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Today I’m thrilled to welcome Mary Fan to the blog! She’s the author of the Jane Colt books, a completed space opera/cyberpunk trilogy, and Starswept, YA science fiction romance featuring a violist. In addition to writing novels, she also co-edits and has written stories for the Brave New Girls series, science fiction anthologies about girls in STEM, whose sales benefit the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund. Her next novel, the young adult fantasy Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil, will be released about three weeks from now—on May 15!

Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil by Mary Fan Starswept by Mary Fan

Not the Main Character, Not the Sidekick

Whenever there’s an ensemble cast in a sci-fi/fantasy, a familiar pattern emerges. The main character, the hero, is almost always a cis/straight/white guy. There’s a guy best friend who exists to prop up the hero—to do those little side-plot things and give funky quips now and then. There’s a guy mentor who doles out wisdom to help the hero with his quest. And then there’s The Girl. The Girl is often the most high-caliber of the bunch—smart and kickass and witty and better-at-everything-than-the-hero… and still a sidekick. Despite all her impressive traits, her story line is inextricably woven into the hero’s; she exists to advance his story. Take away the hero, and she disappears. Usually, she’s also the love interest.

One way to avoid depicting The Girl as merely a sidekick is to just write about female main characters. But what if you want to write about a male main character and a female not-main character? How do you keep her from falling into the trap of better-at-everything-but-still-the-sidekick?

I ran into this issue while I was writing my YA dark fantasy, FLYNN NIGHTSIDER AND THE EDGE OF EVIL (Crazy 8 Press, May 2018). Back then, I’d just finished writing a book with a female main character (ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES, Red Adept Publishing, 2013) and wanted to write a guy main character to switch it up (funnily enough, EDGE OF EVIL remains my only book with a male protagonist). I’m sure there were also some defaults going on in my mind; most fantasies I’d read up to that point had starred male heroes. When I set about brainstorming the book, I knew I wanted there to be a prominent female character as well. But she wouldn’t be a sidekick. Heck no. While she’d be secondary in terms of point-of-view chapters and the book’s main plotline, she’d be able to exist without the male protagonist.

The characters I wound up with were oppressed-schoolboy-turned-rebel Flynn, the main character, and monster-fighter-plus-freedom-fighter Aurelia. Flynn, by necessity, couldn’t know too much about what was going on in the world and the plot. He was the reader’s stand-in in terms of discovering all the twists and turns the story would offer, and so he got most of the POV chapters. Aurelia, meanwhile, had secrets to keep—from both Flynn and the reader. Yet just because the spotlight wasn’t on her didn’t mean she was just waiting in the wings to be called upon. While I was outlining the book’s plot, I took care to see that she had her own story line. And when I was finished, I wound up with a character who was basically the protagonist of a different book—one that intersected with the book I was writing, but could have been its own thing. In other words, I could just have easily written AURELIA SUN AND THE EDGE OF EVIL and had a fully developed story (though there wouldn’t have been as many mysteries). And if Flynn were to vanish from the book, she’d still have plenty to do.

Just because a character isn’t the focus of a book doesn’t mean they have to exist as a glorified support beam. A strong secondary cast is vital to any book; they make the world more interesting and expand the story. What makes them more than sidekicks is that they each have a story of their own to tell—a story that could exist with or without the chosen main character.



Break the enchantments. Find the truth. Ignite the revolution.

A century ago, the Enchanters defeated the evil Lord of the Underworld, but not before he’d unleashed his monsters and ravaged the earth. The Enchanters built the Triumvirate out of what remained of the United States, demanding absolute obedience in exchange for protection from the lingering supernatural beasts.

Sixteen-year-old Flynn Nightsider, doomed to second-class life for being born without magic, knows the history as well as anyone. Fed up with the Triumvirate’s lies and secrecy, he longs for change. And when he stumbles across a clue that hints at something more – secrets in the dark, the undead, and buried histories – he takes matters into his own hands.

Before long, Flynn finds himself hunted not only by the government, but also by nightmarish monsters and a mysterious man with supernatural powers … all seeking him for reasons he cannot understand. Rescued by underground rebels, he’s soon swept up in their vision of a better world, guided by a girl as ferocious as the monsters she fights. But as the nation teeters on the brink of revolution, Flynn realizes three things.

The rebellion is not what it seems.
Flynn himself might be more than he seems.
And the fate of the world now rests in his hands.

Mary Fan Mary Fan is a sci-fi/fantasy author hailing from Jersey City. Her latest book, FLYNN NIGHTSIDER AND THE EDGE OF EVIL (Crazy 8 Press, May 2018), is a YA dark fantasy about a world overrun by monsters. She is also the author of STARSWEPT (Snowy Wings Publishing, 2017), a YA sci-fi romance, and the completed JANE COLT sci-fi trilogy from Red Adept Publishing.

In addition, she is the co-editor, along with fellow sci-fi author Paige Daniels, of the BRAVE NEW GIRLS anthologies, which feature stories about teen girls doing techy things in sci-fi worlds. Proceeds from the the anthology’s sales are donated to the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund. The third volume, BRAVE NEW GIRLS: TALES OF HEROINES WHO HACK, will be released in July 2018.

When she’s not writing, Mary enjoys singing, skiing, and traveling the world. Find her online at www.MaryFan.com.