The Adventures of John Watson: The Red Window
Rating: uhhh PG-13? There’s language, violence and gore. It seems tame to me.
Genre: Case-fic, Bromance
Word Count: 19,454 (oh my god)
Written for this prompt: When Sherlock deems a case that a prospective client contacts him about beneath him, John (figuring that he’s seen Sherlock investigate enough cases to be able to do some amateur deducing himself) offers to take it on in his stead, hoping that it’ll help make him feel like he’s making a difference again. The client agrees. John investigates the case, and solves it.
So I wrote this whole thing in the past week and I don’t know how. I’m not a very talented writer, and my prose is weird, but I had lots of fun and finishing it makes me happy, even if I don’t have time to polish or revise it much. I would really love it if people read this and told me what they thought, just so I know that all my sweat and tears weren’t for nothing.
So guess who’s finally actually reblogging this piece of beauty and wonder.
asdfhskdajsdaf no seriously it’s amazing everyone should read it, have you read it, are you reading it, why aren’t you reading it, go read it. NOW. It’s an awesome case and it’s actually decently-written and in-character and amazing and John is the BAMFiest of BAMFs ever to have BAMFed and also there is mention of fem!Gregson, do you understand the place that woman holds in my heart. (Seriously though, you don’t understand. It has all of the canon references. All. Of. Them. Except not really that’d be impossible BUT STILL.)
SIG ALSO MAKES BITCHIN ART AND IS ALL-ROUND FABULOUS SO THERE. NOW GO READ THE FIC AND MAKE EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD RIGHT AGAIN.
… “decently-written”? Just “decently”?
Okay, true, that’s a lie, it’s a bit more than ‘decently’ written - I’d probably go so far as to call it well-written. I’ve seen far, far worse (oh god have I seen worse), but to be perfectly honest, it’s no feat of literary and linguistic genius, and that’s really more than fine. Your writing style - at least in The Red Window - is quite simple and realistic, lacking, perhaps, in the poetic excesses that can both make or break a piece of writing in terms of linguistic quality. But I have to say, that the ‘decently’- or ‘well’-written style of The Red Window absolutely suits its subject matter, what with the majority of it dealing with the seemingly-ordinary John Watson. The piece is lightly freckled with John’s insecurities about his intelligence and his ability to solve the case he took up so rashly, and I feel like a refined, poetic, linguistically-challenging flow of prose would have probably been something of an uncomfortable juxtaposition to that narrative.
You said that you’re “not a very talented writer” and that your prose is “weird”, but I disagree. You may not have mastered some fancy techniques of language, but you tell a damn good story in a manner that is engaging and understandable and suits the matter of a case!fic. (I find that fics that focus on more introspective themes and consist of more emotion than plot tend to rely more on poetic or linguistic techniques, but a case!fic requires a more down-to-earth style, and I think that sometimes that distinction is undervalued. If I’m reading a case!fic, I don’t want to be mired in reams of linguistic experimentation and quirks of language. For one thing, fanfiction is often primarily a place for experimentation, and these things can go so horribly wrong. (I should know, I’ve done it myself.) For another, your piece was almost twenty thousand words long - that’s far too long to be showing off your literary prowess with embellishments. (Professional novelists aside, you understand.))
So no, The Red Window is not a linguistic masterpiece - but it is still well-written, more so when taken in concert with the matter of the story.
(Oh my god, can you tell I’ve been doing secondary readings for my English essay this morning? *facepalm*)
Also, you may well be “a hopeless dork with a pronounced stammer and no social skills”, but I don’t see how that affects your fabulosity (fabulousness? Fabulosity). You’re also an absolutely superb artist and a very good writer, and you seem like a wonderful person to boot. So - there. Harrumph.
oh my fucking god.
I am not a writer. I am an artist. That means that, even when I’m writing something, I see everything in my head in vivid detail. When I was writing this, I had an entire episode of Sherlock playing in my head the whole time. (You know that first scene, with John on the bus? How it has its own part even though it’s so short? That’s because that was literally the five minutes of episode that played before the opening titles. Literally.)Because everything is so vivid, it’s very hard to write prose that isn’t overly descriptive and riddled with unnecessary adverbs; it’s hard for me to write things that don’t either read like the obsessive stage directions from A Streetcar Named Desire, or like ACD at his flowery Victorian worst. Therefore, I took great pains to only give what was absolutely necessary in order to understand what was going on (and sometimes a little less; my apologies about the dialogue: I’ve always written dialogue like that and I can’t always tell where a “Sherlock said” is necessary). The style I wanted was “sparse”. In particular I wanted to cultivate something in the spirit of the writing style of Icelandic sagas, which are told by a completely objective third-person narrator, don’t waste time being poetic or descriptive, and always understate things. The drama comes from the violent, emotional events, betrayal and murder and vengeance, not the writing itself. I actually tend to think that that type of writing is of more literary worth than works with “the poetic excesses that can both make or break a piece of writing in terms of linguistic quality”, but that’s a matter of opinion.
Therefore, I’m incredibly flattered that you find my prose “simple and realistic”, since that was exactly what I was going for. I wanted something that was very straightforward; it’s certainly how I think John would want me to narrate his life, had I the opportunity to ask his opinion. In some of the more emotional parts of John’s internal monologue I’m sure I indulged in some fancier writing, but for the most part I had no intentions to create some poetic Victorian masterpiece. Being concise is especially important for someone who, having been an honours-level English student since she was 15, writes more essays than she does fiction and has gotten used to writing in a tortured, overwrought, descriptive fashion in order to make her essays the slightest bit interesting to write. I always end up writing the more interesting papers than my peers, but that kind of language isn’t really something I’d want to use indiscriminately.
So thank you. If I succeeded in writing something that was simple and honest, then I would say it was “well-written”. You might not agree if “poetic prose” means “high literature” to you, but that’s fine. I have actually written somewhat more introspective, poetic fic (apologies for the formatting; that was my first-ever fill), and while it’s easy to look at that and say that’s good writing, it’s also easy for someone else to say it’s just melodramatic.
So, after all that ironically un-concise, un-sparse, flowery crap I just wrote, I just want to tell you that, if you were concerned at all of hurting my feelings, you’ve done anything but. You paid me a very high compliment: that I wrote what I had wanted to write.
AND THEN IT TURNS OUT IT WAS ON PURPOSE. AUGH, I LOVE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS. (Maybe that’s just because I’ve gotten a number of comments saying “Oh, I loved how you did x, it really helped with y” and I respond with a “… Huh. I never noticed that.” I AM SUCH A SELF-CONSCIOUS WRITER, YES INDEEDY.)
Eugh, you are wonderful, lemme just say that. That entire bit about having an episode in your head? That is amazing. It really is. I loved the little intro bit with John on the bus, and looking back on it in realisation of what you intended with it just makes it more awesome.
(I have the opposite problem to you: I can’t tell when a “___ said” isn’t necessary, and tend to have an overabundance of them. XD)
But eugh, seriously, that was a wonderful reply. In the light of the knowledge that the style of writing was intentional, I would definitely re-evaluate my judgement to ‘superbly-written’, because it’s one thing to do it accidentally and quite another to regulate your writing style on purpose. (Maybe I’m just biased because I’m terrible at it, but whatever. The point still stands.)
On the subject of what’s more important to prose, poetic embellishment or sparsity - I think that’s a really, really interesting discussion and would love nothing more than to get you on the phone/in a café to talk/argue about it for hours on end. (Unfortunately - internet, you’re probably on the other side of the world, and I’ve already procrastinated enough on my essay, I should probably stop doing that.) It’s a fascinating subject, and though it more or less comes down to personal preference, I still think it’d make for fascinating discourse. (Discourse? Really, self? Wow, you really are in English mode. *headdesk*)
In the end, though, I think it comes down to the individual text. For comparison, I’m going to take The Red Window and the book I’m meant to be writing an essay about at this moment, The Passion, by Jeanette Winterson. Fandom aside, I would probably say that I hold the same personal opinion of the two pieces - I think they’re fucking amazing, wonderful pieces of prose that both tell good stories and are all round incredible. More than that, I enjoyed them both immensely. One of the things I love about The Red Window is it’s realism, the simplicity of John - and one of the things I love most about The Passion is the complete opposite. It’s chock-full of magic realism, it’s language is circular and pensive and the whole text is very, very poetic. Each style of writing suits its subject matter perfectly. It comes down to the text, and what you did was both wonderful and suitable, anti-climactic as the latter may sound.
And after that little diversion, I should really go and do some work.
TL;DR: SIG IS EVEN MORE FABULOUS THAN I THOUGHT, AKDJSHFASKDFHSA
Sidenote: AUGH, I just read the fic you linked to, AKSDJF;LAKDSJFLDF YOU NEED TO STOP
I AM CRYING
AND RUNNING IN CIRCLES
aaahhhhhhhhh all coherent thought has vanished from my head because sjdsnbfdihrdnfbasddfggnfgn hnmrnrnrnglhl
I really want to continue this discussion with something super deep but I just fucking can’t
and now apparently it’s ‘superbly-written’ and I’m ‘wonderful’ and ’even more fabulous than [you] thought’ and ‘amazing’ and ‘perfect’? WHAT HOW WHY
and my silly little thing is a “fucking amazing, wonderful [piece] of prose that… [tells a] good [story] and [is] all round incredible”?
dude you don’t know how hard it is having all this shit in your head, I mean really. I have like 15 different fics in my head and none of them have coherent plots or anything
This absolutely amazing conversation with you has made me squee and cry and all sorts of things because you are lovely and brilliant and have so many sweet things to say. I feel obligated to write you some more fic after all of this but FUCKING SCHOOL getting in the way of my fandom life. I certainly won’t stop here, though, I promise. I will write more things, someday.
(re:sidenote: Did you like it? I can’t tell if your ‘AUGH’ is one of horror or of AAAAAALLLL THE FEELINGS)
GOOD CRYING? GOOD RUNNING? YES? GOOD. OKAY. 8D
So. So. Let’s see if I can sum myself up properly to try and coherently explain why I have such a high opinion of The Red Window.
I knew from the first that it was good, that much is probably obvious by now. It’s engaging and entertaining and, really, it’s a good story. This is due as much to your own re-telling as it is to ACD’s original story and the characterisations and setting of Sherlock.
On top of this, your particular characterisation is brilliant and very believable. John and Sherlock feel in character, especially in their voices, which, not trying to be derogatory to the rest of the fandom, isn’t done as often as it should be. (Blatant Americanisms and the like aside, one of my most hated traits is when Sherlock is made to speak as if he’s been transplanted straight from 1895. He has a larger vocabulary and is a bit posh, but he’s still a 21st century man with the same kind of mannerisms and turns of phrase as anyone else. You managed to avoid that pitfall quite well.) John is melancholic and BAMF-y, Sherlock is frustrated and picky and intelligent and a bit mad, and it all makes a lot of sense.
The intertwining of the canon is gorgeous, though I suppose that’s a very personal opinion. (I still believe that, no matter what adaptation you like best, it’s always important to at least look at the source material, and incorporating it into your understanding of other interpretations is not only key, but a lot more fun.) Not just the primary case, but the reference to Wisteria Lodge and the inclusion of little things like Gregson and Hopkins were subtle but noticeable, and highly enjoyable.
What has struck me the most after this conversation, though, is the mastery of language that you employed. We’ve both already waxed lyrical on the topic, but I may as well sum up my opinion in saying that the language struck me as suitably simple and free from embellishment - but I at first believed it to be an accident, or due to a lack of poetic or linguistic ability. To learn that it was purposely pared down was to completely revise my view of both the work and the author - discipline with language is, yes, often a greater indication of skill than freedom.
And really, above all, I just really liked and enjoyed it! I generally shy away from fics over a few thousand words because I don’t really have the time or the ability to sustain the emotional interest - but I knew you were pretty cool, so I gave it a look, and when I realised what it was based on I stuck with it. By the time I reached the end (when it was still only partly finished at, what was it, 14 000 words?) I was well and truly hooked, and more than happy to see it to the end. The plot and language flowed and I was never pulled out of that wonderful suspension of a good read. (That I can remember. But let’s be honest, if I can’t remember it, it clearly wasn’t at all significant.)
So yeah. That’s why I love it so much, and that’s why it deserves all the positive adjectives you were quoting back at me. (Also, ALL OF THE BROMANCE ASDFL;KSDJFS I HAVEN’T EVEN MENTIONED THAT YET.)
I feel a bit bad at making you feel obligated to write more, especially if you’ve got an education to look to. School does that, though, doesn’t it? Gets in the way. (I should know. I’m writing this from uni when I should probably be working… Instead I lugged my Complete Holmes over here and have decided to go back to chronologising, having spotted an incongruity with my dating of The Greek Interpreter this morning. I AM SUCH A GOOD STUDENT. D8)
(OH, I LIKED IT. IT WAS MOST DEFINITELY AN ‘ALL OF THE FEELINGS’ AUGH. If I’d been horrified, I probably wouldn’t have put it quite so bluntly…)
No I can’t fucking deal with you and your amazingness anymore
everytime you reblog this with an essay I HAVE A HEART ATTACK
and now what’s this? An essay about my fic? Another one?
THANK YOU! I was worried about the story because, quite frankly, the ACD version is pretty shitty. I mean, the deductions were cool (probably one of the main reasons I picked it, though I don’t think I “picked” it as much as “suddenly found that a modern version of the fic had marched its way into my head and was camping out until I decided to fill that poor person’s prompt”), but the explanation for all the events was, in typical ACD fashion, sensationalist and racist. It’s all “OMG ITALIAN-AMERICAN GANGSTERS” and bullshit he cobbled together from his Valley of Fear leftovers and Treasure Island. I changed the plot significantly, but I was still worried that stray scraps of stupid were still in there. Obviously, the case itself is far, far from the real story, but most of the action is devoted to it and the whole thing would wither and mew pathetically if the case were bad.
I’m afraid I can’t say much for the replication of Sherlock and John’s voices, except that… I’ve always been able to do that. When I was a kid my teachers would say it was easy to tell what book I’d last read, because I always wrote exactly like that last book. I have no idea how it works. Somehow, I’ve just had a knack for picking up different narrative voices. Maybe that explains why I felt like they were telling me what to say rather than the other way around.
Aaaaaaalmost got it there. There’s another canon reference you missed, hon. Just a teensy one. One of Mrs Warren’s first lines. Yes, I do enjoy wasting your time. But yisss you got Wisteria Lodge! I couldn’t resist the cultist cook because what the fuck was ACD doing in that one
The unfortunate thing about writing like that, writing in an intentionally simple manner, is that you have to explain to people what you meant. There’s sort of an unspoken assumption that the only writing that takes any effort is adverb-infested, poetry-smeared Victorian nonsense. While there is certainly excellent fiction out there with very flowery language (Shakespeare oh how I love you and wanted to kill something when that fucking Tennant!Hamlet had my favorite line cut out that is why Branagh will always be king he had all the lines), I’m annoyed that, for example, the aforementioned Icelandic sagas get completely ignored by… everyone except me and my mother. Meanwhile, we’re reading Silver Blaze in English this year. “Why oh why” is a question for the ages.
I AM SO HAPPY THAT MY 20,000 WORD
BEHEMOTH MONSTROSITY BABY GOT YOU ”HOOKED” YOU HAVE NO IDEA. I was getting dizzy by the end at the length and the apparent Herculanean feat I had accomplished in… uh, a week, I think? For the whole thing? It’s actually the longest thing I’ve written in my whole life. In Word it’s about 40 pages long. So I’m really glad that, despite the length, you were still entertained throughout.
Tell me, though. Tell me. Did you like my gratuitous action scene? I am such a sucker for action scenes and suddenly there were thugs and guns and cars in my tame case-fic. I was super worried that, writing so much specific blow-by-blow information with so little embellishment would drag the whole fight scene out. So I need to know.
OH YES THE BROMANCE THAT WAS THE BEST STUFF. I had so much fun writing that shit. I love those two silly dudes so much I can hardly stand it, and writing them together and interacting in their dysfunctional, adorable way was both awesome and nerve-wracking. (My favorite scene was the beans-on-toast scene! For some reason I thought it was kind of funny, but maybe that was just because, well… Sherlock? In that scene? Saying beans on toast is complicated? That was me talking.) I think I piled extra bromance on to compensate for the sheer lack of S/J bromance in this fandom. Whyyyy is there so much slash??? I JUST WANT SOEM BROMANCE ASDFGHHGHJFVJBEBDVHCFJ
Yess school. I’m a senior in high school (you said you’re in ‘uni’; are you British? Do I need to explain the American education system to you?) and I’m still on my first week. Suffice to say, I have a mound of schoolwork and colleges to be thinking about now; it was that knowledge, I think, that spurred me into finishing the fic before it all started up again. I finished it at about 5h30 the day before school started. I want to write more, and I’ve actually been maybe sort of planning out a sequel (…or two?) to this thing, plus at least one short thing, but I don’t think I should start those things anytime soon.
ohhhh ACD and chronology why do you bother; he didn’t
(YAY! FEEELINGS!! What did you like about it? Elucidate, please!)
Of course another essay, I would absolutely be willing to write all of the essays about fanfictions I love, which believe it or not, really quite prominently includes The Red Window (especially now that I’ve re-read bits and pieces of it so much and have done so much thinking about it in order to write aforementioned essays).
Yyeeaahh… ACD… gives me conflicted feelings. Especially when he exposes a) raging racism, and b) how very few fucks he gives. (Which is precisely why we have fanfic and adaptations because the world he built was, at its worst, neither cohesive nor particularly three-dimensional, and oh my god, you have no idea how much I want time to stop for about a decade or so so I can just write a fucking book about all this asdlkfjsdlf) But I feel like you re-told the story much more effectively (and less stupidly, and less offensively…). Was that intentional lampshading, then, with John’s thought about feeling “a little racist” for briefly concentrating on the Indian background?
Oh my god, I know how you feel. Not to the same extent, but still. It’s worse when I’m writing, but it comes out in speech as well - no one wants to talk to me if I’ve lately been immersed in a Sherlock Holmes or Shakespeare project, because I’ll just keep devolving into archaisms. It usually helps with fanfic though: if I can’t quite get the right feel for Watson’s tone, for example, I just read a short story or two and it’s all a lot easier.
AUGH OH GOD I AM A FAILURE. *descends into hysterics* I went back and checked - HUXTABLE MISSING STUDENT ASD;KFJSADF YOU ARE PERFECT - and am ashamed to say that my first thought was “Three Students” for whatever incomprehensible reason. I had a hunch, but had to check for ‘Huxtable’ anyway - Priory School! asdf;lkj I am so bad at remembering all of the names and now I feel like a failure of a Holmesian, whyyy *forever sobbing in shame*
But yes, that is a very good question: what the fuck was ACD doing. I just - what? *facepalm*
That’s very true, and I’m afraid to say that I’ve been a culprit in just such a problem. *ashaaamed* Personally though, I’d be okay with studying Silver Blaze, just saying. Only because it would give me an actual, legitimate excuse to obsess about Holmes daily and incorporate the canon into my studies. *sigh* I did manage to worm my way into writing about Charles Augustus Milverton in English last year, though, that was pretty awesome. (Hnnngg, I love Milverton so fucking much alskdjlasfs GATFAT THIS IS A VERY UNSUBTLE HINT FOR SERIES THREE, JUST SAYING)
A week?! *shoots self* Jesus, that’s impressive. The longest thing I’ve ever written was… 17 000 words (or thereabouts), and it took me, oh - a few months or so? But yes, I was very much entertained throughout your 20 000 words of excellence.
Yes, I very much liked your gratuitous action scene. I mean, I can’t speak for everyone else, but I certainly enjoyed it. Very, very much. 8D (So. Much. BAMF-ery. ad;kfjdkfjdslkfsadf Jaaaawwwwn)
Oh man, this could be a dangerous conversation. See, I’m a rabid Holmes/Watson fan, but I’m also a rabid believer in asexual!Holmes, so I only ship them romantically. Maybe I’m just projecting, but I like to think they could make it work, and I always feel a little uncomfortable around people who basically insist that Holmes and Watson (and all variations thereof, including Sherlock and John, of course) are fucking like rabbits any time they’re not ‘on-screen’, so to speak. It just seems shallow, and sometimes I find myself much preferring bromance fics, because they have a higher tendency to get the importance of the relationship right without… degrading it, I suppose, to something purely sexual. (I mean, it’s hot, sure, but - can you maybe just - not - make everything about the sex? *headdesk*)
In any case, whether it’s platonic, romantic or otherwise, I adore the Holmes/Watson relationship and how really fucking important it is. They’re stupidly adorable and dysfunctional, as you said, but they’re also more or less the most important people in each others’ lives, y’know? I really hate adaptations that downplay the weird, slightly co-dependant (wherein by ‘slightly’ I mean ‘very’) thing they’ve got going, no matter how you interpret it.
So yeah. Feel free to hate me for that opinion if you so desire, I’ll understand.
(Also yes, so much love for the beans on toast scene. You are simply fabulous, really. (And if you really can’t cook, I would be totally willing to come over and cook for you. Seriously, I love cooking. I’m no chef, but I can whip up a few meals easy as pie. Or easier, in fact, because pie involves pastry and pastry is hard. D:))
AHAHAHA, oh god, I wish I were British! No, I’m Australian, actually. Good old Sydneysider. I finished high school last year and am currently a bit over halfway through my first year of uni. I have a simple enough understanding of the American education system, I suppose, but do clarify for me - when you say you’re a ‘senior’ in high school, does that mean you’re in your final year? Because we have the same term, but it applies to the final two years of high school, and I think there’s a lot less… disparity between ‘junior’ and ‘senior’ over here.
But yeah, I absolutely know how you feel, about trying to get fics done before school goes back and you’ve got no time for anything anymore. (Oh god, I remember my fic-posting debacle of March this year - I left it just a tad too late, so I was posting the final parts of a long fic during my first week. Stressful, but in the end, it was half of what got me through the overall confusion of starting out, so… I guess it all worked out?)
Also, may I just say, I am totally okay with sequel ideas. Just sayin. No pressure or anything. But yeah. That’d be pretty cool, if you found the time. (8DD)
Do you… actually want an answer to why I’m bothering with the chronology? Because it could get… lengthy. (But yeah, seriously ACD, what the fuck man. What. The. Fuck. *headdesking forever*)
(AKDJFDSAF okay let’s try and do this thang. I dunno, I enjoyed the way it was written, that sort of emotional, train-of-thought style, I guess. But I think it was more the subject matter that caught my attention. Sherlock’s musing about how he can’t do what John can, his trying to emulate him, and he feels so ashamed - but then the pride in John’s eye, oh god, these two need to stop being so bloody perfect it just isn’t fair. a;skdjff Also just - Holst. Holst. asd;kfjasf I love the Planets suite so fucking much, and then it was in The Great Game and I freaked out, and then is was a sort of recurring motif-cum-title inspiration (except the title’s more than that, but ANYWAY) in that little fic… Also more epic BAMF!John not actually being helpless and breaking a man’s neck and alksdjf;ladksfasfa all of the feelings)
Oh also - ALSO - as I was working on the canon today, I came across this in The Greek Interpreter:
“Mr Melas, however, still lived, … [and] I had the satisfaction of seeing him open his eyes, and of knowing that my hand had drawn him back from that dark valley in which all paths meet.”
I read that and was all ‘Hey, I’ve read something like that recently… Something about John in a fic… about saving Sherlock’s life being scary because he might die, but thrilling because he might save him? God, that was awesome, what was that from?’
Yeah. I was on the bus home this evening when I figured it out.
“The moment last May when he’d found Sherlock bleeding and suffocating under a pile of rubbish in a skip had been the most terrifying and thrilling of his life.
Terrifying because it was likely that Sherlock would die, and thrilling because there was a chance he wouldn’t.”
ASDKJFASD;KFJSADF YOU NEED TO STOP
(PS: You really need to stop calling me flawless, I’ll let it get to my head and also it’s not true okay. You’re the one with the epic skills in both pictures and letters (and pure awesome).)