Character Types: The Sidekick

The_SidekickIt’s the Day of the Sidekick.

And that means a revolution is happening.

Today, Josiah and Daniel were scheduled to discuss the potential merits of the sidekick.

But instead, Daniel and Anna decided to take over the show.

Is the sidekick an under-utilized, under-valued character who’s brushed aside far too often in modern literature?

That’s the question the trio are debating in this latest episode of Kingdom Cinema.

Previous Stereotypes:

The Love Interest

The Evil Overlord

The Strong Female Character (TM)

The Damsel in Distress

The Parents

The Comic Relief

The Mentor

The Henchman

The Herald

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.
Dare to share
Share on Facebook0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Google+0Tweet about this on Twitter0Email this to someone


  1. These videos do get better every time xD
    But yes, I have had an sidekick who outshines the hero. I couldn’t make them trade places though, or my whole story would have fallen apart. I just use the interesting sidekick to make the hero more interesting 😉

    • Good point. Sometimes the sidekick and hero can’t switch places because the sidekick simply doesn’t have important goals that are relevant to the plot. =P A super-interesting sidekick can certainly work whenever the protagonist already has enough good qualities about him to make him interesting. But I will say that I think sometimes newer writers (or at least myself until 2-3 years ago) can be tempted to make up for a boring protagonist by including some really interesting sidekicks–when instead the protagonist needs to be given more of a personality (and then really interesting sidekicks can be added to the story). No clue if that’s the case in your story or not, but that’s one thing to watch out for. 🙂

  2. I’m interested in how you separated Sidekicks from Allies, Josiah. How exactly do you define allies?

    • Ah; good question. I view the sidekick as a sub-category of the ally figure. The ally is just anyone who helps the hero along his journey. The sidekick is going to be an ally who helps the hero but is noticeably less-skilled than the hero in a crucial area (generally speaking). Their plot goals also tend to be identical to the hero’s goals, which isn’t necessarily true of all heroes.

  3. This video seems to leave me with more questions than answers. Part of me wants to agree with Daniel, but his example of Samwise Gamgee… don’t most people actually consider Sam to be the hero? I am like 98% sure that Tolkien did. So there’s that part of me that agrees with you.
    I feel like “Sidekick” is a very narrow title, make them too incompetent and they become the Comic Relief and make them to competent and you risk them becoming a Hero or Mentor figure. I’d also like to echo Daeus question on defining allies and how you would separate them from the sidekick.
    Great video, as always.

    • I actually haven’t heard the theory that Sam is the true hero of LotR before–I’d be interested in hearing more about that. And I posted my thoughts to Daeus’ question above. Let me know if that makes sense or if you have any follow-up questions on that. 🙂

      • I don’t remember where I originally heard Sam was the actual hero, it was quite a while ago but it’s something I whole-heartedly agree with. Going by your definition, judging by skills, the only thing that set Frodo apart from Sam was the fact that he was the ring-bearer. Once he had accepted his task, he could not go home. Sam, on the other, had the choice of going home the entire time but chose to stay. Also, Sam seemed just as capable of bearing the ring as Frodo.
        I’ve not done a whole lot of reading into the matter, but my personal favorite explanation of the matter is from this handy dandy little blog post right here:
        (And yes, your definition of ‘ally’ did make sense, and now I see why you would consider Hans Solo one as well. )

  4. The video was so great! I loved all the different ways you could break the cliche of the sidekick! Daniels ideas were awesome by the way. But don’t tell him I said that….
    I think if the sidekick outshines the hero he pretty much trades places with the hero even if the hero is the one who ‘saves the day’ in the end. The sidekick can be amazing, but the hero needs to be amazing in his own right as well. He needs to be the one that the story hinges on, not the sidekick.

    • Yep; I’m with you on that. 😉 This was one of my biggest challenges personally as a younger writer since I tended to try and make up for my bland protagonists with more interesting sidekicks. Once I realized that it was okay to have a protagonist who was really interesting and quirky (who would have thought that was acceptable? 😉 ), my writing improved a lot as a result.

  5. OK, so I’m a little confused here. I ‘m not exactly sure what you’re trying to say here, and I’m left with most of the same questions the others have :\ I always thought that the sidekick wasn’t really a type in and of itself, but more of a way of describing a sub-type of ally in certain stories (like superhero ones).

    And gee whiz I never did see that side kick coming O_o

    • Okay, so to clarify, I would agree that the sidekick is a sub-type of the broader ally character type. Some of the character types we’ve covered in this show are broader than others. The damsel in distress type, for example, would also be a sub-type of the love interest character, whom we covered last month. The sidekick would be another example of a smaller character type than some of the others we’ve covered.

      Hopefully that, along with my above comments, clarifies some thing for you, but let me know if you have any follow up questions!

  6. Hilarious video as always. XD (Go Daniel. Good job. XP)

    I’ve often found that it works to have the sidekick character act as a sort of foil to the main character. So that they can be talented and developed like human beings, but also contrasted to the protagonist so they bring out the more interesting side of him rather than distracting the focus from him.

  7. I loved this video! Super helpful!

  8. This video… XD I love watching these things. They always make me laugh.

    And I’ve actually no problem with a side-kick who is as talented and interesting as the hero. It isn’t talents that make a main character a main character, it is how the character fits into the overall story and theme. The main character is the one who the story focuses on, who is growing (normally), is very emotionally invested in the outcome, and who plays a pivotal role at the end. A sidekick with a fascinating backstory and subplot, along with skills of his own, can add to the story, not detract from the hero (especially if they are foils or related thematically in some way, which they ought to be). After all, most people are better at one thing than another. A realistic hero isn’t going to be an expert on all skills, so having a sidekick whose strength is the hero’s weakness, be it emotionally, mentally, or physically, can add a bit of humor and thematic development besides being convenient. Of course, the hero needs to be fascinating as well, with most focus placed on him than on sidekicks, but that doesn’t mean a sidekick’s role needs to be downplayed. After all, everyone is a hero to their own story.

    • Good points. I agree that a protagonist is defined by much more than his talents, and your definition there for what makes a protagonist a protagonist is on-point. The crucial thing is making sure he’s fascinating in his own right, as you mentioned toward the end. As long as the protagonist has some interesting qualities outside of the sidekick relationship, the story can work out quite fine with an extremely-quirky or fascinating sidekick.

  9. Finally found time to watch this… hilarious… you guys… no words. :”D Josiah’s despairing ‘What…?’ off-screen there… XD

    I’ve nothing to add to the discussion. Lovely stuffs people.
    … is Anna really writing a novel?

Speak Your Mind