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The Duo

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Feb. 6, 2021

We've all been told how in story telling, showing is a lot better than telling.

Showing gets hard if your main character is a loner that interacts with nobody. Even harder if he/she is a stoic that emotes very little. The audience will have no way of knowing what the character thinks, why the character behaves the way he/she does, or what their motivation is. (But not impossible, and an article for another day)

A good way to show rather than tell is pair up the character with another one- make them a duo. They will need to interact with each other, so that they can work together (or argue about how they aren't working together). Through their interaction and their dialogue the audience learns about them without being told. The audience is shown, and engages with both characters in various ways.

There are many types of duos, each with their own special dynamic. Some of the most prevalent are:

The hero & sidekick: Your standard superhero duo. One superhero is the lead, the other the support, usually a protege of some kind. This duo's main dynamic often has a strong mentorship flavor to it, and the sidekick may have a ‘coming into his/her own’ arc, while the lead may have a ‘coming to terms’ type arc for character development.

The power couple: Official or unofficial, this duo's characters are an item. They could be lovers, married, engaged, having moved in together, or any other situation where they are in a steady romantic relationship and also both engage in the same action and goals. The dynamic varies, but often the power couple are completely in sync with each other, stronger together than on their own. Whatever their manner of communication (lovey dovey, cynical, in denial, love/hate, etc), it works to make them a powerful unit.

The adult & child: In this duo, you often have one adult that is badass in some way (or might have to become badass due to the child) and a child that is dependent on them, but also brings some kind of value to the table. That value could be anything from being the adult's buoy to keep them from sinking into depression to possessing some unique quality or power important to the plot somehow. Character development often involves both characters overcoming their flaws. The child usually matures some, the adult learns to be more adaptive thanks to the child, etc.

The muscle & brains: In this duo, one character is the strategist and the one that comes across as the more clever of the two, but he/she is physically weak in some way. The other character is physically strong and adept, and is content to let the other character do the planning, even if they have capacity to do the planning too. These characters' dynamic hinges on synergy and mutual appreciation.

The best friends: These two characters are bonded by a strong platonic friendship. They may be polar opposites in character, very similar in skills, or anything in between. What keeps them together is the mutual concern and care for each other, even if they don't have the same priorities even when sharing the same goals.

The Siblings: This duo is family. With all the pros and cons that entails. Whether they like it or not, they have to work together for a common goal. Often they will get to discover how to express their love for each other, rather than their disdain at being related.

The opposites: These two characters come from different worlds, are extremely different in personality, behavior, goals, tastes, hobbies, the lot. They have nothing in common except, at times, animosity against each other. However, circumstances force them to work together. Pairs like that would be ‘cop & criminal’, ‘wimp & bully’, ‘prom queen & school pariah’, ‘jock & nerd’, and so on. Characters may begin as stereotypes and then develop to meet in the middle.

There are, of course, many variations and a lot more duo types!

What are your favorites? Have you used duos in your webcomics?

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RobertRVeith at 3:15PM, Feb. 8, 2021

One I like which is something between best friends and sidekick is the hero and story-teller. Most famously seen in Holmes and Watkins. One character is ostensibly the main character, but we hear the story in the voice of and from the perspective of the other. I've been using this tactic in Dragons in Civilized Lands. Jerrik usually functions in the traditional sword and sorcery hero mode, while Tahni Vey tells his story.

hushicho at 2:54PM, Feb. 6, 2021

Duos can be really good. Just don't be tempted to get rid of one of them for "impact" or "drama" (or more likely, because you aren't creative enough to write for a highly-capable character) -- the balance is really important! The Batman-Robin dynamic is a classic, largely because the reader can identify with Robin, because he's friendly, sociable, and overall more cheerful. They may idolize and want to be Batman, but they aren't Batman. One day, though, they might be, and they can access that whole world through the sidekick, who is more identifiable. It can be used for a wide range of characters and situations!

mks_monsters at 5:48AM, Feb. 6, 2021

I have always been a fan of team ups. Maybe because I myself am a twin, but seriously, I find that when done right, duos can be a lot of fun.

usedbooks at 5:35AM, Feb. 6, 2021

Sibling duos and trios are my favorite. I find them most relatable. My siblings and I have been a trio our whole lives. We definitely had an Us vs. The World mentality growing up. (My mom and her sister are super close like that too. I don't think I noticed it consciously, but they probably modelled the relationship for us.)

paneltastic at 5:27AM, Feb. 6, 2021

I took the duo idea and tossed in a wrinkle in that my duo are literally in the same body. My main character has a guy's soul living in her hair which makes for some rather awkward moments.

Corruption at 4:51AM, Feb. 6, 2021

One prob with mentor/student pairing with the MC as the student: If you don't get rid of their mentor then they get overshadowed. That is the reason I think that so many mentors get killed (in addition to providing motivation for revenge). I like Frienemies (Friendly enemies) Sure they may try killing each other, their families and destroy all the other holds dear, but they see no reason not to enjoy the other's company. They might even team up just to destroy someone who annoys them (or send the 3rd party after the other) The banter of friends, plus the boasting of mortal enemies. They may even tell the MC why they failed (if they believe it's too late to fix things) This requires respect on both sides, seeing each other as worthy foes. Warning: May go like Batman/Catwoman. Try to avoid this.

marcorossi at 12:29AM, Feb. 6, 2021

In my comic I always had a sideckick of the power couple style. But I have some doubts about the concept: when the two characters know each others from the beginning this is an actual sidekick, when the hero meets the other half of the couple during the story this is more like a B story, or a helper, or a disguised mentor, IMHO.

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