One of my favorite things about this blog and our monthly themes is that I’m encouraged to think about my reading and writing in new ways. This month’s theme, sidekicks, had me reviewing the books that stay close by, even long after I’ve read them a time or two. What keeps me going back to those particular stories–nearly always a part of a series, by the way–and why? Besides the obvious (great hook, tight story, twisty plot, a protagonist I want to have a relationship with), what sets a book apart for me? A great sidekick.
The term sidekick, according to Wikipedia, “originated in pickpocket slang of the late 19th and early 20th century. The “kick” was the front side pocket of a pair of trousers, and was found to be the pocket safest from theft. Thus the pickpocket’s “side-kick” became an inseparable companion.” A quick thesaurus search for sidekick offers cobber as an Australian alternative for pal, chrony and confidante as similar American alternatives. (This is why I write slowly–I get distracted!)
As a reader, I love a smorgasbord of choices. I tend to stick mostly to mysteries, but within the broad genre, I’ll read almost anything: thriller, cozy, traditional, paranormal–I’m not choosy. (NOTE: I lump weird things together. I think the concept of genres and sub-genres has gotten a bit out of control, taken over by corporate marketers who need a new hobby. Just sayin’.)
But, as I reviewed some of my favorites, I realized that few had a protagonist who existed on his/her own. Instead, my faves all had classic and not-so-classic sidekicks. Dr. Watson convinces us that Sherlock is a good person, something the reader might not have seen without him. J.D. Robb’s Peabody helps the reader see that Eve Dallas does, indeed, have a softer, caring side. Lucy Burdette’s Hayley Snow has a whole cast of sidekicks, creating a family of sorts, one that provides all that a traditional family might: support, blunt truths, encouragement, and more. Even Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone, a dedicated introvert and loner, learns to trust and lean on Henry, and adores Rosie.
Sidekicks provide writers all sorts of sneaky ways to share information, insight, and other juicy tidbits with the reader, showing without telling. Sidekicks also provide a multitude of opportunities and incentives to the protagonist, influencing the choices s/he make in the stories. These invaluable characters add a lovely dimension. It turns out, I really adore a good compatriot to the protagonist in my favorite stories!
I can’t wait to hear what the Mysteristas have to say about sidekicks this month. Who’s your fave sidekick?