Holmes and Watson
Poirot and Hastings
Nick and Nora
These are just some of the iconic duos of detective fiction. Where would an inspector be without their trusted companion by their side? Today, I’m talking about the detective’s partner in crime, the “Watson” of a story and what to consider when creating this character.
The Function of the Foil
Opposites attract, right? The purpose of a foil – or a foil character – is to highlight the traits of the main character. Their contrast in personality or appearance reflect and highlight the specific traits and quirks of a protagonist. For example, if the detective is level-headed, maybe their sidekick is impulsive. If the detective is a total genius, maybe their companion is a bit more oblivious. Play around with the duo’s personalities. You might find their differences make them even more compatible as a team.
For the People
Not only does the sidekick serve their detective, they also serve the audience. Usually, the “Watson” is charged with narrating the story, and every step of the investigation. They pull information about the case from the inspector, or from their own observations, and present them to the reader. How to readers find out about clues, suspects and crime scenes? Usually through the narration of the “Watson” type character. As a close ally, the sidekick knows the inspector well. When the main sleuth is hard to read, their companion acts as a bridge between a distant detective and the audience. Through their interactions with the sleuth, the partner keeps the detective human for the readers, and that is such an important role in a mystery plot.
The heart of any mystery is the relationship between the inspector and his companion. Consider the relationship they have. Are they roommates? Lovers? Acquaintances? Have fun with the relationship between the inspector and their companion. Readers want to root for a dynamic duo. Sure, they may not be on the same page all the time. During their sleuthing, morals and consciences will be tested. A little conflict between the two may makes things interesting. Partners balance each other out. Let there be a solid comradery and playful banter. Readers want to see how these two characters play off one another and how they work together. Oftentimes, the sidekick is there for the detective to bounce theories off of. Think about it, Watson is an extension of the detective’s thought process.
At the end of the day, a sleuth’s sidekick can be a valuable addition to any mystery story. Really consider the kind of partner your detective characters need by their side during an investigation.
Who are some of your favorite detective duos in fiction? Lemme know in the comments!
Stay safe and stay creative!
(This is an edited repost. Hope you all enjoyed May of Mystery! – Victoria a.k.a Lady Jabberwocky)