From Sidekick to Hero

I’m a big fan of companion series. There’s something special about reading a stellar standalone story and then getting to revisit that universe through the eyes of a new character, usually an exemplary sidekick.

04 Ashleigh Cummings as Dot Williams
Wouldn’t a Dot spinoff be amazing?!

When I’m reading companion novels, I play a little game I call Spot the Future MC—the sidekicks who are deserving of hero status—and try to predict which protagonist the author will go with in future books.

In my writing, I usually get so attached to my sidekicks that I want to create an entire story about them. I want them to get the spotlight and their very own happily ever after. Seriously, this has happened in every novel-length story I’ve written.

I finally gave in and am writing a companion sequel to my humorous cozy, Mondays Are Murder. It stars the best friend who was such a fun sidekick with her bad dates and quirky personality that I couldn’t wait to figure out the rest of her story. And, being a cozy, she of course stumbles upon a dead body along the way.

But here’s the thing: I usually see companion series in Romance, YA, or NA—think Julie James, Stephanie Perkins, or Marissa Meyer. The only companion mystery novels I’ve read are The Dublin Murder Squad Series by Tana French. (If you know of any companion mystery series, I’d love to hear about them!).

This begs the question, which mystery sidekicks would you love to see get their own story?

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Author: Kate Lansing

I write mysteries, YA novels, and short fiction. I also read A LOT, travel as much as possible, and take way too many pictures of my cat.

10 thoughts on “From Sidekick to Hero”

  1. Interesting concept, Kate. And yes, I see what you mean about it being a common trend in romance but not in mystery. Elizabeth George has done it on occasion with Barbara Haver(s)(?) and I believe Martha Grimes too with I can’t remember his first name-Plant. Someone else is tickling at the rim of my mind, but I can’t grasp it. I’ll keep trying. Are you going to have your prior MC be a sidekick, or will she be absent from stage in this book? Looking forward to reading it.

  2. You know, I can’t think of a mystery, either. I did write a short story once from the POV of my deputy coroner sidekick (because he wouldn’t leave me alone until I did), but I can’t think of book-length works like this. Interesting. Do we get too attached to our main characters to make the switch?

  3. Stephen White comes to mind. His series is about a psychologist sleuth, but several books in the series feature his romantic interest as MC. One of my favorites featured one of his clients as MC, and the psychologist got a bit secondary role.

  4. Stuart Neville’s Belfast Noir series does that although the new protagonist wasn’t a sidekick of the old protagonist. And the last Rebus book did that.

  5. Love this! I hit a bit of a roadblock on the novel-in-progress, but I was loving one of the characters so much that I’m now working on a novella featuring his character. It’s fun to work on. I, too, love the companion books. Catherine Coulter does this, and I’ve quite enjoyed the opportunity to stay within the world she’s built, but also follow the journeys of some other characters. She writes such depth into her characters, that it would be hard to not see each of them star in their own story.

  6. I think romance sidekicks graduate to heroine because the MC can only star in one book. Her job was to get married, so after she does it, her MC career is over. Detectives don’t get fired after solving a case. So much room for feminist critique in here. Maybe that’ll be my post next week… I can’t think of any reason why you can’t switch it up in mystery, too, though!

  7. Wow, thanks so much, all!! I have a ton of new books to add to my TBR list now 🙂 Glad to hear there are a few other mystery writers out there who do this!

    Kait, my prior MC will be in the book, but only in passing. There will be a whole new cast of sidekicks at the forefront 🙂

    Mary, it may be us that gets too attached to make the switch, or it could be the readers 😉

    Oh no, Peg! You know what they say about great minds and all… I look forward to reading your take on this tomorrow!

    Thanks, Cynthia! Isn’t Dot the best? Her character arc has been so much fun to watch! 🙂

    Pamela, that’s awesome that you’re writing a companion novel! Hopefully it’ll help you get around your writing roadblock!

    Hahaha, Sam, you make an excellent point! A woman’s story is clearly over after she’s fallen in love…not! But that definitely explains why companion novels are more prevalent in romance than in, say, mystery. I’d be interested in reading that post if you decide to write it!

  8. I’m not sure. I feel like in all the mysteries, the MC is so interesting, I can’t imagine a series without them. Like, I love Veronica MArs. Would I want to watch a spin-off with Dick Casablancas? Yes, yes I would. And he did have a web series, and it was awesome.

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