Story Concepts & Development for Novels, Comics, Games, Film and TV

Sidekicks, the Quiet Heroes

I have made a career out of creating and writing heroes, though not always the kind of heroes you might think. A student solving a murder, a man trying to recover lost memories, an ex-G.R.A.Y. agent trying to escape a painful past…

But unless you’re reading or watching a one-man play, these heroes don’t tend to go through these stories alone. If they did, then who would help cheer the hero’s successes or mourn his failures? Who would inspire the hero to action, call them out on their mistakes or, even after being betrayed, show their ever-vigilant loyalty?

These characters, whatever you prefer to call them – secondary characters, minor characters, sidekicks – are the unsung champions of storytelling. They can be some of the most fun to create when writing, because stories require less structure from them outside of helping to define, drive, or support the hero in his journey.

And that translates to more creative liberties when developing them.

These characters can (and should) have plenty of … well, “character”. They have the freedom to be louder, funnier, or naughtier. They can be older, angrier, more naïve. They can be more intellectual or more carefree. Often, they can say what the hero can’t and see what the hero refuses to.

Secondary characters can be mentors that impart advice or skills, reflections of the hero’s own nature (both good and bad), heralds who bring important information at just the right time… and so much more. Most importantly, these minor characters are the ones who help to push the hero outside of his cozy comfort zone until he finally becomes (or resurrects) the hero he’s meant to become.

Without them, our heroes can come across as one-dimensional. A lot can be gleaned about a hero by seeing who he surrounds himself with, finding out who his enemies are (and why), and watching from whom he asks for help.

When I am creating secondary characters, I often like to combine two unexpected traits – often contrasting a personality trait with a character’s occupation – to provoke interest (and sometimes humor) from the reader. I also like to flip genders, as sometimes that alone can take a minor character from unexciting to unique.

In Alien Confidential, Manski, Arash’s old partner (see “Stakes”), is an important secondary character. He represents everything Arash has been trying to forget, and when he turns up unexpectedly at Black & White, old wounds are re-opened.

My favorite side character in Alien Confidential is Liucy. There is something about her apparent naïveté that reawakens Arash’s protective side. And although he would rather hide away in his underground bar and ignore the man he once was, the impending danger to her won’t allow him do that for much longer, forcing him to resurrect the hero he once was.

There are two side characters you’ll meet in upcoming webcomics, Gleek (“The Lesson”) and Kaarn (“A Matter of Taste”) who, while less “active” characters, still help to show other facets of Arash’s character. These characters would definitely fall under the spectrum of “misfit”, which shows the reader that, despite Arash’s aloof exterior, he has a “warm and fuzzy” middle.

In fact, the very nature of the Alien Confidential webcomic – stories surrounding those who frequent Black & White – make for a rich environment for exploring minor characters, each being an opportunity to help shape and define its central hero.

It’s been a writer’s playground for me. I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am.

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