Lately I’ve been thinking about some of the TV shows I watch and just why I like them. You may not know this about me, but I watch entirely too much television for someone who has writing and school work and a billion other things to do. I mean, not that I actually watch on a television–I usually just find them on the internet–but the idea is that TV is one of my favorite forms of storytelling. You have so much more time to get across your points, your characters, and your themes, than when it all has to be compressed into one 2-hour movie.
So, yeah. I watch a LOT of shows.
But what I was thinking about was some of the ones I watch where my favorite character isn’t the main character, it’s a SIDEKICK. Sidekicks can be really important! In terms of superheroes, they usually end up saving the hero… Or something like that. (I’ll admit that graphic novels and comics have never really been my strong suit, although I totally love the Avengers stuff they have going on movie-wise.)
Anyway. The point is, side characters, or secondary characters, can be really, really important! Take “New Girl” for example. I mean, I think it’s a cute show, and I do find it funny. But let’s be honest here–probably 50% of the reason I watch, maybe 75%, is for SCHMIDT. His character is, to put it bluntly, hilarious. He’s a douchebag, but he’s turned it into something lovable and oddly tolerable. His character is just a league and a half above all the others, and in my mind he definitely carries the show.
In another example, the show “Grimm.” I like it–it’s like a dark, gritty cop drama, but with magical creatures and stuff thrown in. And I LIKE Nick, the main character, I really do! But if I was held at gunpoint and made to say who my favorite character in that show is, it wouldn’t be Nick–it would be Monroe, Nick’s first and always seemingly put-upon ‘big-bad-wolf’ friend. Another sidekick whose character is just so… funny. Awkward. Well put together.
So why does that happen? Why are there any shows, books, movies, etc, where we find some of the secondary characters more appealing than the main characters? My theory is that we try, more often than not, to make the main character relatable to a large audience. We want lots of people to see themselves in our main characters. That’s all well and good, but it means that usually you end up with a general persona who has a few quirks or traits but is generally… Everyone.
That then frees up all of the secondary characters where, it seems, the sky is the limit. You can give your main character any number of crazy, insane, hilarious, old, mentally-incapacitated, socially-awkward friends or acquaintances that add spice and flavor to your soup.
Am I saying that’s a bad thing? No! But you should always remember that behind your main character is a host of other characters that are helping to keep your story afloat. Should you put all of your time and energy into making THEM the main draw? Not necessarily. Just keep in mind that your reader should have a lot of reasons to keep going, and never underestimate the power of a sidekick.