Partying with a Princess Clown

One of my favourite blog activities is playing tour host to author friends. Today I’m celebrating the release of Sheryl Gwyther’s latest chapter book, Princess Clown. Sheryl has some thought-provoking comments about the role of animals as side-kick characters. I’ve just done a quick mental flip through my own works and found quite a few animal sidekicks.

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!) ***

To visit Sheryl on the net drop in at her Writers’ blog, Kids’ blog or website

You can follow (or catch up on) Sheryl blog stops here:

Tips for Writing Chapter Books – Dee White’s blog July 6
Tips for Young Writers – The Alphabet Soup blog July 7
Extracting the Story – Robyn Opie’s blog July 8
Clowning Around – Catriona Hoy’s blog July 9
What’s in a name? + KIDS’ COMPETITION – Kathryn Apel’s blog July 10
What the heck is ‘blog-touring’? July 11
Animals as Sidekicks – Guest blog with Sandy Fussell July 12
The Author’s Life – an interview with Sally Murphy July 13
Interview with Claire Saxby July 14
Workshopping with younger readers – Mabel Kaplan July 15
BOOK LAUNCH – Friday July 16 – also announcing the Winner of the COMPETITION on Kat’s blog and Sheryl’s kids’ blog

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7 responses to “Partying with a Princess Clown”

  1. Love that dancing! Thanks so much for your hospitatality, Sandy! Oopsa daisy, shouldn’t have had that glass of champagne before breakfast!:)

  2. Svett says:

    Some of my favourite sidekicks (apart from Samwise and Chewbacca – good call there Sheryl) are: Ron and Hermione from Harry Potter; Pantalaimon, Lyra’s daemon from Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass series; and Holly from the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer.

    I have so many more but will end up writing a blog of my own here if I don’t stop now. Fun topic!

    HooRoo
    Svett

  3. I love Pantalaimon too, Svett. He/she (?) is one of my very favourite sidekicks.

  4. Congrats Sheryl, on your brilliant Blog Tour. Hope your launch goes off Fabulously …Karen :))

  5. Thanks, Karen! 🙂 It’s been a fun tour and it’s almost over – where did 8 days go?

  6. Congratulations on the release of Princess Clown. The story sounds wonderful. I might pick a couple of conflicting nouns myself and see what comes of it.

    I have two stories I’m working on at the moment. The sidkick in the first is Rebel, a rat with a doughnut addiction, and in the second it is a moody, AI robotic cat called clang.

    I look forward to tomorrow’s post.

    Jeff

  7. Sally_Odgers says:

    Congratulations on a successful launch!
    I also use a lot of animal sidekicks. Right at the beginning I had…
    Jason, the fat black pony, sidekick to prickly Susan Thorn in my first published book, “Her Kingdom for a Pony” (1977).
    Dogg, a low-slung and beloved pooch belonging to Kerry Dale in “Down River” (1980).
    Then there’s the calf, Star, who is so important to Rosina Paul in the three “Rosina” books. Later on, there is Tace, the spellhound who accompanies Allyso Tormblood on her journey in “Candle Iron”. (2000)
    I do use main character animals. Two of the best known are Jack Russell (of the Jack books) and Trump of the Pet Vet books. Jack’s sidekicks are Foxie and Red (both dogs), while Trump hangs out with Whiskey (a cockatoo) and Major Higgins (a cat). Animals abound in my books. You can find a fair list of them at http://sallyodgers.50megs.com/people.htm

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