Posted: January 6, 2010 in Uncategorized, Wednesday's Writing Tip
Tags: , , , , , ,

Why not let your supporting cast get a little?

I once saw a sketch on the show In Living Color. They were satirizing Lethal Weapon and making fun of the fact that Danny Glover’s character was two dimensional and because he was African American his character wasn’t allowed to have three dimesions–and especially wasn’t allowed to be sexual.

It got me thinking.

I’ve been reading James Lee Burke lately and he has Batiste.

Poor Danny...

Robert B. Parker has Hawk.

Dennis Lehane has Bubba.

John D. MacDonald has Meyer.

Of these sidekicks only Hawk ever has a girlfriend. When Hawk has a date she’s always depicted as a trophy and not as a real relationship.

Only the lead seems to permitted to have a relationship. If the sidekick is a minority that especially seems to be true.

Perhaps giving a sidekick a relationship would detract from the plot. After all, a plot can only go so many places.

Still, an allusion to a girlfriend/boyfriend/partner might round out a character and give the story line another dimension.

My  protag’s best friend Kelley has a girlfriend in my latest, Out Cold.

It doesn’t take up a lot of the storyline but it makes Kelley more than just a stone faced cop.

I’m a big believer in characters. I do my best to make them real, complete people.

Giving them relationships helps that along.

  1. Jen Forbus says:

    But wait, Batiste has a wife…at least in the early Robicheaux novels he has a wife. And really Robicheaux’s sidekick is Clete Purcell who has his share of women…sometimes serious (at least as far as Clete goes) and sometimes just one night flings…but that’s also in line with his character.

    Joe Pike has a former very significant other and then there are a few mentions of dates. But his character is a loner, so having him have a “partner” of some kind is not fitting. Like Win in Coben’s Bolitar novels. I think that’s the case with Hawk, too – IMHO, of course.

    Then there’s Kellerman’s Milo Sturgis, who I happen to prefer over Alex Delaware but I digress. He has a homosexual relationship.

    Michael Koryta’s Joe Pritchard has a significant other. At first he’s a widower, and then later in the series meets a woman and she plays a role in decisions he makes.

    And sometimes characters are so minor a role that we don’t really see them enough to know; I wonder if Bubba doesn’t really fall more into that catagory. We don’t get the look at Bubba and his LIFE that we do Patrick or Angie. We see his intersection in their lives. They don’t require any interaction with a significant other Bubba might have. And the addition of one could very well clutter the plot instead of develop Bubba.

    But, that’s all just my take…it’s all subjective.

    • tjs9261 says:

      I guess for me it’s more like a depth of their experiences. They may have a wife or partner but how much of their passion gets translated? Perhaps it’s plot limitations but I’d still like more rounded characters.

  2. Jon Jordan says:

    I’ve been wearing Joe Pike tattoos when ever I have sex. Does that count?

    • Jen Forbus says:

      Good one, J.J.! 🙂 I need to get these tattoos. My nephew loves tattoos and that would make an awesome picture for my blog.

      I was just going to mention to Tom that I finished THE FIRST RULE and while Joe Pike isn’t the “partner” in this one, he has NO wife, NO girlfriend, not even a quickie with a whore. But he IS the most passionate, rounded, dimensional character I’ve ever seen on the printed page.

      Whereas I read another author who didn’t hold back on a sex scene and I threw the book. The character was cliche and the scene was there to have sex in the book and no other reason. Please, keep your USS (unnecessary sex scenes) outta my crime fiction! Challenge me; don’t insult me.

      And Tom’s Fearsome Foursome are very dynamic without a sexual element. I think it’s very possible to make a rich, deep character without a sex partner.

  3. Jen Forbus says:

    That’s my point! 😉

  4. Billy D says:

    My favorite sidekick Al got his bad self a nice little piece from that sweet, pampered poodle in the park.

    In your face, Danny Glover!

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