Guest Post: Judy Alter

Sidekicks and Minor Characters

Remember The Lone Ranger and Tonto? Roy Rogers and Cookie (Andy Devine)? Almost all legendary heroes had their sidekicks who are useful foils to their brave adventures, providing a bit of comic relief sometimes. Sidekicks—or minor characters who steal the spotlight—show up in mysteries today too.

cover.jpg2The main characters in two of my mystery series have sidekicks who are their polar opposites, and what strikes me as funny is that both sidekicks have thee sixth sense or psychic abilities to some extent. I don’t write paranormal, but I’m not ready to say I don’t believe in instinct, sixth sense or psychics. I’m sort of on the fence about the whole subject. But these two are probably as close as I’ll ever come to writing paranormal.

Keisha, Kelly’s office assistant in the Kelly O’Connell Series, has the sixth sense, talks about it all the time, and has used it to save Kelly more than once. There was, for instance, the time she made boyfriend José leave the zoo in mid-trip with Kelly’s daughters because she suddenly knew Kelly was in trouble. They arrived to find Kelly and her husband, Mike, held hostage by a crazed gunman who planned to take Kelly on a one-way trip to Mexico.

Mike scoffs at Keisha’s sixth sense, though he has to admit that it’s come in handy sometimes; Kelly is more willing to believe but tires of hearing Keisha talk about it all the time. When Keisha announces someone is trying to kill neighborhood reclusive diva, Ms. Lorna, Kelly asks sarcastically, “You know this how? Don’t tell me it’s your sixth sense.” But in the newest Kelly O’Connell, Deception in Strange Places, someone is indeed trying to kill Ms. Lorna.

In the first book in my new Oak Grove Mystery Series, The Perfect Coed, Susan’s Hogan’s sidekick is Aunt Jenny, the beloved spinster aunt who raised Susan. Aunt Jenny is everything Susan tries not to be—dithery, easily flustered, impractical, a bit naïve. But she has almost telepathic powers. Dining in a restaurant with her beau, Judge John Jackson, Jenny announces during the salad course that they have to leave because Susan is in terrible danger. The judge protests that they haven’t had their dinners, but no matter. Jenny insists. The waitress asks if they received a phone call, and the Judge drily replies, “You might say that.” Of course, Susan is in a life-threatening situation. (No spoilers here!)

Sidekicks with psychic abilities may be an old plot device, but they are handy for moving the plot ahead and often for providing a light laugh. Maybe we all need sidekicks in our lives.

How about you? Do you believe in superpowers or whatever you want to call it? I always claim I research cars and houses carefully before purchasing—but I know in the long run I buy on instinct. And I believe in my instincts about people. Perhaps my belief in instinct is why I’m a pantser, not a plotter, but that’s another subject.

Kelly O’Connell Mysteries:
Skeleton in a Dead Space
No Neighborhood for Old Women
Trouble in a Big Box
Danger Comes Home
Deception in Strange Places
Sixth to launch mid-winter, tentatively titled Death by Desperation

Oak Grove Mysteries:
The Perfect Coed
Second as yet untitled and unscheduled and mostly unwritten but coming.


An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of five books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, Danger Comes Home, and Deception in Strange Places. She also writes the Blue Plate Café Mysteries—Murder at the Blue Plate Café and Murder at the Tremont House. New in October 2014 is The Perfect Coed, the start of a new series.

Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame.

Judy is retired as director of TCU Press, the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of seven. She and her Bordoodle, Sophie, live in Fort Worth, Texas.

Find Judy at:

Turquoise Morning Press:


Web page:



Twitter: @judyalter


8 thoughts on “Guest Post: Judy Alter”

  1. I don’t know if I believe in a true “sixth sense” in the paranormal sense of the phrase, but I do believe people have instincts, sometimes very strong ones. Maybe the people who have a “sixth sense” are just better at paying attention to it. 😉


  2. Yes, I believe there’s a lot that we can’t explain, and that also generates ideas for me. I let one of my pseudonyms handle those stories for me as Minta Monrore. Sidekicks are such useful characters, no matter the genre!


  3. Great post Judy! You helped me realize how my protagonist’s Great-Aunt Zelma will help her grand-niece in the plot. Fortunately Zelma already has been seen to be conversing with the dead!


  4. Oh, gosh–I’m so late to this post, but it was wonderful. I love sidekicks! I’m definitely more drawn to those stories where the main character has a trusted someone who stays involved. Love the sound of Aunt Jenny. I’m excited to have a new series or two to try. Thanks for visiting!


  5. Great post–thanks so much for visiting. And guess what I’m reading right now? THE PERFECT COED. Haven’t gotten to that scene with Aunt Jenny yet, but am enjoying it so much. (Right now I’m mad at Susan’s colleagues for getting up from the lunch table when she sat down…)


  6. Thanks all. I’ve been debating whether sidekicks should say in that role or someday have their own books. I think Aunt Jenny would make a perfect main character. As for paranormal, I do and don’t believe. You may be right, Mary–some people just pay more attention. I do tend to follow my instincts a lot. So far, no bad trouble.


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