For a few years now I have had the grand idea for a flashy novel of high Victorian fiction that occurs in a twisty world of magic and gaslights. This is not remotely original, but I want to write it anyway, because I am really not that great a novelist, you see.
I don’t believe that just because a genre may employ lots of tropes and conventions that they must every one of them be defied for the resulting work to be original and fun. And I sort of really like Dracula by Bram Stoker, the original incarnation, and there is part of me that likes Vanity Fair and even Tess of the D’Ubervilles, so I guess there really never was any hope for me. I began to bang out a plot outline in a long, long summary of the book. This was essentially because I was more enthusiastic about the idea than I was about actually writing the thing, which I planned to write in florid, overwrought 19th-century prose, you see.
It was in that vein of thought that I gave a little life to St. John Blackdale, my brooding half-fey detective. I wanted a man with the piercing intellect of Holmes, but with more to him. We don’t know very much about Sherlock Holmes, and that’s by design. And, I suspect, it’s why Doyle hated writing him. Blackdale is a genius jerk with a conscience and, I eventually decided, a well-developed social outlook.
Ugh, writing a whole novel about him, though, and with no promise it will ever net me a dime for my trouble, or even a “Like” on Facebook…
Here is the thing: I am still going to write that novel. I really want to do it. But as I despaired of ever getting such a thing published, I had a bit of an epiphany, as I was preparing to leave for Colombia to escape journalism – Why not bang out some clever short stories set in the same world, starring our dapper detective? It would give people, paradoxically, a whole bunch more to chew on than the novel would, because each story could introduce another aspect of my expansive world and tell another little detail about my dapper, troubled detective.
I knew I was nailing the character right when my brother told me he enjoyed “what a misanthropic prick Blackdale is.” Just like that, I was on my way to writing the first three stories I have envisioned for the character, and gone a mile and a half in refining the voice I plan to use for the series and eventually, the novel.
You can check out my first story, The Mated Violin, complete with art, and let me know what you think of it, and if you want to see more. At the very least, it’s encouraged me to try to write more about my ideas.