|The guy on the left never called the one on the right "Sherlock"|
The Complete Sherlock Holmes, in the one-volume Doubleday edition, runs 1122 pages. That is a lot, but not nearly enough. So, hundreds of writers have related thousands of Holmes adventures that Dr. Watson (per Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) never got around to. I myself stand guilty of this, in both short story and novel format.
Some parodies and pastiches are quite good. Others are painful to read, at least for me. As a public service, I have recommended LeahGuinn’s fine monograph on how to write a Holmes story in the style of the original. Now I call your attention to Derrick Belanger’s “10 Rules for Writinga Sherlockian Pastiche.”
This excellent decalogue was written for young people engaged in the training that goes with being a member of the Junior SherlockianSociety. But any adult writer could benefit from it as well. Take for example, rule number three:
You need to read the original Sherlock Holmes stories. You can’t write a pastiche if you don’t know who you are imitating. Pay attention to how Doyle introduces Holmes, how the mystery begins, how his characters interact. Note that Watson calls Sherlock Holmes by his last name, “Holmes” not “Sherlock.” The closer you are to Doyle, the better.
Obvious, you say? Then why do so many pastiches show no evidence that the author has ever actually read the Canon?
Belanger assumes that the budding author is writing a mystery. Though that’s not actually a necessity, since some of the Canonical Holmes stories are detective stories without being mysteries, I think it’s a more-than-reasonable assumption. And, as a mystery writer myself, I like his advice in rule eight:
Know your ending. You have created a client who has brought Holmes a mystery to solve. You have to have Holmes solve the mystery to bring your story to a conclusion, and the ending must be believable. I find that authors who don’t know the ending to their story in advance tend to get lost in the plot and often abandon their story. My advice is to know your ending before you write your story. If you know how the story will end, then you can set up the clues along the way to help you reach your conclusion and make it satisfying to your readers.
Read all ten rules. And if you are a pastiche writer, please follow them!