Every Main Character Needs a Sidekick by Sandra Murphy

There comes a time in a mystery where the main character needs to recap the clues, red herrings, misguided non-help, and possibilities without dumping a truckload of previously read information on the page. A sidekick is necessary so the characters can bounce around ideas, ask questions about a clue the reader may have missed, eliminate suspects, and to zero in on the most likely culprit.

Who should the character talk to about this mishmash of truth and lies? Many authors use a best friend, someone who can stay up late, talk, and drink wine, or a family member.

For me, the choice is a furry family member—Ozzie the dog. Sometimes Louie the cat makes an appearance, but really, he’s not a good listener, interested only in food. After all, his last meal was twenty minutes ago when he ate two whole bites and now it’s outdated so he needs a fresh serving, clean dish, please. Ozzie is more flexible and a better listener. When he gives an eye roll as only a terrier can do, I know we’ve exhausted the conversation.

Ozzie and Louie both appeared in The Tater Tot Caper, a short Thanksgiving story, and inadvertently solved the crime. Ozzie also appears as the hero in Waffling on Cherokee Street,

a Bernice and Ken tale in From Hay to Eternity, a collection of ten short stories.

A canine sidekick takes away the stigma of characters who talk to (and answer) themselves, stick Post-Its to the wall, or nag a possible romantic interest who happens to be the cop on the case.

Fictional dogs have distinct personalities from the humorous like Spencer Quinn’s dog Chet, Jeffrey B. Burton’s Vira, (a human remains detection dog—she’s quirky), to more serious sidekicks like Margaret Mizushima’s Robo, Sarah Driscoll’s black Labrador, Hawk, Paula Munier’s Elvis and Susie, or an in between dog like Tara, David Rosenfelt’s golden who listens (kind of) when walking with attorney Andy Carpenter. She is, he says, the smartest dog on the planet. Chaos and comedy reigns when Laurien Berenson’s Faith, a black Poodle, accompanies Melanie on her quests for information, the chaos being the herd of Poodles left at home plus Bud the mixed breed rescue who always finds a way to get into trouble—and out of it by not being at all sorry.

Not to be outdone or ignored (just try to ignore a cat), felines make their appearances too from Sofie Kelly’s magical cats, Sofie Ryan’s Elvis, and Debra H. Goldstein’s Siamese, RahRah.

My latest story features three Mastiffs, who combined, weigh over 500 pounds plus a Chihuahua named Pogo who is lightweight enough to bounce face-high to save the day. The story is titled The Thanksgiving Parade and is part of The Perp Wore Pumpkin, a charity anthology that benefits Second Harvest Food Pantry. Although the stories revolve around Thanksgiving, hunger is a year-round problem. Available at www.mistimedia.com or the usual outlets, in ebook or paperback, purchases from Misti Media mean no vendor fees reduce the amount given to the food bank. Several recipes are included.

Thank you, Debra, for asking me to write. Ozzie appreciates the chance to build his brand!

Sandra Murphy lives and writes in St Louis, Missouri, where the smell of hops on a hot summer day drift from Anheuser-Busch Brewery, down the Mississippi River, to incite her imaginary friends to tell tall tales.

24 thoughts on “Every Main Character Needs a Sidekick by Sandra Murphy”

          1. The first day Ozzie moved in, I knew I was no longer the smartest one in the house. He proves it every day. He has a creative mind so I try to do that as well.

  1. That’s a really good point about the way a dog sidekick can take away the stigma of a character who talks to themselves. I need to remember that. Of course, in real life, my dog Mungo knows exactly what I’m saying and just ignores the unimportant stuff, which is most of what I say apparently,

  2. Hi Sandra and Debrah,

    I do not have pets and so do not include them in my mystery novels. However, my son and daughter-in-law’s cat appeared in some form in many of my short stories. Pets make interesting characters. Now my son’s family has a cute poodle as well as a cat, each with a distinct personality. My son sent me a photo of each animal hovering over his oldest daughter as she slept after coming home exhausted from college for Thanksgiving. It was adorable.

    1. Those pictures must have been priceless. Years ago, I didn’t think of pets being all that interesting (especially if they talked), but I’ve come to realize the importance of them for the storytelling and the showing of emotional factors (good and bad) in terms of characters. Thanks for stopping by today.

  3. Christian W Bauer

    The sidekick amplifies the strength of the protagonist–and they can also steal the story.
    Good insight, Sandy.

  4. On our morning walks, I test story ideas on my German Shepherd mix, Cooper. Unfortunately, he’s much more interested in following the trail of whatever dog preceded us on our trek up and down the neighborhood’s hills. I’d settle for a tail wag of approval, but maybe I’ll need to include a fluffy female dog in the plot to see that happen. Thanks for such an interesting and useful take on the sidekick issue.

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