Evolving Ideas: 5 Minute Sherlock Expanding
By this point, you’ve seen how Sherman started, as a short-story character meant to be ridiculous and fun, and we’ve grown that core concept into something more capable of sustaining actual plot. But a book is not simply about its protagonist(s). Even when the story isn’t an ensemble, you need people to fill it out. Background, allies, enemies, randos, to say nothing of the world itself. What are the rules, when is this all occurring, how bizarre is someone like Sherman in this universe’s scheme of things? For the final entry in our 5-Minute Sherlock examination, let’s talk about expanding the world and the story we’re telling in it.
This might never end up on the page, yet it’s something that has to be determined at the top. When is this happening, where is it happening, and is it happening in a world similar to ours? That’s just for setting, mind you, then there’s the nitty gritty of deep-dive details, which can really occupy some mental space.
For Sherman, I wanted to keep things simple. World that is close to ours, but with enough wiggle room for his condition to be considered possible. Modern times, modern tech, yet with a slight twist. While it isn’t heavily called out, a few characters note having heard about/seen incredible things in their lives, hinting that this world can get a little more extraordinary than ours. Not to an extreme or necessarily noticeable degree, but it set the tone for why Sherman didn’t cause disbelief, as well as left the door open to fun options down the road.
Drilling down slightly, I knew I wanted to center Sherman at the periphery of an intelligence organization. Vital enough to be cared for, thus explaining their sweet digs and access to cool toys, but not so useful that they’d actually want to bring him into that world. Connected without being bound felt right for the role he was filling, especially with Watson to act as liaison.
Admittedly, you haven’t gotten to meet a lot of the series regulars yet. Since the first book functioned as an origin story, I didn’t try to overload it with world-building for Sherman’s final destination, meaning there will be a lot more to talk about on this after Book #2.
For the first book, I took advantage of the speedy, fleeting nature to do some world-building on Watson. Lining up a parade of attackers and assassins was a fun concept to show off his various skill sets, as well as their limits, by pitting him against different tactics. It was also a peek into that secret-agent world, allowing us to know what he was walking away from.
Watson’s agency, and the people who are seen in it (Gwendolyn and Gregson) was built very light by intent. The more details you try to give on those sorts of organizations, the more the seams can show. Keeping them shadowy and untethered to the real world’s systems lets readers know upfront that this isn’t one of those spy books that strives for accuracy and realism. Although if they didn’t pick that up after the first Sherman scene, they might need to brush up on their own detective skills.
Lastly came the creating the antagonists who would serve as the various threats. These were built almost like challenges in a tabletop game, opponents designed to test different aspects of the characters skills and personalities. It isn’t an accident that their first challenger also gives Watson a way to demonstrate the “professional courtesy” rule. The biggest exceptions were Tom and Jenny, who got more development as they stayed on the pairs’ tail. That meant they needed to be developed enough to keep watching, and honestly their name is one of my favorite jokes of the whole novel.
Here I simply mean the core problem that the series arc is seeking to solve. What is the issue that motivates these books? At first, it was going to be a search for a cure. But once Sherman’s condition became drug-induced, it opened up new possibilities. Biggest was that he could potentially not be the only one. And of course, the drug had to come from somewhere. While it could have been hand-waved away as a botched experiment that was impossible to reproduce, that seemed like a lot of narrative potential to just toss away.
Ultimately, the drug itself slowly evolved into the main threat. A dangerous new leap in bio-tech with a horrific death toll that paled in comparison to what happened when it worked, creating unhinged pseudo-geniuses. That’s plenty to be afraid of, especially when Sherman is the best-case scenario you have on your side. Of course, that includes all threats associated with the drug, including those who want it, others who’ve been affected by it, and obviously, the drug’s creator. It allows for a nice constant background danger we can never truly forget about, because Sherman himself is a living reminder.
There’s more to talk about here, however since we’re discussing the long-term arc of the series, I really can’t go deeper without getting into spoilers, so that will have to wait for a sequel blog a few books down the road.
One of the strangest parts of this first book’s formats was that it doesn’t really match anything that came before, and likely won’t line up with the entries that come after. A mystery tends to be contained by its nature, limiting the variables to construct a “who-dunnit” scenario. Some Sherman books will certainly follow that method, however for this first one it just didn’t feel right.
I wanted the first book to be a reflection of Sherman himself, constantly moving with spurts of intermittent chaos. Not to mention, a rotating cast of new threats are helped along by shifting geography. In the end, a road trip just felt like the right setting for these two to start off. Keeping them on their own, with only each other for company, was part of forging that friendship that will be so vital to the story as a whole. Admittedly, a strange choice, but if I wasn’t here to make strange choices then I doubt I’d have ever found my way to Sherman in the first place.
Thanks for joining me on this examination of how 5-Minute Sherlock went from blog entry to audiobook. It was amazing getting to adapt Sherman, and I’ve been wowed at the positive reaction. Fingers crossed there will be many mysteries to solve on the roads ahead.