Welcome to the third instalment in my series on the four main characters and why they are literary devices. This week, I’m going to write about the confidant and his or her role in our stories.
“He was my confidant, the person who was always on my side even when he wasn’t taking my side.” ~Lisa Kleypas
As A Literary Device: The confidant is a device for revealing the inner thoughts, feelings, and intentions of a main character. He or she is essential, because your hero should not be left alone for too long. For the purposes of this article, I have used the term for both masculine (confidant) and feminine (confidante) characters.
Story Goal: The confidant helps the protagonist achieve his or her goal. The confidant’s story goal is to support the protagonist’s story goal.
Five Important Things To Remember About Confidants
- Proximity. This friend is known as the confidant because he or she is taken into the hero’s confidence. This person is close enough to the protagonist to know his or her secrets. The best type of confidant is a character who is a natural part of the protagonist’s life and would be there anyway. Example: Horatio is Hamlet’s confidant.
- We need to talk. He or she acts as a sounding board. He or she helps the protagonist to make plans, analyse situations, handle problems, and discuss dilemmas. The confidant advises, cajoles, soothes, persuades, and confronts. This character is your protagonist’s ally, and the antagonist becomes his or her enemy too. Example: Alfred Pennyworth is Bruce Wayne’s confidant in Batman.
- Solitary confinement is not an option. If a character has no one to talk to, his or her decision-making process is introspective and may become boring. If writers do not create a confidant, their jobs become more difficult. Interaction with other characters is your protagonist’s lifeblood. The protagonist reveals his or her state of mind, intentions, secrets, character flaws, fears, and feelings to the confidant. The confidant helps to ‘show’ the protagonist’s personality. Examples: Albus Dumbledore is one of Harry Potter’s confidants; Dr McCoy is there for Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series.
- Confidants should not be too one-dimensional. They do have their own lives and cannot be available at every crucial moment. Use this to your advantage. When your hero needs help, take it away.
- Insight. The confidant is a listener and an observer. This allows readers to see what the protagonist thinks and it gives an insider’s take on important events. When something happens, the protagonist tells the confidant about it and this allows readers to see and understand the implications of this situation. Example: Sam Gamgee is there for Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings.
Tip: The confidant is not the same as a sidekick. The sidekick is mostly used when the protagonist is isolated or an anti-hero or a maverick. Read more about it here: 3 Reasons Why You Need A Sidekick In Your Novel
Suggestions For The Role
classmate, aunt or uncle, baby-sitter, servant, bartender, professor, boss, cleaner, coach, work colleague, group member, friend, gardener, grandparent, neighbour, police officer, prostitute, roommate, secretary, sibling, teacher, cousin
How Do You Find Your Protagonist’s Confidant?
List three possible characters that would realistically have a strong motivation to support your protagonist.
The character with the best reasons, and who has the most ‘yes’ answers, would be the best choice.
Now fill this in:
- The one with the greatest potential to support the protagonist is:
- The one that I find the most interesting is:
- The one I would most enjoy writing about is:
- The one who would be the most useful is:
One of your characters will dominate these answers. This is the character you should consider using as your confidant. If the second character differs from the character you chose in the lists, you may be giving this role to the wrong character.
Read next week’s post here: The Love Interest As A Literary Device