Last month I wrote about the major, extreme types of fictional characters, the heroes and villains. Today I want to briefly make some observations about the minor kinds of characters known as ‘sidekicks’ (often used to denote good characters, but sometimes neutrally) and ‘henchmen'(used only to denote minor bad characters).
Firstly though it’s important to note that a so-called ‘sidekick’ type may in fact be a major character who is too modest to think of themselves as a hero(this happens principally with the Type Cool Heroes I described in last month’s post). In this case though the character, especially if he or she is telling the story in the first person, isn’t a sidekick at all in terms of the story, just of minor importance apparently to the other characters in the story, as their heroic status isn’t apparent yet. I’ve used this trope myself in several of my books, and its a lot of fun. But this isn’t the kind of ‘sidekick’ I’m profiling here today.
So here’s a few things I’ve observed from both my writing and my reading:
*Sidekicks are often interesting in their own right; henchmen rarely so. Sidekicks think for themselves, whilst obeying in general terms the hero or villain. So often they can be funny, brave or alternatively comically not brave; they can be touching, pitiable, engaging. But henchmen are usually no more than walking armour plate, who don’t think for themselves. They are often described in physical terms only. They can be pitiable—but only after they’ve been knocked out! Sidekicks can also be turned around: one working for a hero may go over to the dark side, for instance; one working for a villain may be redeemed if they do the right thing(especially if they die doing it!) [Read more…]