Monday, April 26, 2010


No one would choose to spend their life marooned on an island,

(well, maybe for a few weeks - if there was room service)

most of us need human contact. We need people to interact with, to bounce ideas off of, to laugh with and to learn from. Everyone needs a friend.

Certainly, your main character needs one.

Your protagonist is busy pushing your plot ahead

(or busy drinking at the bar - I'm not going to judge)

and they need someone at their side. Think carefully about this someone. They can be more colourful than your protagonist; after all they're not the one in the starring role. Quirks are fun. Perhaps they are the owner of a large slobbering dog who has a habit of leaving puddles of saliva in unfortunate places.

(I've just named the dog and have a picture of the beast in my head. This is sad.)

They can't be smarter than your protagonist but nothing is stopping them from having insights your main character is unable to grasp. They can be more observant or more successful. They could have a happy marriage while your protagonist can't keep a relationship afloat for longer than a week, or the reverse might be the case.

How long have they known each other? Since school? Since childhood? Or is this a working partnership, decreed by powers above and both of them have to adjust and figure out what works? The length of the relationship will determine the level of trust between the two. Trust is earned - it isn't transmitted through that first handshake of introduction.

(What is one of them has a wart on their hand? I digress...)

This character can say things your main character never could. They can have rougher (or smoother) edges. Your protagonist can get themselves into dicier situations because they know they've got someone to call to get them out - or at least someone to come looking for them.

Give your protagonist a buddy. It's a lonely world without one.

By the's the dog.

His name is Alphonse.


  1. Love Alphonse . . . and his two feline friends in the top photo. Great post. Friends are much easier for me to write - and more fun - than my protagonists.

  2. Awww... I gave my protagonist a dog, but I keep forgetting to include him. Poor guy! I'll have to remember him more often as I edit.

  3. Alphonse is cute. I'd take him on a walk and wouldn't care that he slobbered on everyone who wanted to pet him. And you're right about the protagonists sidekick, be he human or dog.


  4. Carol; I'm glad you liked it. I think the friend is easier to write because you've got much wider boundaries on what you can get away with.

    Stephanie; Maybe you gave a cat. Cats don't mind being ignored, although they do reserve the right for revenge later.

    Helen; I'm pleased you like him. Wouldn't he be fun? I shudder, however, at the amount he would eat.

  5. Elspeth - Alphonse is fabulous! Thanks for sharing him!

    And you are so right about the protagonist needing someone to share the load, so to speak, of a story. A "sounding board," if you will. I know my protag's "sounding boards" are his wife and his former boss, who's now just a friend. Between them, they offer ideas and criticism, even though my protag is the real focus. Thanks for reminding me to pay attention to that.

  6. Margot; Fabulous Alphonse - I love it. I'm sure your protag is surrounded by massive support - and is all the better for it!

  7. Yeah, the subordinate character/sidekick/pal/whatever you want to call him or her is key to a successful story, I think. Serves so many different functions in so many different ways.

    Best Wishes, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  8. Galen; The only problem is when the subordinate character gets tired of being second banana and wants to move up a rung. (Could I mix in more metaphors? No, I'm done)

  9. In my first book, the buddy wasn’t around when the protagonist needed her the most, and in my second the best friend is a cat. I think my characters need to work on relationships!)

  10. I love Alphonse! Buddies of MCs are soemtimes my favourite characters - to both read and write :)

  11. Jane; Perhaps, in your third book, your protag will be luckier. Although cats can be very comforting, they're not so great with the advice.

    Jemi; Aren't they fun?

  12. The main character's sidekick in my suspense wip is a kid -- and I've had more fun writing the smart-aleck 11-year-old girl than I have the grown-ups. There's a lesson there, I think. Has something to do with blah main characters...


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