Is your protagonist facing their story alone? Do they have a Jem to their Scout, a Melanie to their Scarlet, or a Peetah to their Katniss?
As you develop the story for your main character, it may be fun and interesting to give them a sidekick, a BFF, or even a frenemy.
But what kinds of roles should they play?
Think of your protagonist’s bff, or sidekick, or whatever, as a fun-house mirror. They are going to reflect the personality and quirks of your main character, but they’re going to do it in a way that stretches and pulls in different directions. This could serve you well in the story.
They may be a voice of reason
Your protagonist is far from perfect and will have inner and outer conflicts to deal with. The bff sidekick will know this and can, out of love, (or maybe not) guide the protagonist into good choices as the plot progresses.
They may be the loose cannon
Your protagonist might be too cautious and careful and they need the impulsivity of the side kick to keep things going, maybe even cause trouble. This is definitely going to cause tension and you’re going to need it.
They may help explain backstory
Your bff has a history with the main character that the reader isn’t aware of. You can skillfully bring this in to conversations as you set up the first act. It’s far more interesting to have a character talk about the past than to have pages of info-dumping that isn’t necessary.
They bring a fresh perspective to the problems
Your protagonist will learn, if they don’t already, that the sidekick has wisdom and perspective on the situation that he does not. If he is smart, and maybe he isn’t, he’ll ask the sidekick for advice. This is really good for building tension, because, of course, your main character isn’t going to follow it.
They can tell it like it is
They should have the kind of relationship with the protagonist that they can be honest when things go south. You need a sidekick just to have someone around to say, “I told you so!” Oh, this is good conflict and will stretch this relationship.
They could be a saboteur
Your sidekick could have a hidden agenda that is going to cause a lot of trouble. What if he’s working for the antagonist all this time? What if he’s been against the main character’s quest all along? Do this. Write this book!
They could threaten to quit the mission
I think the most believable sidekick’s are the ones who stop somewhere in the middle and question the trajectory that he and the main character are on. Perhaps this could come out in a big blow up argument, or maybe it could just be in a quiet way. Your sidekick should have an opportunity to express their doubts and fears regarding the mission. Your protagonist can counter them and force them to go on anyway, or maybe, the sidekick’s objections force changes.
They could add layers of tension
Sidekicks can banter, contradict, forget lunch, lose the phone, flirt with the wrong person, or anything else. It isn’t hard to find examples of this in films or novels. Sit down with a buddy movie and make note of how the differences in the characters can make a gentle tension that makes the story interesting.
Your bff, sidekick, or frenemy (whatever you want to call them) plays an important role next to your protagonist. If you maximize their interactions, let them reflect or refract values, or even just be that perfect shoulder to cry on, your story will be all the richer for it.