As a reader, I'm prone to falling hard and fast for side characters in books. I'm in the habit of declaring a favorite character from every book, movie, or show I consume, often shouting so loudly to whoever happens to be sitting near me. More often than not, my favorite is not the protagonist. Maybe it's because the hero of the story often has a lot of important Hero of the Story Things to do, while side characters have plenty of room to be themselves. In side characters, you often find fun quirks, unique insights, and compelling backstories. All too often when it comes to side characters, authors are only able to scratch the surface — there are so many possibilities for further exploration.
Plus, in a literary canon that has been historically overrun by white, straight, cis male protagonists, you often find more diversity represented by side characters. We're all familiar with the tropes of the female sidekick or the queer best friend. So many of these characters are awesome in their own right, and as publishing moves in the direction of diversity and representation, the time is particularly ripe to see these characters get a little more attention.
Giving side characters their own stories has been done before in amazing ways. Take, for instance, Tom Stoppard's classic play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet from the point-of-view of his two seemingly expendable and interchangeable friends. Patrick Rothfuss plucked Auri from his hit Kingkiller Chronicle series and gave her a starring role in The Slow Regard of Silent Things. Gregory Maguire zeroed in on supporting characters from The Wizard of Oz in Wicked.
Here are some characters adored by readers, who would make excellent protagonists in their own books (or series!):
Tonkee from The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
Tonkee is a fascinating character with a lot of attitude and a compelling backstory. Although N.K. Jemisin certainly does her justice in the series, I would love to see Tonkee as the star of her own series. Maybe it's time for a series of books about her time in university?
Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which from 'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeline L'Engle
Billions of years old, these three characters have amazing powers, including the abilities to transform, speak many languages, and travel through time and space at will. I feel like these ladies got themselves into their fair share of mystical mischief before the events of A Wrinkle in Time began, and it would be great to have a series focused on each of them, or on their adventures as a trio.
Lying Cat from 'Saga' by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Lying Cat is one of my personal favorite characters from Saga. But I have so many questions about him: Where did he come from? How does he know that people are lying? Are there other Lying Cats out there?
Rosethorn from The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce
I've always suspected that Rosethorn has a sizzling past. Wouldn't it be great to read a series about the bisexual, polyamorous green mage? Either a series about her coming into her own power as a younger mage, or even about her own adventures when Briar, Tris, Daja, and Sandry are not around to get in her way. Plus, I'd love to dive deep into her relationships with Lark and Crane.
Bilquis from 'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman already did an American Gods spin-off with Anansi in Anansi Boys and it was incredible. But I would like to formally request a sequest starring Bilquis. I've always been fascinated by her powers (i.e. her habit of consuming people through her vagina), and would love to get more page-time with her.
Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings trilogy is kind of a boys' club.... with the exception of Eowyn. Headstrong and fierce af, Eowyn is not going to let anyone stop her from doing what she wants. There's no doubt that an Eowyn-centric series would be absolutely epic.
Mercutio from 'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare
Mercutio is arguably one of the best characters in Shakespeare. (Who could forget his amazing death speech? "A plague on both your houses!") While I could take or leave both Romeo and Juliet, I would love some more Mercutio in my life. A spin-off series would be awesome.
Podrick Payne from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Podrick Payne definitely has his own enthusiastic fan base already. This seemingly meek/minor character has done some incredible things throughout the series, from saving Tyrion at the Battle of Blackwater to fighting alongside Brienne as her squire. It has been exciting to see him grow into his own. More Pod, please!
Zuzana Nováková from 'Daughter of Smoke & Bone' by Laini Taylor
Zuzana is the definition of "though she be but little, she is fierce." With her radiant personality, wonderful humor, and unending bravery, Zuzana is a bright spot in this often dark series. I'd love to spend some more time with her front and center.
Kaede from 'Legend' by Marie Lu
There's no doubt that Kaede is a badass, and with a rich history, there's plenty we could dive into with a Kaede series. We could get a glimpse of her time training as a pilot, or see some more of her work with the Patriots.