- Frodo would never have reached Mordor or destroyed the ring if it wasn't for Sam.
- Harry would have died or never solved the mysteries of his numerous journeys without Ron and Hermione.
- Luke would never have succeeded without Leia or Han.
- The dwarves of The Hobbit would never have made it without Bilbo.
- The Pevencies wouldn't have returned home without Aslan or Tumnus.
- Dorothy would never have reached the Wizard without the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion or the Scarecrow.
Friday, February 5, 2016
The Power of the Sidekick
In all the epic journeys of literature, there is a sidekick or two. But, sometimes, the sidekick is more often than not the actual hero of the story. Even when they don't reach such heights, you can clearly pinpoint parts of the journey that would have failed had the sidekick not been there.
Even in Disney: Belle would never have saved the Beast without Chip. Cinderella would never have made it to the ball without Jack and Gus, or her fairy godmother. Sleeping Beauty would never have survived Maleficent's curse without the three good fairies. Tiana would never have become human again without Ray and Mama Odie.
You'll find sidekicks in most books and movies that involve adventure. And when you do, you'll find that they offer some critical insight at one point of the journey, or more.
So, how do you write your own sidekick? It depends on your story. For this example, our adventure is one of life or death. There's an evil force out to destroy everything, but only one (or a band of a few) individual can save the world.
Your sidekick will need to provide a little levity, so they need to be funny, good with one liners, and generally good natured and not easily frightened (unless this can be used to comedic value). Never let your sidekick become so hilarious that it becomes incredulous or uncomfortable. Think Ron Weasley, Merry and Pippin, Han Solo. All were funny without effect and without becoming inappropriate.
Your sidekick also has to be helpful, intelligent and it helps if they can see the world in a completely different way to your hero. Examples: Hermione, Samwise, C3PO and Ray (Princess and the Frog). These characters provide clues, positivity in light of dark times and have a broader view of the world than some of the other characters. They use these traits to lead the way, spot clues or generally keep up morale, as the fight for Good against Evil reigns.
It's also important for your sidekick to never overshadow or take the limelight from your hero. Your hero is the hero for a reason and it needs to stay that way. So give your sidekick some insecurities: aversion to blood, a physical or mental weakness, phobias, lack of a sense of direction or an uncanny knack for being clumsy or getting in trouble. That will stop them from becoming the 'too-good-to-be-true' hero. Again, think about Ron Weasley (fear of spiders and insecurity about being poor), Samwise (not adventurous in the least, too curious, can't swim), C3PO (natural coward), Scarecrow (made of straw) and the Tin Man (rusts!)
There are so many ways that you can create a believable sidekick without making them weak-willed or pathetic. If you want some inspiration, check out the great movie 'Sky High' which is about a school for superhero's, where a bunch of 'sidekicks' or 'Hero Support' end up being the only ones capable of saving the day, thus becoming the real superhero's. It might give you a glimpse of how to balance the characteristics of a sidekick with a hero and how any small talent can win the war.