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Sidekick – The Sleuth’s Mirror

Sidekick and Detective in The Crimson Rivers

Photo by Gaumont – © 2000

A Sidekick Amplifies Your Sleuth and the Story

The sidekick is a traditional literary archetype that will enhance your mystery novel. The sidekick can be a working partner or a friend. The sidekick’s role in the story will vary depending on how you choose to amplify your sleuth with the sidekick. The ways your sidekick can mirror your sleuth depends on his story role.

Although some sleuths work alone, using a sidekick in your mystery can illustrate your sleuth’s weaknesses or strengthen his personal traits. When you expand your protagonist with interaction with a sidekick, reader’s engage with your story.

The Role of the Sidekick

The sidekick has a special role in your story and that is to accompany the hero on his quest. In a mystery, the sidekick helps your sleuth track down the murderer.

The sidekick is not necessarily a mentor. The role of the mentor is to appear periodically and provide sage advice. Your sidekick doesn’t have to do this. The sidekick wouldn’t be a sidekick if he wasn’t there through thick and thin.

Your sleuth and the sidekick have a connection that sets them on the trail of discovery to find the murderer. Even if the sidekick is assigned to your sleuth – this often happens in police crime novels – they both are set on solving the mystery.

How The Sidekick Mirrors Your Detective

Because the sidekick and the sleuth work together, they have something in common. It may be a knowledge of police procedure or a common interest. In the film The Crimson Rivers, thoughtful Pierre Niemans (Jean Reno) works with action-oriented Max Kerkerian (Vincent Cassel). Though they are often at odds on procedure, they both have the goal of finding the killer. John D. MacDonald created Meyer, the economist, to help readers understand Travis McGee in his long-running series.

The sidekick holds up a mirror to your sleuth by highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.  Sometimes the sidekick compensates for the weaknesses by having an opposite personality or style of response. Some sidekicks may pick up the slack, others may not. The sidekick can highlight the strengths by pointing them out when your sleuth meets an obstacle.

Points to Consider as You Create Your Sleuth’s Sidekick

​As a writer, you have a lot of leeway as you create your sleuth’s sidekick. Your sidekick can be male or female, younger or older or the same age, new to the game or an old hand. It’s up to you to create a sidekick that will accompany your sleuth on the discovery journey.

  • Make the sidekick a distinct and interesting character. Give them a personality, one that interacts with your sleuth. Build their skillset in the same way you create your sleuth’s skillset. If you plan on creating a series, build a rich background in your character bible for the sidekick. As a continuing character, you’ll need to know a lot about the sidekick.
  • Keep the sidekick from taking over the story. A sidekick is fun to create and you may be tempted to let the sidekick take over. Resist the temptation. Your sleuth is the protagonist.
  • Keep your sleuth and sidekick connected. If you create an antagonistic sidekick be sure to make the connection between the two characters strong. If you create an antagonistic sidekick just to be antagonistic, rethink your sidekick or create a new more sympathetic and supportive sidekick. The sidekick and the sleuth take the discovery journey together, not separately.
  • Create traits that showcase the detective’s strengths and weaknesses. Create sidekick traits that complement your detective’s traits.
  • The sidekick’s role is to make your sleuth protagonist more likeable for your readers.

The Sidekick Supports Your Sleuth

Your sidekick supports your sleuth physically and emotionally as they work to solve the whodunit puzzle.  

Zara Altair

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