East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Hating John Watson


In five days I need to deliver the final draft of a Sherlock Holmes pastiche that I pitched a while back and the editor wants to see finished. It’s a big opportunity – to break in a new market, to make some money, to reach new readers and to please an editor I hope will buy more stories of mine.
In the last three weeks I wrote five different versions of the story, and scrapped each and every one.

I have a solid outline, I have the right gimmicks, I have the characters and the research.
Everything’s perfectly fine.
And the story sucks more than anything that ever sucked before.
What’s wrong?
Easy: the narrator.

Much as I love the Sherlock Holmes stories, I always found John Watson’s voice insufferable.
I am usually a very good mimic – let me go through fifty or sixty pages of, say, Burroughs or Chandler, or Howard, and I’ll be able to do a decent job of imitating their style. The story could be lame, or silly, but I’d be able to nail the language.
But Arthur Conan Doyle’s Watson voice?

I think this comes from a personal distaste for the character of Watson, that in turn harks back at my first experiences with the Holmes movies, the ones featuring Basil Rathbone. Nigel Bruce was a particularly avuncular and comedic John Watson. I cannot but hear the Holmes stories in Nigel Bruce’s voice in my mind.
That’s what kills me.
Or maybe it’s something in my head.
The fact remains that the clock is ticking, and I have to hammer out at least eight-thousand words in five days, and I’m hating this writing job.
Poor sad pitiful me.
Back to work, now.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

3 thoughts on “Hating John Watson

  1. There are few stories narrated from Sherolck voice, have you tried?


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