Are you feeling the slog? I’m feeling the slug. I won’t lie, I’m getting to a point where I’m struggling—not with where my story is going to go, but with the motivation. But this is just a hump in the road, and we can get over it, we can get our motivation and momentum back. It just takes persistence.
If you do find yourself unable to move forward in your story, it might be a good time to think about your side character, or your sidekick.
The Sidekick is the one who helps your main character along, helps to keep them going when no one else can. They are essential to helping the MC complete the goal of the plot. The relationship between the MC and the sidekick might be wholesome and hearty like John Snow and Sam in Game of Thrones or like Sam and Frodo in Lord of the Rings. It could also be tumultuous like Owen and Claire in Jurassic World, or Melanie and Scarlett in Gone with the Wind. If it’s the latter, there has to be at least some form of arch in their relationship where they realize they do need each other and they develop at the bare minimum, a form of respect for one another.
To develop your sidekick, I came up with the Side Character Spread.
If you have a basic frame for your sidekick, then choose a signifier for them. If not, then while you shuffle, think of your protagonist. You can pull a card representing your protagonist if you’d like. Either way, think of your protagonist, consider what they need to succeed in their mission, and focus on asking who could embody what your MC needs.
Your MC and Side Character might meet during the story, or they might be long time friends, neighbors, colleagues, you get the idea. This card is going to give you an idea as to how they meet. Depending on what the card is, it could indicate during childhood (6 of Cups maybe?), or it could be up to you to decide the When while leaving the work of the How up to the cards.
This card is actually less of an opinion, but more of how the Side Character feels about the MC. Again, this is one of the cards that might help to determine how smooth or rocky their partnership can be during the story.
Regardless of how they feel, this is the mutual relationship between the two characters. It might be that they are the 2 of Cups and get along very well, or perhaps you have a some interesting cards drawn for them, like the 5, 7, or 9 of Wands, or the 3, 5, 7, 9, or 10 of Swords. Either way, it will dictate how they interact with one another.
As always, a backstory is essential. This helps to round out your character, give them depth, and provide reasons for why they think or act certain ways. Of course, just because you have the backstory doesn’t mean you have to tell it, but it can be a useful tool in guiding how they view and interact with the world, or with your MC.
Now you have the relationship with the MC down and general mannerisms, it’s time to look at the goal for your Side Character. It could be easy enough to decide that they want what the MC wants, but if you want a deep character, they need to be their own individual. This will help to create that individuality.
While it is essential that the Side Character has their own goal, it somewhat has to line up with that of the MC’s in some way. Even if the goal is a little side-plot, it should still some how contribute to the over-all plot.
For example, in GoT (SPOILER ALERT FOR SEASON 7—skip this paragraph if you don’t want to read about it, I totally get it), Samwell Tarly’s goal is to become a Maester. That is his own personal goal. However, his goal leads to learning a key point that will help with fighting the White Walkers. Thus, his goal contributes to the overall goal. (If you want an example of how not to do this, ask me in the comments, and I’ll explain a House of Cards scenario).
So, Card 7 is about how the goal of the Side Character contributes to the bigger picture.
While in other spreads, such as the Antagonist Spread, I suggest pulling two cards for this, providing two flaws, in this spread I only have one card. However, if you feel that you’d really like to develop this character, feel free to pull two cards for this position and the next.
This card is for their best quality, or at least, the best quality that is likely to help the Main Character. Again, if you’d really like a well-rounded character, pull two cards here, one for their most helpful characteristic for the MC, and one that is their own personal quality characteristic that just makes them likeable.
Card 11 represents why the character is essential. It’s all well and good to have a Side Character who is there for the sake of being there, for a conversational partner for the MC, but really, the MC has to need the Side Character in some way. This is why they are essential to the story.
Tip: If later on you look at your story and aren’t certain if you hit the mark with the Side Character, consider what would change to the plot if they weren’t in the story at all.
You don’t have to kill off your side character. However, there will come a point during which the MC will have to be without their Sidekick, and this card represents that reason. That isn’t to say that the Sidekick doesn’t come back and save the day—there are plenty of examples where that happens. However, this card represents how they get tripped up and split ways, if only for a scene, from the MC.
This can be a fight, a side-quest, a prior appointment, or something bad actually happening to them. Consider in The Dark Crystal when Jen and Kira are at the castle of the Skeksies and Kira is stabbed, leaving Jen to complete the task himself.
This last row of cards you’ll read as a 3-Card spread representing the beginning, middle, and end of the character arch of your Side Character. This is how they’ll develop through the story. Since the Sidekick doesn’t necessarily come into play at the beginning of the story or in the first Act, the Sidekick has their own time frame, essentially. However, it must be completed within the story.
I actually don’t have a side character set up. I left no room whatsoever for a side character to even be introduced, which is something I drastically need to work on. Thus, this spread is exactly what I need.
I personally don’t feel the need to draw a signifier for this spread, though this is personal preference.
For how my MC meets their Sidekick, I drew the Queen of Swords reversed. In previous readings, I had kind of decided that the house of the Mentor and of the Antagonist was represented by the Sword Court Cards. Thus, I think that the Sidekick works for this house, though messed up, and through this mess-up, met Percyval (my MC).
As it turns out, the MC thinks highly of my MC. I drew the World for this card.
This relationship however is rocky. I got the Ace of Cups reversed in this position, which shows that maybe at the beginning they just don’t get along very well.
I got the Guru (the Hierophant traditionally), the Knight of Pentacles reversed and the 9 of Pentacles. The 9 of Pentacles represents G anyway, and so I know that she what connects the dots. I was thinking that perhaps this Sidekick was her teacher and guardian from the before times, when she was an oracle, when she was a small girl. She stayed with her to protect her and guide her. Thus, the Knight of Pentacles reversed being the need to travel with her (think of the horse), but her reluctance to do so.
My Sidekick’s goal is the King of Pentacles, who sits in a lush and fertile garden. Thus, my Sidekick’s goal is to be a botanist of magical plants, and to open a school and teach.
So I’m struggling with this one. I got the Emperor reversed, which is an absence of structure. Or at least a delayed structure. I suppose that since I’ve decided that my Side Character is going to be a woman, that really the card could be something along the lines of the Empress, in which case, it would the application of creativity, nurturing, and fertility in some way to the goal of the MC. Or at least, the mothering aspect.
I’ll just have to think a little bit more on this one.
She has the 7 of Cups reversed for her flaw. She can be too literal, and will keep correcting people and their wording and situations. This creates a lot of tension (hence the Ace of Cups reversed).
Her best characteristic is the 8 of Cups. She knows when it is time to leave, no matter how good things are, she knows when it’s time to walk away. This is a very helpful quality with Percyval who also kind of likes to have his drink, and doesn’t want to give up base pleasures.
She is needed because she shows Percyval the dark. This is represented by the Moon. She is the light that shows the dark spots that must be dealt with, thus, she guides him through his own character flaws.
Her demise is in giving and receiving. She gives too much of herself, and won’t receive. Thus, at some point she is completely drained of energy and can’t go on with Percyval any longer.
Her arch is that she starts out being knowledgeable, the go-to for information, for ideas. She’s logical, and is somewhat of an advisor to G (Ace of Swords). Through separating herself from the house of Swords and developing herself, looking toward her own wants (Magician), she is able to release herself from the ties of the past which bound her (9 of Swords reversed).
For an added bonus, I thought that just to make sure the theme of the character arch stayed on track, I added the cards together (1 + 1 +9 ) and got 11, which is Justice. This can be the theme to the charactere development.
How are your characters developing? Do you have your whole cast? Tell me how your project is going in the comments!
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