Sunday, January 19, 2014

I Am Sherlocked

Ask me about Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' reimagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detecting duo and I'll admit it. I am Sherlocked. If you're Sherlocked, too, you know the premiere of Series 3 airs tonight on most PBS stations. And even if you're not Sherlocked, you probably haven't been able to tune out all the tweeting, blogging, and other media coverage surrounding last season's finale--and this season's beginning.
So what is it about this British television show that makes tongues wag? And more importantly, what does all this viral enthusiasm have to teach us as TV viewers, as readers, and even as writers?

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

are Sherlock Holmes and John Watson for

21st Century London
Here are three facts Sherlock has taught me. See if you agree . . .

1) First of all, good writing rules! We think we know that. We say we know that. But to watch Sherlock, in my opinion, and its impact on viewers everywhere, proves it. What makes this show's writing good, however? As an adaptation, it sticks pretty closely to Conan Doyle's original vision. And his vision is foundational to our concept of detective fiction. So if you love a good detective show, Sherlock hits all the bells and whistles because Conan Doyle first told us what those bells and whistles should be. It teaches me that to be a satisfied viewer or a reader, I need to seek out work that jumps though all the hoops. And as a writer, this proves to me I need to pull out all the stops.

2) Secondly, smart really is the new sexy. Sherlock says this to Irene Adler. And he's right. To be satisfied as views and readers, we dig in to dig out the mystery. Conan Doyle knew this over a hundred years ago. As writers, we know every story we write has a mystery element, even if our work fits another genre. That element is "How will this story end?" By connecting the plot dots for our readers, and keeping them thinking "How will this end?", we keep them mentally engaged. They're smart! Meet the challenge to stimulate their brains and they'll think you're writing's sexy!

3) Thirdly, it's the connection that counts. Sherlock and Dr. Watson have a bond. Six times now, we've seen them push and pull as they try to stay connected, and try to stay apart. That's a Big Picture problem. If we have moms, kids, friends, or lovers, we know all about that tug-of-war in spades. This tells me I need to watch and read stories where the Big Picture things matter to the characters--because those Big Picture things matter to me. As a writer, it can hurt to write about those kinds of issues. But writing about them through characters means I'm making a connection. And as Sherlock had proven, that's what counts.

Now, it's your turn to talk to the Rockville 8. If you're not Sherlocked, that's all right. What show has taught you what it means to be a satisfied viewer, a rabid reader, or an excellent writer?


  1. Thanks for the great post, Nichole! I agree with all 3, and love that smart is the new sexy! I also think the writing, particularly the dialogue, is fabulous. I was a bit underwhelmed with the writing re the plot last night, but would gladly watch these two men anytime. I think the connection between them is the biggest asset. Bromance or whatever, it works.

  2. Great post, Nic. Yes, I am Sherlocked and I have been almost all my life. I adore Sherlock in every form and fashion, but I especially love what's been done over the past few years as Doyle's characters have received the benefit of makeovers and modern-day film-making effects to bring to life the deductive genius of this amateur sleuth for contemporary viewers/readers.

    I did love last night's season premiere on Masterpiece Mystery. However, I did not love being given several possible options for what happened on the rooftop in the last episode of last season. But I so love the characters that I was willing to go with the fan fiction silliness for just this one time.

    I also love Elementary and the Robert Downey Jr. and Jude law Sherlock movies. There's something of value in each rendition. Just goes to show that when you create great characters, they live on forever. ;0)

  3. I'm so Sherlocked it's not even funny!

    I was privileged to watch all three episodes of season three over the weekend and now I'm all sad b/c I have to wait for season four! I have an insatiable thirst for Sherlock and Watson (mustn't forget Watson!)!

    I agree with Emelle that season three's opener was a little short on plot. But it was so heavy on character development, I can't say I minded too much.

    What's interesting to me is that I never could read Doyle's original books. Every time Watson mentioned a previous case, I felt compelled to track it down. Only maybe it wasn't written. Gar! I love how the BBC series gives us glimpses of the side cases in addition to the Big Bad case. Feels "true" to ACD's first vision.