On the whole, I’ve loved every variation of Holmes that I’ve managed to see thus far, so naturally I’ve read a lot of fic and art for each verse. But when it comes to Holmes fic, there is one great flaw that will immediately put me off, and that is the use of the “wrong” title.
I’m going to put the rest under a “Read More” because this got WAY too huge for a regular post because I’m ridiculous and have feelings about writing and Holmes I guess.
To some people this might be snobbish and nitpick-y and “A Holmes by any other name…”, but to some people, calling Ritchie-verse’s Holmes “Sherlock” is equal to bad grammar and spelling in terms of offensiveness. Why does this bother some people so much? This really boils down to two key points.
-First, in terms of their respective canons, this is incorrect. Now when I say “incorrect,” I don’t mean “goes against the canon of the original ACD stories,” because as I’ve said before we can’t expect any universe but ACD’s to follow its canon to the letter. I’m referring to the canon information unique to each individual universe, such as Ritchie’s Mycroft being a nudist and BBC’s Sherlock’s smiley face on the wall in 221B.
Each of these characters have a canon title they go by. In fic writing, it should be an unwritten rule that you use the title used the most by other characters OR the title used by those they are most familiar with, assuming the character has anybody he or she is close to.
So what does that mean for, say, Ritchie-verse’s Sherlock Holmes?
People that refer to RDJ’s character as a “Sherlock” or some variation
People that refer to RDJ’s character as a Holmes or some variation
Now, where does that leave us? Two characters that call RDJ’s character “Sherlock,” one due to relation and one possibly just to bother him, and a whole mess of others that call him “Holmes”. If the majority of canon characters refer to him as “Holmes,” “Mr. Holmes,” or the like, doesn’t it make more sense to go with the majority and use that as his name? To me, by not doing so you lead right into my second point…
-Swapping between the names can often cause confusion. Most of us have come to associate different titles to each of the Holmes. Generally speaking, “Holmes” is the title associated with all the Victorian variations - canon, Ritchie, Rathbone, and all non-descriptive Victorian period pieces - and “Sherlock” is associated with, well, BBC’s Sherlock. And possibly Elementary, but that’s yet to be determined.
By using a certain name, in fic or out, you give the reader a certain image in their mind, the same as “a blinding white light” or “a cold, unfeeling look” or any other combination of words or phrases. When you say something like “Sherlock called for a carriage,” or “Holmes shouted various vicious things at Anderson,” you are confusing the reader’s mental image of the situation. You are describing a modern-day crime scene and suddenly putting RDJ’s Holmes there instead of BC. You have BC’s Sherlock falling down the waterfall with Jarred Harris’s Moriarty instead. This is even worse in fic where both “Holmes” and “Sherlock” are used interchangeably. Then your reader doesn’t know which of the two they are meant to imagine. It’s extremely off-putting, especially when you are looking for a fic of a specific universe.
This is confusing not only in terms of fic, but very possibly in terms of requests and meme prompts as well. I mean, how do you tell someone that the Sherlock piece they spent all that time on is nice, but not what you wanted because you clearly wrote “Holmes,” expecting a Victorian period piece? Or that the RDJ art, while pretty, is not the BC you expected when you asked for a sexy Sherlock? Okay, maybe the requesters are also to blame for not being specific as to which universe they wanted. I am willing to admit they might share some blame in these scenarios. But nobody really wants to be that guy, getting fic or art and then saying “this is cool and all, but I really wanted this” either. It just leaves everyone upset and confused and with people not understanding one another.
So to the people that do this: we’re not saying your writing or doing is bad. We’re not saying you can’t do it when we point it out. Obviously you can easily ignore us when we say it and continue writing however the hell you want to write or drawing what you want or whatever. What we are trying to say is that we are confused, and we are not able to fully enjoy what you are doing or saying because you are unintentionally creating this confusion. We are pointing this out because we want you to understand why this bothers us and why making this small change of watching which name you use will make things better for everyone. By all of us doing this, the writers making this small fix in their writing and the readers and prompters and requesters being a little more specific in what they want, we’ll all be less confused, less put off from what could be an excellent fic, and we’ll all, hopefully, be better off.
And yeah, this took waaaay too long to consider and write. I hope it helps someone out there and I didn’t just write this wall for nothing.