How to NOT write a Sherlock Holmes Fic
I love Sherlock Holmes. Hate many aspects of some fanfictions.
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I have decided to post this entry here instead of on the fanfiction site itself for two reasons - one, it is not a story and is therefore breaking the rules (thanks to whoever pointed that one out); two, only people who want to read about how not to write a Sherlock Holmes fanfic will read this, so I limit the number of people I offend. If you like this, please tell me so. If you do not, what the heck are you doing on this forum anyway?


1)Never make grammatical or spelling errors while Sherlock Holmes is giving one of his monologues.

2)Never make simplistic deductions and try to pass them off as brilliant ("Ah-ha! You have been eating chocolate pudding, my dear Watson! I can deduce this from the fact that you have it smeared all over your upper lip.") Either do not relate how Holmes comes to an outlandish and correct conclusion, or make sure it is truly brilliant before having him expound upon it and cuing gasps of shock from the other characters present.

3)Never subject Dr. Watson and/or Sherlock Holmes to fan girl attitudes or gestures such as

a.Exuberant eye rolling

b.Folding his arms and huffing and puffing

c.Stomping from the room

d.Slapping each other playfully

e.Hugging spontaneously

f.Grinning at each other

g.Giggling at a shared joke

h.Linking arms and strolling toward "home"

4)Never subject Dr. Watson and/or Sherlock Holmes to displays of fan girl emotional processes such as

a.Bursting into tears

b.Wondering if the other "cares"

c.Feel warm, bubbling feelings of friendship

d.Sudden hate and irrational anger for a snide remark or callous statement

5)Never engage in Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson fluff to the extent of

a.Holmes crying out in anguish when Dr. Watson is injured

b.Watson wishing to die/sacrifice himself for Holmes

c.Watson harboring fears/memories/anguish about events in "The Final Problem"

d.Holmes proclaiming his inability to function without Watson especially if he is

i.Cradling an unconscious Watson's limp hand

ii.Sitting attentively by an unconscious Watson's hospital bed

iii.Holding an unconscious Watson in his arms while his friend his bleeding to death/dying of poisoned wine/crushed by a fallen chandelier/etc.

iv.Playing nursemaid to an unconscious Watson at Baker Street

e.Watson and/or Holmes engaging in conversations consisting mostly of "Holmes, I . . ." and "Watson, I . . ."

f.Watson expounding in his narratives as to the extent of their friendship, how it is either

i.Stronger than anything so that death itself could not break it,or

ii.Unfulfilled in that Watson feels unneeded, unwanted, unloved, and generally unappreciated by Holmes

g.Heavens above, no cuddling. I just read the word "cuddling" and I am taking a break to puke . . . ABSOLUTELY NO CUDDLING!

6)Basically, just DO NOT have Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson behave like fan girls. They are grown men from the dignified and repressed Victorian era (and Holmes is even more dignified and repressed than most Victorian gentlemen). I know it is difficult for you, but try to make it so that these two have some semblance of masculinity and maturity about them before you post it. It will save you embarrassment, a league of red-faced, eye-rolling, barf-choking readers, and also it will save you the trouble of having to apologize profusely and sheepishly in every author's note about the out-of-characterness of your characters.

7)Never have Holmes say "Elementary, my dear Watson" as he does not actually ever say that in the canon.

8)Never write drabbles about Sherlock Holmes' childhood in which he is shown to break down at his parents' graves and/or generally be a sympathy figure.

9)Never have Sherlock Holmes as a love interest, especially not with

a.Irene Adler: she was a smart woman, standing out from the rest of her sex at the time period, and therefore impressed Holmes by her strength and wit. Watson himself conceded and refuted the possibility of a romantic interest between Holmes and Adler.

b.Own Character (from the Victorian era): if Holmes could not find any woman in England that would ensnare him with her beauty, wit, and feistiness, then he will not fall for yours. End of story.

c.Own Character (from the future): not only are all "fan-girl-goes-to-the-future-to-meet-her-idol-Sherlock-Holmes" stories stretching the limit of canonical credibility, but you have to be kidding me if you think that Holmes would fall for an immature teenager from the 21st century when he believes that the Victorian ladies were dumb and stupid.

d.Watson: this is just wrong. I will say no more.

10)Never deviate from Watson's narrative style to incorporate

a.Italicized thoughts – these are never used

i.Have Watson simply state his beliefs/convictions/opinions in the narrative

b.Modernistic sentence structure such as

i.Short, two word sentences

ii.Lots of sentences that trail off . . .

c.Jokes that are just too funny to pass up

i.Watson never makes jokes in his narrative. Or at any other time, really.

d.Rhetorical questions

i.Was it true?

ii.Had Holmes really . . .?

iii.Are you crazy?

11)Never write a songfic about Sherlock Holmes especially when the songs used include words such as

a."Best friends"

b."Without you"

c."Missing you"

d."I love you"

e."Kiss me"

f."Defying gravity"

g."Barney Is A Dinosaur" (I know what you're thinking, but it's only a matter of time, really – maybe some skilled adaptation . . .)

12)Neverdescribe Sherlock Holmes with emotions visible on his face especially if they are








i.This rule can be disregarded when the emotion is





5.Eagerness (for a solution to a chemistry problem and not for Watson's recuperation from a near death experience)

13)Never have Sherlock Holmes' eyes become deep wellsprings for emotions such as








14)Never have Watson describe Sherlock Holmes' physical appearance like one of the opposite sex. For example:

a.Raven locks

b.Regal nose

c.Sparkling eyes

d.Fair complexion

e.Slender hands

f.Lithe body

g.Rosy lips

15)Never rely solely on what Conan Doyle wrote in his books for your fan fictions. It does not give you undeniable credibility and earn you the "I Know My Sherlock Holmes" badge if you frequently make reference to

a.Bullet practice indoors

b.Shag in a Persian slipper

c.Letters secured by a knife on the mantelpiece

d.His pipes

e.His Stradivarius

f.His dressing robe

g.Mrs. Hudson's delicious meals

i.This does not mean you cannot incorporate these things into your story, but for crying out loud, realize that everyone who is on this Sherlock Holmes fan fiction site should know where Holmes keeps his tobacco. You do not get points for knowing this or including it in your fan fiction.

16)Never ever enter Sherlock Holmes' head. This is your death sentence as a credible fan fiction writer. Watson is a normal human being like you, so you will not have too much difficulty in replicating realistic thought processes when you are in his head. When you are in Holmes', you are completely out of your league. None of us should presume to interpret the great, cold, analytical mind that belongs to Sherlock Holmes. Sir Conan Doyle hardly ventured onto that ground . . .

17)Never create a romantic character out of Inspector Lestrade. Give him a tragic past if you must, give him internal turmoil, but never make him an unrequited lover – especially if said lover resides at 221b Baker Street.

18)Never write Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson slash fan fiction, for the simple fact that it is IMPOSSIBLE to keep them in character if they are cuddling/dancing/kissing/serenading each other/scratching each other's backs/playing footsie-toesies/etc. The guys share an apartment. Like freaking dorm roommates, for crying out loud. This does not make them GAY.

7/27/2011 #1
Eclectic Butterfly

A very interesting set of rules, Bellephont17. And I do agree with them all. It's not easy traipsing through this part of Fanfiction.

I do have a question regarding number 12: Never describe Sherlock Holmes with emotions visible on his face especially if they are...Understanding.

Wouldn't Holmes show some understanding for such things as, say, the beauty of music? The desire to catch the crook? Those sort of things?

Also, you say not to deviate from Watson's narrative style. Can this be done if you're not using Watson's POV?

8/5/2011 #2
That is a lot of rules to follow. I must disagree with you on one point, however, which is the Irene Adler one. Just saying.
2/18/2012 #3
TARDIS Blue Carbuncle
On many accounts, I agree with your list of rules ( especially regarding romance. Holmes was just never meant to fall in love). However, you claim that one should not rely upon ACD's account entirely. Considering that he is the original author and the only original author, I must disagree. What I would recommend is using ACD's account wholly, but do not mention every single detail in the Canon in the same page/chapter/story. Another thing I differ from is your suggestion to never reveal Holmes' emotions through his eyes. In a normal story, I completely agree. Yet, there are cases where even the coldest and most guarded of men must crack. For Holmes, this would be an extreme circumstance (prime example: the Three Garridebs), and even in that case he only cracked for a few seconds. I personally dislike reducing Holmes from his automaton status, but no man, not even Holmes, would remain the same after an encounter with alien that may result in losing one's humanity. Minor spoiler for my story, but I could not think of any other example. This just proves how much reign Holmes has over his emotions. Under lesser circumstances than the aforementioned, Holmes must never lose his control, or the author loses credibility. Other than these two concerns, I love your list. You have a master's grasp on the Great Detective's world in a time ruled by wishes and opinions. Great job, and keep it up!
2/21/2012 #4

Oh. My. Gosh. Please tell me that is Brent Spiner XD XD

Thanks for reviewing! On the subject of relying wholly on ACDs account, a better word - I admit - would be "solely". By all means talk about his Strativarius or his shag in a slipper, but don't think that just by saying this that you automatically make yourself the Sherlock Holmes guru. And don't be afraid to branch out and describe something in the room that is NOT from ACD's account.

Also, about the emotions thing - since I wrote this I have definitely changed my policy on Holmes showing emotion. Upon writing this I was admittedly sickened by fanfiction authors making Holmes pine over something or other, or weep, or express LTC for pages and pages. I have since stopped reading Sherlock Holmes fanfiction and revised my viewpoint slightly: yes, definitely let him show emotion, but don't do it in profusion and make it last for chapters on end. Note that even in the Three Garridebs (my personal favorite adventure), the "crack" only lasted a minute or less.

Again, thanks for reviewing and pointing these things out! I appreciate it - and please let me know when you have finished with your ff story. You seem to have got the right idea!

2/21/2012 #5
TARDIS Blue Carbuncle
Sorry, I am not Brent Spiner. But I do love your reference. My favorite Star Trek episode had to be "Elementary, My Dear Data". I would like to ask this: are you going to compile a similar list for Dr. Watson?
2/22/2012 #6

haha I meant your avatar pic silly XD I love ST:TNG :D Data is by far my fav character. I doubt I'll do one for Watson, as people definitely have more creative elbowroom with such an average individual. However, I do believe that there are a few pointers in my above list as far as writing as Watson is concerned, are there not?

2/22/2012 #7
TARDIS Blue Carbuncle
Yes, you did mention a few items relating to the good Doctor. And I agree that Watson is a more flexible character. Is it just me, or it despicable when various movies made Watson no smarter than a brain-dead stegasaurus?
2/25/2012 #8

YES! It's so annoying!! I mean, I love the '30s and '40s version of Sherlock Holmes with Basil Rathbone, but Nigel Bruce is just painful to watch. X(

2/25/2012 #9
TARDIS Blue Carbuncle

I completely agree. As for the recent Sherlock Holmes movies by Robert Downey, Jr., I found him painful to watch. Jude Law, however, made a decent Watson, more than I can say for most movies. The man that acted as Watson in the Hallmark Sherlock Holmes movies (Matt Frewer stared as Sherlock Holmes) was brilliant. But I my favorite Watson, and I believe the most accurate of the Watsons I have seen, is Martin Freeman in BBC's Sherlock.

2/27/2012 #10

Never have Watson describe Holmes as lithe? Er, didn't Arther Conan Doyle do that several times?

4/29/2012 #11
TARDIS Blue Carbuncle
I am not sure... I've been a bit busy with schoolwork, but I'll check. About that, did anyone see the announcement on Sherlockology? About the book they're going to publish to save ACD's home? Did anyone else submit an entry for that?
4/30/2012 #12
Princess Skye Jewel

I just stopped by because I wanted to see a Sherlock Holmes forum. But, dude, I disagree with the no bursting-into-tears part! Even the most reputable detectives have the rights to cry for once in a while. I'm just saying 'cause I wrote a fanfic about Holmes crying! But its about some you know, whatevs.

9/17/2012 #13
Princess Skye Jewel

Ya know, the Holmes-lo9ves-Watson kind IS pretty good. I've read a fanfic about them....... H-U-G-G-I-N-G!

9/18/2012 #14
TARDIS Blue Carbuncle
Ah, yes, the slash. Of course, stories of that kind are rather abundant in this fandom... However, take note that you never once see Holmes embrace Watson in the Canon. Neither do you ever see him openly weep (granted, he nearly did in "The Three Garridebs"). This set of rules (and feel free to correct me on this one, bellephont17) was written for those who wanted to write accurate Sherlock Holmes stories, and either didn't have access to the whole Canon or hasn't read much of it yet. The gentlemen of the Victorian Era rarely displayed emotions, as a result of the rules of good conduct of said era. I have seen good stories in which Holmes or Watson do display emotion (I think Holmes sheds a tear in my own fic, "A Mere Unit"); however, those are few and far between, and difficult to do when attempting to stay in character.
9/18/2012 #15

THANK you, TARDIS. You and I seem to be on the right page.

9/18/2012 #16
TARDIS Blue Carbuncle

You are quite welcome, Bellephont17. I get quite annoyed when I see blatant discrepancies in canon.

9/18/2012 #17
Princess Skye Jewel

thank you. I did laugh at the Holmes-caressing-Watson part. Why'd make them look gay at that account?

9/19/2012 #18

Well, these are good, because they really spot all the tropes and cliches of the fandom. That was funny to read :D And slash is not my cup of tea either, though the main reason for this is the fact that I can't tolerate love stories and have issues with love in general. And, yes, I can't imagine canon!Holmes and canon!Watson displaying their emotions often, let alone love.

However, I must admit that I don't view fandom as a source of stories a-la "What ACD would write next". While I can't read completely OOC characters, I like to read different versions of them. Your rules basically leave out all the wish fulfilment, fandom therapy, hurt/comfort and other nice things, which represent a huge part of what fandom was created for. When I want to read ACD, I go and read him, and, honestly, I've never encountered any fanfic which was in the same "stream" as canon. First of all, what makes ACD canon special, is plot and language. OK, the language is unique, but where're the amazing plots? And, while not being able to write like Doyle himself, the author can at least make up his own style.

I would be genuinely amazed at any recs which quite fit in your rules, TS %)

9/21/2012 #19

Oh, and "Holmes, I..." part made me laugh out loud) Plus, yes, I absolutely agree about Irene Adler. I could never ever understand why people think that Holmes was in love with her, while in canon it is clear as a day that he wasn't.

9/21/2012 #20
Princess Skye Jewel

Well, even if not-so-many stories about Holmes-and-Adler are here, mine are part of it. But it's only a choice of the writer, especially if the writer never went to this forum.

9/22/2012 #21
TARDIS Blue Carbuncle

@Princess Jewel:

Oh, trust me; it is the relatively low number of Holmes/Adler stories here that makes me thank the Good Lord. I mean no offence to you, for I have not yet had the chance to read your stories (and therefore I have no right to judge), but in the published world, there is an overwhelmingly large number of said stories. In fact, the man who is considered one of the foremost 'experts' on Sherlock Holmes, William S. Baring-Gould, is one of them. He wrote the first Annotated Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, which is his biography on the detective. I read some of his works, and he did an amazing job on sorting out data in the Annotated Sherlock Holmes; however, my respect for him was lost once I read the biography. Granted, the stories give us only three clear facts about Holmes' childhood and past, so Baring-Gould had very little with which he could work. However, when he could have come up with a reasonably plausible past, Baring-Gould made several outrageous and controversial claims.

One of these dealt with Adler; in his book, he claimed that Holmes spent his three years of Hiatus not travelling as he told Watson. Baring-Gould outright said that Holmes remained in Europe, and that he and Adler... how do I say this delicately? Let's just say that they were 'romantically involved' and leave it at that.

Uh, hello!!!! IRENE ADLER WAS DEAD! Or, at the very least, presumed dead. In "A Scandal in Bohemia", Watson calls Adler "the late Irene Adler". This means that she was either dead by the time of the writing or presumed dead. Some could argue that the 'late' attachment represented her marriage to Mr. Norton, but no one referred to a married woman as 'late'; she would be referred to as "Norton, nee Adler" (The first e in nee is supposed to have an accent mark, but I don't know how to do it here). Therefore, she is dead. And in any case, she fled to America right after she married, and therefore could not have crossed Holmes' path in Europe.

*Author takes deep breaths* Sorry for the rant; to get back on track, I am surprised, and thoroughly happy, to see a surprising lack of Holmes/Adler stories. I won't stop people from writing them, and the story might even be remotely good, if the author tries hard enough. I will simply not accept the story as canon-accurate. I don't know about others, but I won't pass judgement on a story until I have read it.

9/22/2012 #22
Well, I think all this is very subjective. If the fic is well written and interesting, then by all means, you've succeeded. I know that many people enjoy shipping non-canon ships, but it doesn't really matter. Just don't read them. Everyone is free to write what they want to, regardless of whatever. And also, @TARDIS Blue Carbuncle, The way you posted that comment about Holmes/Adler was uncalled for. Don't throw your hate around. If people like the pairing, it's none of your business. Sorry to be so blunt, but yes.
9/22/2012 #23
TARDIS Blue Carbuncle
@faerychanter: I realize that there are people who do enjoy the sort of stories that deviate from Canon to a greater or less degree. And you are right; there are authors who do a marvelous job writing slash, romance, and other stories along those lines. Those writers, unfortunately, are few and far between, especially for those readers who prefer the Doylean style. I can't speak for Bellephont17, but I created my own list as a guide, for authors who follow the style and rules that Doyle unwittingly created when he wrote Sherlock Holmes are more likely (do not mistake this for a guarantee, for other factors cone into play) to create a story that will have a more positive reaction from more readers. And I must admit my error in my last post; I did, as you so graciously pointed out, get rather emotional. But you make a mistake when you assume that I was "throwing hate around". If it came across that way, that was not my intention. I was arguing for the evidence in regards to what is Canon and not; the target of my admittedly over-emotional rant was not whether or not you can or cannot read or write along the Holmes/Irene line. I am sincerely sorry for the misunderstanding and the amount of emotion I put into the post. However, I will not apologize for the reasoning behind the statement, and those individuals who disagree are free to do so and either ignore the post altogether or, as you have so kindly done, voice your concerns.
9/22/2012 #24

@faerychanter - As I said in the beginning of this forum post, I took this list off the main SH fanfic page and created my own forum because of the number of people it offended. I am sorry you found it to your disliking. In fact, I'm sorry you found it, period. I freely admit to it being subjective. I strongly support subjectivity, and therefore please feel free to post whatever you want - however, please refrain from jumping all over other posters for so-called "hate" just because their convictions conflict with your own. As you said, "Everyone is free to write what they want to, regardless of whatever."

9/22/2012 . Edited 9/22/2012 #25
@Bellephont17, @Tardis Blue Carbuncle, I really am sorry for my outburst. Do forgive me. I was merely trying to state my views, but sorry if it came out slightly weird. Sorry!
9/22/2012 #26
TARDIS Blue Carbuncle
@faeryenchanter You're quite forgiven. I was at fault for turning a simple fact into a full rant, for which I, too, apologize. @bellephont17 Thank you for your input; I was sincerely afraid that I crossed the line (which I still might have) and angered you. I will try to be less emotional when discussing something controversial.
9/23/2012 #27
@TARDIS Blue Carbuncle, no worries. All is forgiven, and sorry once again to both of you. Thank you for being so reasonable!
9/23/2012 #28

Haha, the starting w*** suddenly turned into cuteness. Aww. I expected a holy war to happen. Glad it didn't.

9/23/2012 #29

@faeryenchanter - all is well :) I do appreciate the way you handled this situation and averted creamsely's "holy war", so to speak. @ TARDIS - no worries, and please do not feel the need to apologize as there is nothing wrong with stating your opinion emotionally. @ creamsley - i know right? I am very pleased, myself!

It is indeed gratifying to note that mature behavior is still a possibility in forum chats. Of course, being Sherlock Holmes fans and therefore most likely able to be logical and emotionally controlled, is it any surprise? lol I must stress again, however, that everyone is free to post exactly what they want, even if it disagrees with other posters' theories or beliefs. The trouble arises when "disagreement" is substituted with "disrespect". Disagreement = good. Disrespect = bad. If we can all remember this, then we can all get along and love Sherlock Holmes together! :D

9/23/2012 #30
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