Foggy Nights

Everyone once in a while, I wake up in the morning with an idea for my post theme popping out of my head — that’s exactly what happened to me today. After writing about our peerless pal Sherlock, I woke up thinking that if I could ask his creator A. Conan Doyle one question, it would be: What’s your secret? How did you manage to conjure up a character so convincing and beloved that grown men cried and wore mourning bands to their offices when you propelled him off a cliff prematurely? How did you breathe so much life into a fictional hero that whole biographies have been written about him and Sherlockian scholars make a living by decoding him?

Now, oceans of ink have surely been spilled on this theme, but I think we can all agree on a few of the “tools of the trade” that Doyle used to perfection — ones that we can also fruitfully employ in creating memorable characters of our own. First, he based Sherlock on a real person; rooting him in reality made him seem real — and all too human. Second, he gave him a profession with an aura of mystery and danger — always intriguing for a reader. Third, he enlisted Watson as a likeable and credible sidekick who acts as everyman to Sherlock’s superman. Fourth, he endows Sherlock with an impressive set of personality quirks: the amazing deductive powers, the violin playing, the cocaine habit, the wild mood swings. And finally, Doyle evokes a powerful sense of place: Baker Street and the gaslit, foggy streets of London.

When I think of a character in contemporary fiction who seems memorable for many of the same reasons, Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo gets my vote. She’s got a steel-trap mind, a shady profession as a computer hacker, plenty of personality quirks, a complicated life, a likeable sidekick, and a colorful home base. Sherlock and Salander: perfect together!

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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2 Responses to Foggy Nights

  1. Mike says:

    And you can see a modern-day Holmes on TV these days any time you want — only his name is House instead of Holmes. The similarities are incredible: Solves mysteries using deductive reasoning, irascible, misanthropic personality, misuse of drugs and, of course, the name. The best part is that Doyle based his detective on a professor he had in medical school!

    • Hi Mike,

      Smashingly Sherlockian of you to think of House — from the episodes I’ve seen, you are absolutely on the mark! How fascinating that the model Doyle created is still alive and well and being reinvented.

      Write on! Karin

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