The Hidden Talent of Fictional Writers

By Nora Vasconcelos

Anthony_TrollopeFor many years I’ve been fascinated by the enormous ability shown by different authors who are able to create not only believable characters but also very skillful imaginary narrators who come to life on the pages of books, telling readers the story the author has plotted.

These fictional writers narrate the story from their personal point of view, both as a witness and main characters of the story they’re telling, bringing the readers inside the story and making them confidents of their troubles, thoughts, fears and accomplishments.

Of those imaginary authors who have captivated my imagination, here are my three favorites:

The noble efforts of Dr. Watson

"Strand paget" by Sidney Paget (1860-1908) - Strand Magazine. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
“Strand paget” by Sidney Paget (1860-1908) – Strand Magazine. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

It was around 1880 when John H. Watson met Sherlock Holmes for the first time.

Dr. Watson was looking for “less pretentious and less expensive domicile”. At the same time, Sherlock Holmes had found a nice place and was trying to find “someone to go halves with him”. A mutual friend introduced them, and the next day Watson and Holmes went to inspect the rooms at No. 221B, Baker Street.

“They consisted of a couple of comfortable bed-rooms and a single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad windows. So desirable in every way were the apartments, and so moderate did the terms seem when divided between us, that the bargain was concluded upon the spot, and we at once entered into possession. That very evening I moved my things round from the hotel, and on the following morning Sherlock Holmes followed me with several boxes.” (*)

Holmes, a consultant detective, solved problems and puzzles when others had failed. Watson, curious about his flat mate abilities, observed him closely, and as confidence grew between the new friends, he became Sherlock’s partner.

Just a few days later they became flatmates, Watson came up with the following list related to Sherlock Holmes limits:

1. Knowledge of Literature.—Nil.
2. Philosophy.—Nil.
3. Astronomy.—Nil.
4. Politics.—Feeble.
5. Botany.—Variable. Well up in belladonna,
opium, and poisons generally.
Knows nothing of practical gardening.
6. Geology.—Practical, but limited.
Tells at a glance different soils
from each other. After walks has
shown me splashes upon his trousers,
and told me by their colour and
consistence in what part of London
he had received them.
7. Chemistry.—Profound.
8. Anatomy.—Accurate, but unsystematic.
9. Sensational Literature.—Immense. He appears
to know every detail of every horror
perpetrated in the century.
10. Plays the violin well.
11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law. (*)

As the time passed by, the knowledge and care that Dr. Watson developed by watching his friend in action led him to write down his adventures and later on, to become his biographer.

Using the first person, Dr. Watson describes with great detail the cases Holmes solved, presenting him as a skillful and quick thinker. The chronicles written by Watson started with A Study in Scarlet and then they were divided into a series of stories with different headings put together under the title of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

With a big heart and an instinct to find precision, Watson put up with his friend’s insolence, as more than once Holmes fiercely criticized the doctor’s efforts to present him as an extraordinary detective with humane sparks and an avid hunger for the truth.

The endless enthusiasm of Snoopy

Snoopy, the beloved cartoon dog created by Charles M. Schulz, has captivated kids and adults for over 60 years with his charm, contagious happiness and extraordinary imagination, which makes him the same become a war pilot or an elegant gentleman.

In his daily life, Snoopy does what most dogs do, claims his food, sleeps over the roof of his house, enjoys the company of his bird friend Woodstock, and spends time with his owner Charlie Brown and his friends.

It’s often that Snoopy also gets inspired and takes his typewriter out in hopes of being published one day. Throughout his life, this doggy writer has received many letters of rejection with devastating answers such as “Dear contributor, we have received your latest manuscript. Why did you send it to us?..” or “To save time we’re enclosing two rejection slips, one for this story, and one for the next story you send us…”

However, Snoopy has the enthusiasm of all those authors who keep on sending their manuscripts to publishing houses despite continuous rejections. He never loses hope and keeps on trying, even when inspiration is not always on his side.

The funny thing is that, even when Snoopy has never been published, he has a faithful readership which has increased lately thanks to social media where his attempts appear frequently, getting the support of people who are convinced that, at some point, he’ll got it right and we’ll be able to make his dream come true.

In my case, I have to say that I would really love to read Snoopy’s manuscripts, which I think, they should be fun and entertaining.

Mrs. Fletcher’s curiosity

Cabot cove house

Originally created as a character for a TV program, Jessica Fletcher, an English teacher living in the fictional town of Cabot Cove, wrote her first crime novel as a way to overcome the death of her husband. As her book becomes an immediate success, she starts a career as a writer, at the same time that her skills as a keen observer become helpful when solving “real” crimes along with the police force.

“Murder She Wrote” was broadcasted between 1984 and 1996, composed by 12 seasons and 264 episodes in which, Jessica shares with her closest friends, her concerns about deadlines, book tours and writers block.

Throughout the years, she also faces the challenges that come with the evolution of technology, since the moment her old typewriter loses some keys up to the moment when she decides to attend a computing school to adjust her writing routine to the modern times.

As times passes by and she becames worldwide famous, Jessica Fletcher starts teaching at a University in New York, where she shares her experience as a writer with future authors and police officers.

In 1989, Donald Bain and the fictional Jessica Fletcher started publishing a number of books based on the TV program. The book series, which continues until now, has over 40 titles, all of them depicting Mrs. Fletcher the same as her character on TV, with all her friends, her home town, the trips, troubles and endless curiosity that often places her at the wrong place at the wrong time, only to save her seconds later thanks to her quick thinking.

(*) A study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle.

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I'm part of Post A Week 2014

On writers and books. Funny things I’ve read – Conan Doyle.

The story behind the writer.
As an avid reader as I am, I’m always curious about everything, and love to read about how an specific story was created or what the life of a writer I’m reading was like.

It’s so that I’ve come across about some very interesting findings. For example, I’ve learned that Conan Doyle was so tired of his Sherlock Holmes stories that had taken over his other writing, that he decided that Holmes had to die. So, one day he wrote the famous scene in which the detective suffers a deadly fall into an huge water fall.

Somehow, and seen it from the distance, I think it’s understandable, as the Scottish writer, mainly remembered by his Sherlock Holmes stories, is also the author of many other stories non related to the detective, such as The Lost World, a collection of short stories, The Professor Challenger, Tales of Pirates and Blue waters, and a two-volume collection of historical fiction.

However, according to the letters he used to exchange with his mother, it was her how asked him not to stop writing his Sherlock Holmes stories so, the good Conan Doyle had to revive his unique character, which as it’s said, many writers dream of creating a character of such strong presence and charm.

The story also says that at some point, his fellow writer and a Scotsman as well, Robert Louis Stevenson, confirmed by saying that he’d actually recognized some resemblance, that Doyle modeled the famous detective based on one of his teachers, Joseph Bell, while the writer studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh

On the other hand, giving it a lot of thoughts, I’m pretty sure that dear Dr. Watson is a lively image of Conan Doyle, who was a doctor who loved to write, the same as the inseparable companion of Sherlock Holmes.

We shouldn’t forget that Doyle wrote many of his detective stories while he waited for the patients to come to his office.

I’m sure he never imagined the immortal impact that his work was going to have in the history of literature.

As for me, I’m a faithfull reader of his Holmes adventures, of which I just can’t get enough of, but, I’m also pretty enthusiastic about going through the rest of his very ample work, which, I’m sure, I’ll enjoy as well.

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Dear lively characters

Charming characters make us smile like only good friends can do.
Charming characters make us smile like only good friends can do.
I always get amazed when a writer has the immense capacity of developing characters that get alive in our minds.

The way these characters are described and presented in different kind of stories make us feel them real, as we’re able to have a very clear image of them in our minds, so much that little by little they start gaining more and more space in our everyday thoughts.

As the days pass by, we want to know what’s going to happen with them, and how the story’s going to develop for them. In some extraordinary cases, we even rush home to get back to our books and see how things are going for these special characters.

In some cases we even identify with them, and we get attached to them the same as we do with a dear friend.

Then, when the story’s over, we remain close to these characters for a long time, and even forever.

Of course, I have a group of dear characters that I keep in my mind and close to my heart, even when I’ve read some of these books a long time ago.

The very first want that made this kind of impression on me was Peter Rabbit, from the series of books by Beatrix Potter. I first read a Peter Rabbit book when I was a little child, and ever since, this lovely lovely little rabbit has remained as one of my favorite characters ever.

Of course, I’m pretty fond of Sherlock Holmes, that it’s said “is the character that every writer would like to have written”. For that I admire Conan Doyle a lot, however, I have to say that my very very favorite character is Dr. John Watson.

I’m just totally taken by him. Not only because he’s the real image of a loyal friend but also, because in the story, besides being a doctor and Mr. Holmes’ partner, Watson is a writer who really enjoys writing Sherlock Holmes adventures in a very detailed way.

Another character I’ve totally got attached to is Captain James Holland, from the fast-passed suspense novel Pandora’s clock, written by John Nance. In this book, Captain Holland, the pilot of a doomed plane, becomes a true hero in a very humane way, so much that it’s almost possible to see him on the cockpit of the plane saving the day.

And lately, I’ve become pretty fond of the characters of the old TV series Murder, She wrote. Although the characters were created for the series, what I like very much of it is the way every single detail has being taken care of, creating very lively characters that live in an ocean town which, of course doesn’t exist in the real life, but due to the way it was conceive it totally feels like the place you’d like to visit for your next holiday.

Based on this TV series, a number of books keeping the same characters have being written throughout the recent years by Donald Bain, who has being able to keep the same lovely charm of each one of the characters who live in the coastal town of “Cabot Cove”. My favorite one of all of them is Sheriff Metzger, a caring man who looks after the well being of the town and of course, his own friends.

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Extraordinary my dear Watson, truly extraordinary!

Extraordinary my dear Watson.
It was just a few minutes passed the lunch time. The sky was getting dark and the freshness in the air clearly announced that a heavy rain was about the start. Anyways, I was a woman on a mission.
I had been in London just for a few hours, but I couldn’t skipped my one chance to visit the one and only Sherlock Holmes Museum right at 221B Baker Street.
I didn’t take my coat. I didn’t wear my hat. Even more, I didn’t even carry an umbrella.
Then I started walking. From Paddington station to the Regents Park area. It seamed quite easy. I had a map, after all.
Some twenty minutes later… I was lost!
Well, not lost lost. I was simply confused.
I had passed by Baker Street so many times without actually finding the place.
Everything was there, just like the map showed it, the same streets around but no museum at all!
Did I get dissapointed? Yes.
Dissapointed yes, but never discouraged!
The rain came, as expected, and as it should happen, I got all wet.
Crossing Regents Park right in the middle of the storm was a unique adventure. With a beautiful view, though.
Did I quit?
Never!
The following day I went back on my steps.
I was totally determined to find the famous place that houses the memorabilia created from the famous series of short stories written by Conan Doyle!
The enterprise wasn’t easy again. And again, I got my good share of walking that day. No rain, though.
Did I find the place…?
Elementary my dear readers. I did find the place!
Right in front of me there it was! 221B Baker street with its very own fence and a green sign. I was totally amazed!
Once inside, things were like described by Conan Doyle in his Study in Scarlet.
“WE met next day as he had arranged, and inspected the rooms at No. 221B, Baker Street, of which he had spoken at our meeting. They consisted of a couple of comfortable bed-rooms and a single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad windows”.
And then, while visiting the house… I ran into the very own Dr. Watson!
My amousement couldn’t be better!
Wearing a suit and a hat. Dr. Watson greeted the visitors and talked to everyone.
Resting in a living room. Sherlock’s loyal partner, proudly showed everyone all the letters that the detective receives from all over the world. Specially from children. Asking him to solve their problems and concerns. The museum collects them in a binder.
Saddly, after exploring all the rooms, it was time to go. Not without saying good bye to Dr. Watson first! Smiling, he waved good bye.
I smiled back and couldn’t help myself. He wans’t listening any more because I was faraway then, but anyways, I exclaimed: Extraordinary, my dear Watson, truly extraordinary!