As I re-read the Canon, I'm coming up with writing prompts for my friends at FF.net. This is the ongoing list of them - feel free to take and use as you please.
Writing Prompt #1
We all know that Watson's middle name starts with H, from the very first line of STUD (I shan't get into the whole Hamish thing in this, as it's not the purpose of the prompt). But...what was Sherlock Holmes's middle name?
Your challenge today - choose a middle name for Mr. Sherlock Holmes. You must give a reason in your ficlet for the choosing of that particular name.
Writing Prompt #2
From the second page of STUD: 'Young Stamford'. I've always wanted to see him meet up with H&W at some point, and see his reaction to what he brought together.
Your challenge today - A reunion between Stamford and the famous duo. Any time in their acquaintance, any location, and any genre.
Writing Prompt #3
From the fourth page of STUD, I quote: 'Holmes is a little too scientific for my tastes - it approaches to coldbloodedness. I could imagine his giving a friend a little pinch of the latest vegetable alkaloid, not out of malevolence, you understand, but simply out of a spirit of inquiry in order to have an accurate idea of the effects. To do him justice, I think that he would take it himself with the same readiness.'
Your challenge today - Use your imagination - need I elaborate?
Writing Prompt #4
From the fourth page of STUD - whatever happened to that 'infallible test for bloodstains', the 'reagent that is precipitated by haemoglobin and nothing else'?
Your challenge today - Use the 'Sherlock Holmes blood test' in some way. Explain why we never hear of it again, use it for the conclusion of a crime, or whatever you wish.
Writing Prompt #5
From the first chapter of STUD, I quote: I laughed at this cross-examination. "I keep a bull pup," I said, "and I object to rows because my nerves are shaken, and I get up at all sorts of ungodly hours, and I am extremely lazy. I have another set of vices when I'm well, but those are the principal ones at present."
Your challenge today - What exactly was that other set of vices?
Writing Prompt #6
From the second chapter of STUD, that infamous list of Holmes's limits: Knowledge of botany: variable...knows nothing of practical gardening.
Your challenge today - How exactly did Watson find out Holmes knew nothing of practical gardening? (I see him murdering one of Mrs. Hudson's houseplants, personally, but use your own imagination.)
Writing Prompt #7
From the second chapter of STUD, Holmes tells Watson "I know well that I have it in me to make my name famous." But after the Return (EMPT and NORW) for example, Holmes tells Lestrade that "the work is its own reward" and that he wants his name kept completely out of the matter. I already know what the BBC puts forth as the theory for said change, but...
Your challenge today (and it's a bit more difficult, as it involves either pyschology or humour) - explain this change of mindset pre-and-post-Return. Give any reason you wish, but be convincing.
Writing Prompt #8
As per a request, a prompt that involves no deep psychology (I was going to ask you to explain why exactly Holmes asked Watson along on the Drebber murder, but I'll save that for tomorrow).
Your challenge today - Use this phrase somehow, picked at random from the third chapter of STUD (from Lestrade's discussion of the corpse in the Brixton Road): "...and I am no chicken." :)
Writing Prompt #9
Your challenge today - Why exactly did Sherlock Holmes ask the Doctor to accompany him on the Drebber murder, other than the 'If you've nothing better to do' we get from STUD?
Writing Prompt #10
Your challenge today - From the fifth chapter of STUD, the old woman who came for the ring...did Holmes ever encounter him again and how?
Writing Prompt #11
Your challenge today - Chapter 6 of STUD is memorable for the debut of the Baker Street Irregulars. How, where, when, why did Holmes first meet these urchins and have them start working for him?
Writing Prompt #12
From Chapter 7, you remember Holmes saying "Now would you mind going down and fetching that poor little devil of a terrier which has been bad so long, and which the lady wanted you to put out of its pain yesterday..."?
Your challenge today - Why didn't Watson put it out of its misery when Mrs. Hudson asked him to? Soft-heartedness, or something else?
Writing Prompt #13
From Chapter 1 of SIGN, I quote: "My practice has extended recently to the Continent," said Holmes after a while, filling up his old brier-root pipe. "I was consulted last week by Francois le Villard, who, as you probably know, has come rather to the front lately in the French detective service."
Your challenge today - Have Holmes and Le Villard meet, either for the first time or at a different time; I've always wanted to see Holmes meet something of a rival other than the usual Dupin and so on.
Writing Prompt #14
From Chapter 1 of SIGN, the infamous watch bit and the introduction of the Doctor's late brother.
Your challenge today - Why didn't Holmes find out about it before (you'll have to address the lack of mourning clothes issue here) and what was his reaction to finding out why Watson didn't tell him?
Writing Prompt #15
Today, you have a choice. Take one of these two passages, from Chapter 3 of SIGN:
Miss Morstan's demeanour was as resolute and collected as ever. I endeavoured to cheer and amuse her by reminiscences of my adventures in Afghanistan; but, to tell the truth, I was myself so excited at our situation and so curious as to our destination that my stories were slightly involved. To this day she declares that I told her one moving anecdote as to
how a musket looked into my tent at the dead of night, and how I fired a double-barrelled tiger cub at it.
I trust that he (Sholto) may not remember any of the answers which I gave him that night. Holmes declares that he overheard me caution him against the great danger of taking more than two drops of castor-oil, while I recommended strychnine in large doses as a sedative.
Your challenge today - Take one of those passages and run with its infinite fun possibilities.
Writing Prompt #16
From Chapter 4 of SIGN, this sentence struck me: "...there is nothing more unaesthetic than a policeman." -Thaddeus Sholto
Your challenge today - Use that sentence in any form you wish, like you did the chicken one.
Writing Prompt #17
From Chapter 5 of SIGN, I quote: "Oh, yes you do, McMurdo," cried Sherlock Holmes genially. "I don't think you can have forgotten me. Don't you remember that amateur who fought three rounds with you at Alison's rooms on the night of your benefit four years back?"
"Not Mr. Sherlock Holmes!" roared the prize-fighter. "God's truth! how could I have mistook you? If instead o' standin' there so quiet you had just stepped up and given me that cross-hit of yours under the jaw, I'd ha' known you without a question. Ah, you're one that has wasted your gifts, you have! You might have aimed high, if you had joined the fancy."
Your challenge today - Four years previously would have been 1883 or 1884...early days. Was Watson present at the gathering and if so, was that the first time he'd seen Holmes boxing seriously? What was his reaction?
Writing Prompt #18
From Chapter 5 of SIGN, I quote (Watson regarding Bartholomew Sholto's grounds): "It looks as though all the moles in England had been let loose in it. I have seen something of the sort on the side of a hill near Ballarat, where the prospectors had been at work."
"And from the same cause," said Holmes.
Yet another of Doyle's interesting discrepancies...in BOSC, which was set post-marriage, the word Ballarat is mentioned as a major connection in the case...and yet we hear no more about the fact that Watson obviously had been there. Holmes in SIGN is not surprised to hear this; obviously he knows Watson was in Australia at some point, but that is never brought up in BOSC.
Your challenge today - Address this plot hole however you please.
Writing Prompt #19
Chapter 6 of SIGN is notable for the introduction of dear Toby...who surprisingly we never hear from again, despite his popularity in fanon.
Your challenge today - You may choose one of two today: Either describe when and how Holmes first met the interesting character Sherman and so met Toby, or tell us why we never hear of Toby again (without having the dear fellow run over by a cab or something, if you want me to read it).
Writing Prompt #20
An interesting exchange in Chapter 7 of SIGN:
(Holmes) "You have not a pistol, have you?"
"I have my stick."
"It is just possible that we may need something of the sort if we get to their lair. Jonathan I shall leave to you, but if the other turns nasty I shall shoot him dead."
He took out his revolver as he spoke, and, having loaded two of the chambers, he put it back into the right-hand pocket of his jacket.
Interesting for several reasons - one, why does Holmes carry his bullets separate from his gun? (Sorry, I keep seeing Barney Fife flashbacks here, lol) And why only load two of the chambers?
Second, we always talk of Watson being the better shot, which is certainly possible. But if you think about it, Holmes could not have been bad himself if he was able to make the initials V.R. on the wall of the sitting room. Why do we rarely hear of Holmes's shooting anything in the Canon, when from this exchange he was obviously more than capable and certainly prepared to?
Your challenge today - Obviously, each of these ideas would take a different mood, humorous or potentially otherwise. Your choice.
Writing Prompt #21
From chapter 6 of STUD, Holmes makes an interesting observation about Small's trail disappearing:
"What the deuce is the matter with the dog?" growled Holmes."They surely would not take a cab, or go off in a balloon."
He says this as if the idea of a balloon came as quickly to his mind as a cab did, and Watson does not seem a bit surprised by his choice of transportation...
Your challenge today - Holmes + Watson + hot-air-balloon = you decide.
Writing Prompt #22
From chapter 8 of SIGN, I quote:
(Holmes) "Look here, Watson; you look regularly done. Lie down there on the sofa and see if I can put you to sleep."
He took up his violin from the corner, and as I stretched myself out he began to play some low, dreamy, melodious air -- his own, no doubt, for he had a remarkable gift for improvisation.
We joke fanonically about Holmes's horrible violin solos, but obviously the man was not half bad. I'm curious as to why we don't hear much of his actual improvisation, Canon or otherwise - being a musician myself I can attest that improvising is no easy feat; it takes a deal of skill on any instrument.
Your challenge today - Bring to light something about that neglected aspect of Holmes's musical abilities.
Writing Prompt #23
From chapter 9 of SIGN, I quote (from where Watson is waiting for Holmes to return with news about the launch:
Could there be, I wondered, some radical flaw in my companion's reasoning? Might he not be suffering from some huge self-deception? Was it not possible that his nimble and speculative mind had built up this wild theory upon faulty premises? I had never known him to be wrong, and yet the keenest reasoner may occasionally be deceived.
Your challenge today - 1887 or '88, and Watson had never known him to be wrong? Poetic license in stretching the truth for story's sake, or had Holmes really never been proven wrong on anything before? What would Watson's reaction have been the first time Holmes was proven wrong?
Writing Prompt #24
From chapter 9 of SIGN, when Holmes breaks out of his old man's garb into the voice of Sherlock Holmes (speaking to Watson and Jones): "...Here he is - wig, whiskers, eyebrows, and all. I thought my disguise was pretty good, but I hardly expected it would stand the test."
Does that mean that, in times past, he used Watson as a test to see if he could see through his disguises? It makes logical sense...
Your challenge today - Use that idea in some form or fashion.
Writing Prompt #24
From chapter 9 of SIGN, after the disguise, Holmes says: "I have been working in that getup all day," said he, lighting a cigar. "You see, a good many of the criminal classes begin to know me - especially since our friend here took to publishing some of my cases..." (bold letter mine)
There's just one tiny problem with that statement - this is 1887 or 88, and the Strand stories were not begun to see print until 1891. As of SIGN, the only publication we're aware of is that of STUD. Another Doyle error, or are there still accounts out there floating around that no one has seen yet?
Your challenge today - Did Watson write other stories, and if so, where are they? Run with that idea in some direction.