Photo by Gaumont - © 2000
A Sidekick Amplifies Your Sleuth and the Story
The sidekick is a traditional literary archetype that will enhance your mystery novel. The sidekick can be a working partner or a friend. The sidekick’s role in the story will vary depending on how you choose to amplify your sleuth with the sidekick. The ways your sidekick can mirror your sleuth depends on his story role.
Although some sleuths work alone, using a sidekick in your mystery can illustrate your sleuth’s weaknesses or strengthen his personal traits. When you expand your protagonist with interaction with a sidekick, reader’s engage with your story.
The Role of the Sidekick
The sidekick has a special role in your story and that is to accompany the hero on his quest. In a mystery, the sidekick helps your sleuth track down the murderer.
The sidekick is not necessarily a mentor. The role of the mentor is to appear periodically and provide sage advice. Your sidekick doesn’t have to do this. The sidekick wouldn’t be a sidekick if he wasn’t there through thick and thin.
Your sleuth and the sidekick have a connection that sets them on the trail of discovery to find the murderer. Even if the sidekick is assigned to your sleuth - this often happens in police crime novels - they both are set on solving the mystery.
How The Sidekick Mirrors Your Detective
Because the sidekick and the sleuth work together, they have something in common. It may be a knowledge of police procedure or a common interest. In the film The Crimson Rivers, thoughtful Pierre Niemans (Jean Reno) works with action-oriented Max Kerkerian (Vincent Cassel). Though they are often at odds on procedure, they both have the goal of finding the killer. John D. MacDonald created Meyer, the economist, to help readers understand Travis McGee in his long-running series.
The sidekick holds up a mirror to your sleuth by highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes the sidekick compensates for the weaknesses by having an opposite personality or style of response. Some sidekicks may pick up the slack, others may not. The sidekick can highlight the strengths by pointing them out when your sleuth meets an obstacle.
Points to Consider as You Create Your Sleuth’s Sidekick
As a writer, you have a lot of leeway as you create your sleuth’s sidekick. Your sidekick can be male or female, younger or older or the same age, new to the game or an old hand. It’s up to you to create a sidekick that will accompany your sleuth on the discovery journey.
The Sidekick Supports Your Sleuth
Your sidekick supports your sleuth physically and emotionally as they work to solve the whodunit puzzle.
Collaboration is the Fast Way to Book Cover Design Success
Every author wants an eye-catching cover for their book that draws potential readers to their book. Your book cover is the first step in the buying journey for many readers. Unless you as an author are also a graphic designer, Investing in a skilled graphic designer is worth every dollar spent. For authors on a limited budget finding a good cover designer is the first outside investment to take to give your book the best opportunity in a competitive market.
Prepare for Collaboration
Your responsibility as an author is to convey the concept of your novel. If your book is first in a series, you’ll want to share the sense of your series as well so the artist can set up a replicable model that makes your series readily identifiable.
As an independent author, you can minimize cost and speed up the design process by preparing information for your cover designer.
For this cover, I wanted to focus on the grain merchant’s daughter, a bodyguard, and a broken contract. We got them all in the cover.
Co-Create The Final Image
Depending on your cover designer’s personal working style, the process of arriving at agreement for the final image requires communication. It may be through a series of messages or a brief video conference with screen sharing.
I’ve been working with Ryan J. Rhoades for several years with cover design for the Argolicus mysteries. This session took a little longer than usual because the conversation was typed rather than spoken. Ryan communicates with his clients through video conferencing. As he shares his screen, you can watch the cover take shape, move elements around, change colors, and other changes before your eyes.
Wait Before Final Approval and Delivery
Give the image a rest for at least 24 hours before you give final approval. Go back to revisit the cover and look for any details that may distract or need emphasis. For example, in this cover there was a squiggly line in the background that was distracting. We took it out, did some shading, and arrived at the final image.
Two Skill Sets, One Cover
As an author, you may fall into the trap of thinking your creative skills transfer to cover design. A little knowledge is not only dangerous, it can be detrimental to your book sales. If you are starting out with a limited budget consider a cover designer as an investment in your author career.
Zara Altair, Author
The puzzle of politics, the mystery of murder in ancient Italy. After Rome, before the Middle Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths.