So what are the ten things every aspiring Sherlock author needs to write a convincing Holmes novel or short story?
- A splendid title, preferably with a colour in it: there are no less than ten adventures in the original canon that feature a colour in the title, from The Adventure of the Yellow Face to The Adventure of the Red Circle.
- A reliable guide to Victorian London slang:
- A superb, twisty plot. If you can’t come up with one of your own, why not seek help from this work of madness: https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/01/06/plotto/
- Some historical knowledge of the year in which your adventure is set. Your friend Wikipedia is the invaluable help.
- All 56 Holmes short stories and four longer works. There is simply no point starting until you’ve read all of these. You will just annoy aficionados with your school boy/girl errors..
- The MacGuffin – the object, person or idea that the protagonists seek and which drives the plot along. Think Rosebud in Citizen Kane. For your Holmes adventure this could be a suitably curious object of unknown providence. I used eight ruby elephants for my first Holmes adventure.
- Some choice vocabulary. Holmes is an eloquent fellow. You may need to brush up your English if you are to produce a truly credible effort.
- A brilliant villain – give him some suitably grotesque impediment, such as a missing ear or six toes on one foot. He should be a match for Holmes in strength and intellect. Don’t automatically reach for Moriarty.
- Some light relief – there’s plenty of humour in the original canon, so bring on some light relief in the form of some helpful nitwit or ludicrous situation. In The Adventure of the Ruby Elephants, Holmes stuffs a diminutive monocle salesman (who insists on wearing two monocles at the same time) in a large Ming vase.
- Some philosophical moments – some of the best of Conan Doyle’s writing is when Holmes muses on some aspect of the human condition from his lofty vantage point in 221B Baker Street.
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