish you continued success with whatever direction you focus on next. So just let your muse lead you and you can't go wrong!

    1. Some authors don't make use of a sidekick. A sidekick isn't all that necessary in some fiction. When there are no magical orbs or spells to use and no demons, witches, or monsters to conquer, a sidekick with the information becomes almost essential. It's good to have someone who knows stuff.
      I do use sidekicks in my westerns though. They are usually supportive family members or best friends with the main character. In this case, it may just be my writing style.
      Hey, just wondering about your film. When, where, and how can I see it? This Time Forever was a wonderful story.
      Thank you so very much for coming by. I always like hearing from you.

    2. Thanks for asking about the film, Sarah. Plans are to contact theaters in certain cities and arrange showings at some future point Nashville is the first on the list for that. Plans are still in the works for DVDs to be made available soon, I am told. I will keep everyone posted on that via my FB page.

  6. I don't think I've used 'sidekicks' but in my romance stories, my heroine usually has a best friend, someone who can give her advice and/or someone she can turn to when things go wrong. It helps if she can confide in the friend, as this avoids a lot of inner dialogue.

    1. Best friends can reveal things about the main character. I would call a best friend a sidekick. Those confidences can be so important for giving insight into the characters.
      Thank you for your comments, Paula. It's so nice of you to drop by.

  7. I love sidekicks. What's Batman without Robin? Peter Pan without Tinkerbell, Yogi without Boo Boo, Fred Flintstone with Barney Rubble, Sherlock without Dr. Watson...just to name a few. :) I have sidekicks in quite a few of my tales. Harrison, in Soul Taker (Paranormal), Gideon in Eli and in Lucca (Fallen Angels), and in Creighton Manor (historical time travel) there's Zachary's best friend who is full of advice both good and bad. Sometimes those sidekicks offer a little humor to dire situations – at least in my tales.

    Sarah, I always enjoy your stories both historical, time travel and your paranormal tales as well. :) Enjoyed your post.

    1. How wonderful to see you, Karen. I very much agree about sidekicks providing some very necessary humor when things are looking bleak.
      Hey, did you ever write Gideon's story? If you did, I missed it and I wanted to read more about him. I was really into your fallen angels.
      Thank you so much for visiting.

    2. Thanks so much for your interest in my Fallen Angel tales. I've finished Gideon's story, but I still need to do a complete edit before I send it to my beta reader. :) Maybe after the Summer Anthology is completed I'll have time. lol We'll see.

    3. Karen, thank you so much for letting me know you have written Gideon's story. Please post when it comes out because I have been waiting for that story for a long time. One of the fascinating things about the angles is how their wings are bound by wing tattoos. I loved that.

  8. Sarah,
    Many thanks for an interesting post about Sidekicks. Sometimes, though, they can cause problems ...
    In one of my current WiPs the Sidekick rebelled and rode off into the sunset before I could rein him in. Result: I was obliged to leave the WiP for a while and write a whole NEW yarn based around the Sidekick as Main Character! :) Now I have TWO tales to tell... LOL

    1. Well the sidekick's departure from one story into another sounds like a godsend for you. It is peculiar how sidekicks and secondary characters quite often get their own stories even though that's not what we planned. It's happened to me and I see it's happened to you as well. Who knows why this happens--maybe it's just the fact that we created a character that came onto the page with guns drawn and a big grin. They knew what we didn't. It's a lucky dang thing, too.
      Thank you for coming by and sharing your own experience with a sidekick who demands more, Paul.


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