Tuesday, April 5, 2022

The Best Side of Sidekicks in the Stories You Write

by PeggySue Wells @PeggySueWells

In story, the author places personalities into specific settings and the reader follows as the collection of characters reacts and responds. Generally, the principle players in a story consist of 
  • Main character
  • Sidekick
  • Antagonist
  • Mentor
Sidekicks fill important roles as close companion, partner, friend, or travel buddy to the main character. 

Consider your audience as you assemble a sidekick. If your protagonist is male, a female companion can broaden your audience. When the main character is female, a male sidekick can expand the story’s appeal, though a female hero with a male sidekick is rare.
  • Margaret Houlihan to Hawkeye Pierce in M.A.S.H.
  • Tinkerbell to Peter Pan
Will your sidekick be human or animal or something different? In the Peanuts cartoons, Snoopy is a dog with a bird named Woodstock for a sidekick.
  • Groot to Rocket Racoon in Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Mushu, the family’s guardian dragon faithfully accompanies Mulan.
  • Olaf is the friendly and extroverted snowman to reserved Elsa and Anna in Frozen.
  • From the first Star Wars film, R2-D2 bravely faces every challenge to champion the good guys from Padme and Anakin to Leia, Luke, Obi-Wan and Han Solo. The winsome Artoo is particularly trustworthy because as a robot, the silver and blue sidekick has no personal agenda. 
  • While Han Solo serves as sidekick to Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca is Han Solo’s wingman. A sidekick with a sidekick.
Notable sidekicks include
  • Becky Thatcher and Huckleberry Finn to Tom Sawyer
  • Bucky Barnes to Captain America
  • Doc Brown to Marty McFly in Back to the Future
  • Drover to Hank in Hank the Cowdog
  • Ethel Mertz to Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy
  • Friday to Robinson Crusoe
  • Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley to Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series
  • Jeeves in My Man Jeeves
  • Jiminy Cricket to Pinocchio
  • Nick “Goose” Bradshaw to Pete Maverick Mitchell in Top Gun
  • Pacha to Kuzco in Emperor’s New Groove
  • Pancho to the Cisco Kid
  • Sebastian to Ariel in Little Mermaid
A great sidekick is a complex character who 
  • completes the hero’s set of skills. 
    • Tonto’s unique abilities include survival skills outside city limits for Ranger John Reid in The Lone Ranger.
  • provides contrast to the hero’s style. 
    • Spock is logic and social commentary to the emotional and contradictory humanness of Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek.
  • balances the main character’s personality.
    • Dr. John Watson bridges Sherlock Holmes’ lack of social skills with the eccentric detective’s usefully keen intellect.
  • adds humor. 
    • Al Giordino provides mechanical know-how and comedic relief in Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series.
  • often inadvertently provides the solution. 
    • Gromit never speaks—in fact the faithful pooch doesn’t have a mouth—yet
    • Gromit resourcefully rescues Wallace from his misbehaving inventions in the Wallace and Gromit stop-motion comedy animation. 
  • has the best dialog lines. 
    • Who else could pull off phrases like “Holy Uncanny Photographic Mental Processes,” “Holy Priceless Collection of Etruscan Snoods,” or “Holy Astringent Plum-Like Fruit” except Burt Ward as Robin to Adam West’s Batman?
  • is loyal. 
    • Sancho Panza’s name is synonymous with sidekick as an example of loyalty to Don Quixote. 
  • personifies the story’s theme.
    • No matter the danger, Samwise Gamgee won’t let Frodo lose his way geographically or spiritually on his all-consuming trek to save Middle-earth. At Frodo’s breaking point, Sam pledges that while he cannot carry his master’s burden, “but I can carry you.”
In my adventure novel, Chasing Sunrise, Michael Northington is the main character while Bryce Lassiter is the sidekick. Bryce’s easy-going nature softens Michael’s seriousness, Bryce has the fun dialog lines, and this battle buddy’s intuitive skills pave the way for Michael to be the hero. 

Their history together has created a friendship where each intuitively knows what the other needs. In the Philippines, Michael encounters a young girl on the brink of a lifestyle that will destroy her life.

Standing beside Michael, Bryce stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Mama-san was curious about what was happening with her girl.” The two watched the girl disappear into the night.


“I gave her some money for her trouble.”

Michael grunted and turned toward the hotel. Bryce fell into step beside him. They were nearly back to their hotel when Bryce finally broke the silence. “You okay?” 

“She probably wasn’t any older than Marissa.”

“Probably not.”

“She should be playing with dolls.”

“Or picking on her older brother’s best friend.”

Michael smiled, remembering the good-natured pranks his sisters used to pester good-natured Bryce. “Remember that first snow when April—”


“And the time you slept over and Marissa—”

“Don’t remind me.”

They walked on, each lost in his own thoughts. Stopping outside the hotel, Michael stared at the stars. “Think she’ll do something better with her life?”

Bryce shrugged. “Well, I’d say that’s up to her.” He slapped Michael on the back. “But you gave her the option.”

When personalizing your sidekick, ask yourself how the companion to your protagonist can
  • Complete the hero’s set of skills
  • Provide contrast to the hero’s style
  • Balance the main character’s personality
  • Add humor or comedic relief
  • Inadvertently solve the problem
  • Speak the best dialog lines
  • Behave loyally
  • Personify the story’s theme

Tropical island votary and history buff, PeggySue Wells parasails, skydives, snorkels, scuba dives, and has taken (but not passed) pilot training. Writing from the 100-Acre Wood in Indiana, Wells is the bestselling author of thirty books including The Slave Across the Street, Slavery in the Land of the Free, Bonding With Your Child Through Boundaries, Homeless for the Holidays, Chasing Sunrise, and The Ten Best Decisions A Single Mom Can Make. Founder of SingleMomCircle.com, PeggySue is named for the Buddy Holly song with the great drumbeat. At school author visits, she teaches students the secrets to writing and speaks at events and conferences. Connect with her at www.PeggySueWells.com, on Facebook at PeggySue Wells, and LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/peggysuewells

Featured Image: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


  1. This was very helpful, PeggieSue.

    1. Clive Cussler patterned Al Giordino after his battle buddy in the Korean War. It's interesting to see the sidekicks and mentors who come into our lives. Maybe we are the sidekicks :)

  2. This was so helpful. I loved all of your examples. In my first novel, I included these characters without thinking about it. Now I'll be sure to add them intentionally in my current novel.

    1. Much of writing is intuitive, Michelle, as you experienced. Then we sharpen our intuition with skills as we learn more about the craft. I'm always learning!

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, MaryAnn. I hope these insights take your writing to the next level.

  4. Thanks, PeggySue,for these insightful tips. I'm going to print this for the novel that's been simmering on the back burner.