Welcome Sheryl, ‘the floor’ and a glass of bubbly are yours…
Animals as ‘sidekicks’
A thought struck me the other day – mainly because it is becoming obvious the more stories I write. I use animals as secondary characters in many of my narratives– they are never the main character.
These are creatures that end up as the ‘side-kick’, the close companion, the comic relief or the support team for the foibles, dangers, despairing moments and the happy times the main character faces. Sometimes these sidekicks can speak, most times not. Sometimes they are the ‘conscious-pricker’, or the confidant, or even the ‘voice of reason’. They know the main character better than anyone else and can help the reader connect to he/she as well.
In fiction and in the movies, sidekicks reign – Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings; Sancho Panza with Don Quixote; Doctor Watson to Sherlock Holmes; Chewbacca to Han Solo’ Tonto to the Lone Ranger; Tarzan and his chimp (I don’t count Jane– romantic interests definitely don’t fit as a sidekick!) You can probably think of dozens more.
Of course, having animals as sidekicks requires a bit more finesse. Some of my characters are anthropomorphised – having human motivations, and the ability to reason and communicate. Too heavy-handed and the sidekick becomes a bit twee (in my opinion).
Some of my sidekicks include the character, Macbeth in my story McAlpine & Macbeth (currently under submission). Macbeth is an Australian cockatiel with the ability to quote Shakespeare – yes, I know, you can train cockatiels to repeat word patterns, but Macbeth is different. He can think, reason and communicate. He feels betrayal, suspicion, fear and love especially in connection to his young owner, Kate McAlpine. Macbeth, in his sidekick role is essential – without Macbeth, Kate would have to set out on her quest to find her missing parents by herself, requiring endless paragraphs of her thoughts. The cockatiel is also like that other Shakespearean sidekick, The Fool in King Lear – sometimes Kate does not heed Macbeth’s wise counsel.
I’ve also used a wise-cracking green tree frog in my fantasy, Singing the Wires. He is a worthy companion to Decibelle. In my junior fiction book, Secrets of Eromanga, the kelpie, Bullet provides a non-talking companion to Ellie when she is at her lowest. Another of my short stories, Oh, no, Dog! features a kelpie – the sidekick for a young girl on a sheep station.
In another work-in-progress, The Octopus ODdyssey, young Finn Jackson has an extraordinary relationship with an octopus – a totally weird sidekick.
Funnily enough, a story that does not feature an animal sidekick is my new book, Princess Clown – I think the passion for clowning takes up all of Belle’s thoughts. You can get a copy of the book from Blake Publishing, or it may even be in your library right now.
So, do you use sidekicks in your stories? Love to read your comments.
Thank you, Sandy, for the chance to be a guest blogger on your excellent blog!
***lots of clapping and loud applause followed by corks popping and some very odd looking dancing (that would be me!) ***
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