Deb Linda’s Not-So-Secret Passion for Sidekicks

That’s right. The second string. Supporting characters. The un-stars. The ones who are there to make the heroes look good. The Ethels, the Tontos, the Hadjis and Sams of the world — I love ’em.

Even wrote post about it on my blog last year. (Click here for proof. See? I’ll never lie to you. Exaggerate, maybe. Embellish, decorate, or garnish the truth…possibly. Okay, likely. But only to entertain. Cut me some slack.)

Anyway, the same holds for books – the sidekicks have always stolen my affections, starting waaay back when I was reading Trixie Belden mysteries. Sure, Trixie was cool and all, but her soft-spoken friend Honey Wheeler was the level-headed brains of the outfit. Plus, Honey’s family owned a stable full of horses, something I appreciated with the fiery fervor only a ten-year-old horse nut can achieve.

What’s that you say? Who the heck is Trixie Belden?

*crickets*

*sigh* Okay, perhaps a  timelier children’s book reference is in order. Take the Harry Potter series. It’s Hermione and Ron who make those books for me. Harry is a wonderful hero, and I love him, but Hermione and Ron have Personality Pizazz! They weren’t branded with a lightning bolt, so they have to try harder.

In my adult fiction (wait…does that sound tawdry? should I say “grownup fiction” instead?), I adore Stephanie Plum’s hilarious sidekick, Lula, in Janet Evanovich’s series about a Jersey girl bounty hunter. Lula is a smack-talking ex-ho, a queen-size jewel of a character — the perfect foil for Stephanie. Heck, just reading what she eats is entertainment itself. And how she dresses? Cheese Lou-eeze! What’s not to love?

You could make a case for Grandma Mazur being another of Stephanie’s sidekicks, at least in some of the books. I love her, too. That ancient, funeral-loving, door-knob-kneed smartass can shoot my chicken anytime. She’s the grandma I wish I had.

But I think if I had to choose my all-time favorite sidekick it would be Win from Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series. Windsor Horne Lockwood III. Myron’s best friend from college, Win is loaded, blond, classically handsome in an almost-delicate way, and pretty much batsh!t crazy. Other characters in the books refer to him as a “psycho yuppie,” and I’d have to say I agree. He may look like a preppie, but he’s well-versed in the martial arts (a sixth-degree black belt in Taekwondo), and could probably kill a man twice his size with his little finger. *swoons* He obviously loves his best friend, and is always there for him in a pinch. He saves Myron’s butt on a regular basis.

Um, okay, I may have a tiny literary crush on Win.

The thing is, sidekicks get a lot of leeway in books (movies and TV, too, for that matter). They don’t carry the weight of the story like the protags do, so they have the freedom to be … well, a bit more outré. And I happen to be mighty fond of outré . It’s so…well, out there. *grin*

Do you have a favorite sidekick? Or do the heroes always steal your heart?

48 thoughts on “Deb Linda’s Not-So-Secret Passion for Sidekicks

  1. I’m wracking my brain trying to think of a favorite sidekick but I’ve got nothing. I guess I prefer the lead. (But I always wanted to be a backup singer–does that count?)

    P.S. Oh, and I LOVED Trixie Beldon! Read them all!! We’re not old…just well-read 😉

    • “We’re not old…just well-read.” Okay, I’m totally adopting that — I love it!

      And, yeah, wanting to be a backup singer counts. Kind of the same thing, huh? The sidekicks of the music world. 😉

  2. I also loved the Trixie Belden books as a kid! For me, it was Jim, the boy Honey’s family later adopted.

    In Nancy Drew, I was a George fan. I loved her confidence!

    In Harry Potter, I adore Hermione. Love that’s uber-smart.

    Did you read the Hunger Games series? Oh, Peeta, Peeta, Peeta.

    • Hooray! Another Trixie Belden fan. Now I don’t fee quite so ancient.

      And yes on HUNGER GAMES and Peeta. Love that book, and Peeta was definitely one of my faves.

  3. Wonderful post, dear! Oh, there’s no question the sidekicks rock. Supporting cast, my big toe!

    I have to admit I’ve never read a Harlan Coben novel but now I’m tempted with your description of Win.

    As a writer, sidekicks can be tricky–they need to be unique and stand on their own but not necessarily overshadow the lead.

    Okay, I’m chewing on this one and I’ll be back with some favorite sidekicks…

    • Thanks, Erika!

      Good point about sidekicks not overshadowing the lead. It’s a delicate balance, isn’t it? They have to complement, not detract. Kind of like a running mate for a presidential candidate has to look good enough on his/her own, but without making the voter think the positions should be reversed. *grin*

    • How about Tinkerbell!? Tink was extra special, of course, because she added the whole friend-with-an-uber-crush-on-their-lead subplot which I happen to be a super-sucker for.

  4. Haven’t had breakfast yet, so my brain isn’t functioning. Can’t pull a sidekick out of there right now, other than Poncho. (and he wasn’t even a favorite) But I DO love Lula and Grandma Mazur. Great post, as always. Your creativity is firing on all cylinders, lady!

  5. wow. i never thought about it like that, but i guess i too have a large soft spot for the sidekicks. hermione, yes! lula, yes! peeta, yes!

  6. I’m an alto, which means in musical theater I always find the supporting characters (altos) more interesting than the leads (sopranos).

    In books, I don’t think I prefer them, but I definitely recognize their importance. I think it’s easy to be lazy with supporting characters in books and to default to stock characters – if the lead is falling in love, the sidekick will be the fat, funny best friend who can’t find a may-un. Maybe that’s why really good supporting characters are such a treat.

    • Frankly, I’d rather listen to a good alto than a soprano any day. I think their voices are richer. Aaah, if only I could sing…*sigh*

      It IS tough not fall back on stock characters when writing. Sure, there’s a reason certain types have become “stock” — the archetypes tend to work — but it’s just lazy writing not to take them beyond the cardboard-cutout level. And you’re right — it’s refreshing to stumble upon the really well-drawn ones, the ones who are as three-dimensional as the leads.

  7. This doesn’t pertain to a book, but I think my favorite sidekicks of all time are Jack and Karen from Will and Grace. Remember how over the top they were? But yes, they could be, because they weren’t the leads. They were comic relief if ever the main storyline got intense or often times had their own bizarre plots that kept the show fresh and hilarious.

    • If we do arm wrestle for Win he’d probably watch avidly. And videotape us. 😉

      And, yeah, I’d say Lula and Big Chief Mama could definitely be related. *grin*

  8. I’m totally with you on Ron and Hermione, especially Hermione, as much as I adored Harry. The story would have have been so boring without them. And I think Joanne has something with Jack and Karen, I loooved them. Right now my favorite sidekick is from Joelle Charbonneau’s Rebecca Robbins series. Rebecca’s grandfather is one of the funniest secondary characters ever.

  9. I adored Calcifer the fire demon in Howl’s Moving Castle. If the secondary characters are bleah the book goes down. Pale shades to the protag do not a good read make.

    • Oh boy! Another new (to me) series. Looks fantastic!

      Boy, the book recs I’m piling up here are a great Deb fringe benefit. Love it. 🙂

  10. In James Clavell’s King Rat, there is a Peter Marlowe character. Amongst the misery of a WW II POW camp he maintains his dignity and shows true grit when the shit hits the fan. And he’s the only one who truly loves the King. A great read!

    • Oh, that is a good one! Didn’t they make that into a movie, too? With…oh, who the heck was it again… *checks IMDB.com*…oh, yeah. George Segal.

  11. Love, love, LOVE Trixie Belden. I read all the books, and would love to go back and read them again now.

    And I also share your fondness for secondary characters. Some of Jennifer Crusie’s sub-plots (I’m thinking FAKING IT here) end up being even more fun for me than the main storyline!

    Tawna

    • So right about Crusie’s books! I adore her secondary characters, too.

      And of course you’re a Trixie Belden fan. All the cool kids are. 😉

  12. I too have a soft spot for well written secondary characters. Sometimes I love them more than the MC. (Lula and Grandmom Mazur, for SURE. Far more interesting than Steph) (Pam & Lafayette in True Blood) True, they’re often there for the comic relief, or the ‘smart one’ to keep the MC on track…but I love a strong secondary. 🙂 #solidaritysister

    Happy weekend…enjoy your other ball.
    Hugs,
    Lola

    • Yeah, exactly. And lets not forget Alcide. Hubba-hubba. AND he’s alive. There’s a lot to be said for that. 😉

  13. Horatio! I love him so much, & I think his side of the story is super interesting — what’s it like to watch your best friend descend into madness? How do you support your BFF when to do so is treason? When your king is the enemy?

    I’m so happy Shakespeare lets him live. There are actually two different YA retellings (Lisa Klein’s OPHELIA & Michelle Ray’s FALLING FOR HAMLET) where Horatio helps Ophelia fake her death & escape the castle. And then they totally make out. (Not really, but they SHOULD.)

    I also love Mercutio, but he’s out so quickly we don’t get to see how he could have supported Romeo when things got really bad. His death scene, IMO, is the most powerful & saddest moment in the play.

    • Horatio is the only one with half a brain in Hamlet. If I had to choose between him and Hamlet, I go with him every time. Haven’t read the YA retellings, but I like the sound of your version. 😉

      I’ve always loved Mercutio in R & J, too — so sad that he doesn’t last long enough to truly get to know.

    • LOL! Fortunately, my kiddos are old enough that I could avoid the whole Spongebob thing, so I haven’t a clue about this Patrick. *grin*

  14. Well, yesterday I wrote about Dill, who I would definitely say qualifies as a sidekick. And even though Twilight is controversial, I’ve always preferred Alice to Bella (who makes me want to slit my wrists, especially as portrayed by Kristen Stewart).

    I feel like sidekicks dont emerge always in literature they way they do in TV. Probably because in a book you can create a bunch of characters, who are inevitably mushed into one person in the made-for-TV version. But I do LOVE LOVE LOVE TV sidekicks. Jack and Karen for sure. Also Cockroach, Theo’s sidekick in The Cosby Show. And Rudy’s sidekick Buuuuud for that matter. And then there is my all-time favorite sidekick in all the world: Pretty in Pink’s Duckie.

    “This is a really volcanic ensemble you’re wearing. It’s really marvelous1”

    “May I admire you again today?”

    Ok. I’m done.

  15. A great wacky sidekick is sublime. I cite David Addison, of Moonlighting. Sure, he’s a lead, but he’s really the wacky sidekick to Maddie Hayes’ normal center. Toss in the truly wacky Herbert Viola and Agnes DiPesto and you have a genius ensemble.

    • He did have many of the best sidekick characteristics, so I think it’s okay to include him. That was such a fun show!

  16. I always love the main characters but I also love the sidekicks. Your reference to Evanovich reminded me – in the Metro Girl series I love Felicia and Rosa. They are outrageous, fierce and always there when Hooker and Barney need them.

      • Metro Girl and Motor Mouth are both just as funny. In some ways I like them better simply because I love the character of Sam Hooker, Alexandra Barnaby’s love interest. He’s hilarious. The 2 graphic novels are okay. For me they’re a little tame just because she geared them to an audience that included younger people. I bought them cause I love her and I’m a graphic novel fan.

        But yeah, those two books are really funny.

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