Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Perfect Side-Kick

Hi everyone! This post originally appeared on Shirley Bourget's blog, under Buzz From The Best, but I kinda like it, and thought I'd share it here, as well.

Andy Griffith and Barney Fife?

...or Laverne and Shirley... or The Lone Ranger and Tonto?
Okay, you get the idea. It’s about the sidekick.
I don’t think I’ve written a book yet that doesn’t have a strong sidekick. I write contemporary romance, so the sidekick is generally a friend, or a roommate. Or in some cases, a pet. I grew up with both dogs and cats. Love ‘em both, but if there’s an animal involved, it’s usually a cat.
I’m not fond of stories in which the main character is too introspective. That type of structure usually leads to long paragraphs of telling instead of showing. Boring, boring, boring. But on the other hand, if we impart the information via dialogue with the sidekick, it’s alive, and ultimately, interesting. If not, it shouldn’t be there.
I use the sidekick to say things the reader might be thinking. For example, the main character utters some emotionally charged dialogue, and you just know the reader is rolling her eyes and saying “give me a break”. Eh voila – the sidekick can say “give me a break”. This allows you to include that small, overly-dramatic but necessary scene, and yet keep it real, thanks to the sidekick.
Creating this character is something I enjoy...perhaps more than I should. Because the sidekick is me. Wait, let me qualify that. It’s the me I’d like to be. I’d like to be tall, slender, dress in a bomber jacket, tight leather pants, and be an international correspondent. Something ‘glamorous’ like that. What’s that you say? The job of an international correspondent isn’t all that glamorous? Never mind; you know what I mean. Besides, this is romance, and romance is mostly fantasy.
Do you notice how often the secondary character is the complete opposite of the main character? There are many ways this can be accomplished, but one of my favorites is age. Several of my stories have older women mentoring the heroine. A surprising number of readers have said that they’d love to read a story about the older characters. In Then Came Love, the older woman is named Agnes. She’s a feisty old broad who has outlived several husbands. We like her immediately, and she becomes integral to the story.
Yes, sidekicks aren’t only fun to write, they enrich our stories. Let’s hear it for the Barney Fifes of the world, and may our characters be as memorable.


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