Why Your Hero Needs a Yappy Sidekick

This week’s video discusses the value of a vocal, oft-present minor character who can act as a foil for your protagonist.

Video Transcript:

Some of the most memorable character pairings in literature and film are those that team the protagonist with what I like to call The Yappy Sidekick. Now, if this is giving you images of an obnoxious little runt running around after your purposeful and heroic lead and generally making a nuisance of himself, while said hero is doing his best to save the world, the damsel, and maybe a kitty or two—not necessarily in that order—then you’re only partly wrong. The point of The Yappy Sidekick is both to run around after your hero and to be a little obnoxious, in the sense that he is a foil for your main character.

However, this does not mean The Yappy Sidekick should be unlikable. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. It also doesn’t mean he has to be yappy. Technically, Chewie from the original Star Wars movies qualifies as A Yappy Sidekick, even though he never actually says anything intelligible. Furthermore, The Yappy Sidekick doesn’t even have to be a sidekick. He could be a full-blown partner/co-protagonist, as in, say, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or he could be the protagonist’s romantic interest, as we find in stories such as Jane Austen’s Emma. (And, yes, I just referred to Mr. Knightley as A Yappy Sidekick. Please don’t shoot me.)

The point of all this is that stories which present characters who have opposing personalities, values, or goals create inherent conflict. This is valuable even within stories that already possess an overarching conflict between the protagonist and a main antagonist. The more layers of conflict we can create, the more interesting the story. So why a Yappy Sidekick? Well, two reasons:

1. The best conflict is often dialogue-driven. That doesn’t mean the character has to actually be yappy, but let him be vocal toward the protagonist.

2. Sidekicks, by definition, are almost always with the main character, which allows the conflict to be ongoing. A Yappy Sidekick isn’t a die-hard must by any means, but it’s something worth thinking about.

Tell me your opinion: Does your story have a character who qualifies as a yappy sidekick?

why your hero needs a yappy sidekick

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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.

Comments

  1. Yes, Yappies are a ton of fun – both to write and to read!

  2. Debby Hanoka says

    Um … What about sidekicks that meow, take excellent care of children, and think they know more than their humans do?

    Regardless of whether one’s sidekick yaps, meows, chirps, or whatever, having such a sidekick will enhance the overall story and can serve as a sly lesson in kindness to animals.

    P. S. My three editorial cat-sistants approve of this post.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      As long as it gives the protagonist a foil and someone to talk to, that’s the important thing.

  3. I’ll just chime in to point out that Donkey from Shrek was what happens with yappy sidekicks go wrong.

  4. Mine has two. ^-^ One is a romantic interest if she’d let him lol. The other is an intelligent cat man. hea.

  5. Jyl Milner says

    Just wanted to drop a line and let you know this advice is still being accessed! I’m working my way through “Outlining Your Novel” for my recently completed rough draft of my first (completed!) novel, Untrue. I am relieved to learn that the love interest can double as the Yappy Sidekick, as my other candidate for sidekick is quiet and shy. Thanks for all your help – you’re my favorite go-to mentor for writing advice!

Trackbacks

  1. […] I can’t. Hank reminds me of something KM Weiland brings up in one of her videos. She discusses Why Every Hero Needs a Yappy Sidekick on her blog. I imagine these scenarios often, but never identified this as being an actual […]

  2. […] somebody to help your protagonist or get in your protagonist’s way—or just somebody for him to talk to? All you gotta do is introduce one of those minor characters. But in doing so, make sure not to […]

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