Thank you, Wretched Richard’s Almanac, (http://richarddaybell.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/wretched-richards-almanac-5-7-13/) for providing the inspiration for this post.
Authors are loners of sorts. We tend to write books in privacy.
Yet, to improve or validate our work, we need helpful others. The helpful other, like the sidekick in the old-time western film, provides a counter-point to our own perspective about our work. A sidekick will read our story and truthfully dissect it for us to make either the story or the author better.
A valuable sidekick is, above all, a truth-teller. It takes a brave person to tell a creator that his creation is flawed. A sidekick is also a diplomat; The truth-telling, to be effective, must be done tactfully. Finally, the sidekick must be knowledgeable. Effective criticism comes out of taste or expertise garnered through experience. If the sidekick is an avid reader in our genre–and has an artist’s soul of sorts–he discerns when a story works or doesn’t. Because our sidekick is intelligent, he can articulate the “why” when the manuscript fails.
I feel fortunate to have three sidekicks to give me the necessary kick-in-the-pants I need to improve my work. Sometimes I am obstinate and ignore sage advice. It is to my own detriment when I do.
A valuable sidekick is trying to make my writing better. That, to an author, is a priceless gift.