On the importance of a sidekick

When I first started writing Black Wings, I had only the vague idea that I wanted to write a book about the Grim Reaper. Then I heard Maddy’s voice in my head, and the gigantic, brooding male reaper I’d been envisioning became a short, slightly overweight female with a huge attitude.

I love to write dialogue, so I wanted to have someone around that Maddy could converse with on a regular basis. Thus Beezle, the tiny gargoyle with the mighty appetite, was born.

He loves popcorn, and chocolate and pretty much anything that’s been deep-fried. He acts like a know-it-all, which is fairly justified since Beezle is like an encyclopedia of things that go bump in the night. He knows every creature, every court, and every set of magical laws and spells. His job is to be a home guardian, and make sure that nothing creepy sneaks up on Maddy’s house, but mostly he spends a lot of time eavesdropping on Maddy’s conversations and demanding fat- and sugar-laden pastries.

Once Beezle appeared – sarcastic, crabby, and addicted to sugar – I wondered (like Maddy) how I would have ever gotten along without him. When you write in first person there’s a danger that you’ll spend too much time in the character’s head. Having another character on hand for Maddy to bounce ideas off keeps the narrative fresh and prevents Maddy from spending too much time brooding over her problems. Really, how can you brood when you’ve got a hungry gargoyle to feed?

Plus, since Beezle is a home guardian he’s pretty much always around, unlike a roommate or relative who might possibly have a life of one’s own. Beezle’s life is Maddy’s life – he delights in sticking his beak in her business – and everyone else’s business for that matter. This keeps him readily on hand for whatever I might need.

Beezle also gives me a chance to lighten the mood, no matter how dark and scary Maddy’s world becomes. He’s always ready with a snarky comment or a burning desire for doughnuts that only Maddy can provide (a gargoyle standing in line at the doughnut shop might provoke comment, especially in a world where no one knows that Agents of death and werewolves and so on even exist). This keeps the story from getting bogged down by danger and distress, and keeps the plot rolling along even when things look pretty bleak.

I never thought I’d want a sidekick for Maddy, but now I can’t imagine her world without Beezle. Long may he reign over the popcorn bowl.