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May 28, 2010


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Camille Minichino

Very nice thread about "opposites" Joanna! And isn't it fun to be able to play with so many different personalities?


I like the idea of Sidekicks as being "bookends" to a protagonist. Hmmmm. I'll have to think about this... and maybe steal it (with attribution!). ;-)

Joanna Campbell Slan

Hi, Camille, it's great to have all the personalities to bounce off each other. Makes each one more clear, doesn't it?

Joanna Campbell Slan

Ann, feel free to steal it!


I love Slan's books. Kiki is great and her side kicks do indeed add to the story as opposed to detract from them. :) Thanks for the insight!

Joanna Campbell Slan

MJ, aren't you sweet? I try to use Personal Styles, which is a derivation of Myers-Briggs to make sure that their personalities are in opposition to my protagonist's personality. That adds extra spice to the mix!


Wow... I never thought to use the Myers-Briggs personality test for character development.... What a cool idea.

Hank Phillippi Ryan

SO intersting, Joanna! And love the ketchup analogy.

In real life, though, do people have sidekicks? It funny how critical they are in books--exactly for all the reasons you list--but in real life, it's not so common. Is it?

I heard Lee Child at a seminar say he thinks sidekicks are often more interesting than the main character--and his suggestion was to make your main charcter the sidekick. That Lee!

Lovely to "see" you! xo

Joanna Campbell Slan

Hank, I think we do have "sidekicks," but we don't realize it. I know authors who travel in pairs, so they are each others' sidekicks or foils, right? In fact, come to think about it, any group blog is a group of sidekicks.

Lee Child is right, but I think that a little can be too much, sometimes. In my books, the sidekicks take turns in the spotlight. Jim Butcher told a group of us that he uses his that way, too.

Joanna Campbell Slan

Ann, it doesn't have to be "heavy" Myers-Briggs. For example, you have extroverts and introverts. Tell-assertive and ask-assertive. People-oriented and task-oriented. So the Professor was introverted, ask-assertive, and task-oriented. Ginger was extroverted, tell-assertive, and people-oriented. MaryAnn was introverted, ask-assertive and people-oriented...and so on.

Joanna Campbell Slan

Oh, and Sharon, about that Viagra? No one who reads this blog would be stupid enough to order it online from you. Shoo! Go away! Even with only two years of French, I can read how women will appreciate men more...and I have to say, um, maybe...maybe not.


Hi Joanna,

I love the idea of a sidekick, because there will definitely be some comic relief in the mystery as they go about solving the crime.

Hannah Dennison

What a great post! I enjoy writing "sidekick" characters - but you're right, sometimes they want to grab the spotlight!


... Viagra be gone!... "Sharon" and her comment have been removed. Ah, the power of a blog administrator. :-)

Joanna Campbell Slan

Dru, you are so right. The sidekick is like a "straight man" in comedy. He/She provides the setup. Comedy is based on 1.) wrong expectations 2.) exaggeration 3.) human foibles or 4.) a situation gone awry. This can be too much for a protagonist to carry off by his/her lonesome. But with a sidekick, you've got reinforcement. For example, when Kiki Lowenstein is run off the highway while riding her bike, she calls her friend Mert to give her a ride home.

Now, Kiki is busy examining her bruises and wondering if she just survived another attack on her life. You'd think Mert would be worried, but Mert's a terribly practical sort. A sort of surrogate mother with a wry sense of humor. So as Kiki strips down and lowers herself into a bath of steaming Epsom Salts, Mert says, "Better cancel that nude photo-shoot for Playboy Magazine. Unless, of course, it's their S & M edition!"

The contrast between Kiki's self-absorption and worry and Mert's amusement makes the scene funny.

Joanna Campbell Slan

Hannah, I think that it's okay for them to grab the limelight...as long as they don't keep it all to themselves. I think of myself as an orchestra conductor. Every instrument gets a solo once in a while.

Joanna Campbell Slan

Ann, thanks for waving your magic wand and causing "Sharon" with her offer (in French, no less) of Viagra to disappear. I worried all night that your readers would NOT realize that "Sharon" is actually some clever hacker's program and not a real reader.


I'm VERY much like my character Kiki Lowenstein that way. I act impulsively and have plenty of time to worry!


You're welcome Joanna! And thanks so much for blogging at The LadyKillers. :-)

penny warner

Great post, Joanna.
I think Nancy Drew's sidekicks, Bess and George, are two opposite ends of the personality spectrum with Nancy in the middle. That way she can have the best of both--er, three worlds.

Joanna Campbell Slan

Penny, it's odd. I barely remember Bess and George. I need to revisit the series, don't I? So at least we might conclude that Bess and George didn't hog the limelight. Great to see you, Penny, my crafty-Malice-Go-Round partner.

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Hello, I have a rather silly question. I can't figure out whether Mert is black or white? lol I know it sounds silly but I like to draw specific pictures of characters while reading a book and it's been bugging me. :))

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