Writing a Solid Sidekick

Fantasy Author T. L. Shreffler
4 min readApr 10, 2024

If you are a passionate writer like me, then you’re probably a little bit too engrossed in your characters. And that’s okay. Characters are what make a book interesting. If you don’t have interesting characters, then what is a story even about?

I personally find it easier to come up with a main character than a side character. The main character is usually the person in my head who I’m imagining when I’m starting the first scene of a story. What gets to be a bit more challenging is when friendships come into play, or ex-boyfriends, or romantic rivals, and suddenly we have to come up with a backstory for a side character we never thought we would be writing about.

Here are a few quick tips and tricks on how to flesh out your side characters without stealing the spotlight from your main character.

1. Jot down the basics. What is their family life like?

Doesn’t matter if you’re writing Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance or a YA Fantasy adventure novel. Characters have to come from somewhere! Acquaint yourself with your new side character by asking a few important questions. How old is the character? What is their relationship to the MC (main character?) What was their family like growing up? Did they have a deadbeat father? Perhaps an over-controlling mother? Were they from a rich family? A poor family? These little details can bring to life your side character while keeping the focus on the MC.

Takeaway: characters have to come from somewhere. Answer the basic questions first.

2. What brings this side character into the MC’s life?

Was it unhappy circumstance? Or were they old friends from childhood? Whatever the circumstances surrounding your side characters meeting with the MC, this pivotal scene will reveal their purpose in the story. Your side character should either move the plot forward, add conflict, resolve conflict, or help with the MC’s character growth.

Maybe your side character is a helpful friend at school with a passion for paranormal podcasts, and her purpose is to help the MC accept her blooming witch powers. Or maybe your side character is a romantic rival trying to steal the MC’s boyfriend. Either way, the side character is there to help the MC grow by escalating conflict or resolving conflict.

Compare and contrast your side character to your MC and think about how you can use this character to help demonstrate some of the MC’s qualities. Maybe your MC is a little timid. A hot, fiery side character like a best friend at school can definitely be used to demonstrate your MC’s timidity, and maybe help them grow as well.

Takeaway: Opposites attract! Your side character can help demonstrate your MC’s personality traits, strengthening characterization.

3. Don’t miss a worldbuilding opportunity! Does your side character have an interesting heritage?

Maybe your side character comes from a neighboring kingdom, a different social caste, or a different race entirely (an elf or a vampire, maybe?) This is a perfect opportunity to tie in your side character with your worldbuilding.

Ask yourself the following question: what can your reader learn about the world through your new side character?

For example, in Cerastes’ Curse, Book 6 of The Cat’s Eye Chronicles by T. L. Shreffler, Sora meets a girl named Rheina Veer who is a Wanderer (a warrior princess) at the South Wind’s Temple. Through Rheina, Sora learns more about what it means to be a Wanderer in the Southlands, which ultimately helps her decide whether or not she’s going to stay in the temple or choose a different path.

Takeaway: Side characters can help the reader learn about the book’s world. Side characters are a window into your worldbuilding!

Hopefully these three helpful tips will give you an idea of how to keep working with that pesky side character. Remember, every character in a story needs to serve a purpose, either to move the plot forward, to help with character growth, or ideally both. What are some qualities of good side characters that stand out to you? Leave a comment!



Fantasy Author T. L. Shreffler

Romantic Fantasy author who loves tortured heroes, vulnerable heroines and a delicious slow-burn. Dragonslayer wordcraft master! Email: therunawaypen@gmail.com