Why Every Protagonist Needs a Dialogue Buddy

Give Your Characters Someone to Talk ToAlthough some successful novels feature lone-wolf characters who face the world and its challenges by themselves, clever authors will sidestep the pitfall of leaving a main character without someone to talk to for the majority of the book.

Your protagonist’s fellow conversationalists can be varied and multitudinous over the course of the book—but usually, you’ll find a more satisfying experience for both yourself and your readers by deliberately creating a minor character who can consistently appear in scenes and engage in conversation with your hero.

Robinson Crusoe had Friday.

Robinson Crusoe Friday Pierce Brosnan

Sherlock Holmes had Dr. Watson.

sherlock holmes lessons for writers

sherlock holmes lessons for writers

And, in Patrick O’Brian’s acclaimed naval series, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin had each other.

the three must-have story elements action humor and relationships

Because dialogue is usually more interesting than straight narrative, giving a character someone to talk to allows you to impart important information—spiced with a fair share of wit, of course—without boring readers.

It also opens all sorts of interesting opportunities for conflict and characterization—since dialogue can tell as much about a character as his internal narrative and, often, in a subtler, more convincing fashion, since you are showing the reader the character in action.

If you find your main character spending large amounts of time by himself, without someone to talk to, consider giving him a sidekick.

Behold the Dawn by K.M. Weiland

In my medieval novel Behold the Dawn, I supplied my taciturn main character Marcus Annan with the irreverent, impertinent indentured servant Peregrine Marek, who kept the dialogue going and the story interesting in ways I could never have accomplished without him.

Creating minor characters who can spark against the protagonist to create interesting dialogue is one of the most delightful—and important—parts of writing fiction.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Does your protagonist have a dialogue buddy? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Zachary Chong says

    Can this person for the dialouge buddy be a figment of their imagination?

  2. Depending on the kind of book, a dialogue buddy could even be a co-lead character. One of the co-leads is experienced in their world, while the other is new to everything. That way, new readers can learn along with the inexperienced character.

  3. Was just about ready to go back and trim my convos between my MC (sleuth) and her nosy neighbor/sidekick because I was afraid they were too info-dumpy… Thanks for this. Now I will just re-evaluate the dialogue and see if it a)reveals the character and/or b)progresses the plot.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      As long it’s entertaining, it’s almost certain to add to the story rather than take away from it.

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