The Hudson Diaries: A Study in History
When I first started The Hudson Diaries, I asked myself, “Why doesn’t Mrs. Hudson have a history?” Sherlock certainly has one, along with his older brother Mycroft to back him up, if not to defend him. We also gather more of Watson’s history as the original short stories progress, not only from what Sherlock initially observes, but also through Watson’s ever present medical practice and married life that he consistently leaves behind to solve crimes with Holmes. But Mrs. Hudson, in the middle of all of this, is sadly missed, or worse, ignored.
And so my own adventures began—but I was not the Sherlockian that I would eventually become. That only happened after the research…after delving into Victorian life, social customs and crime.
If I was to tell a budding writer anything—and I still consider myself certainly one of these—I would say, shouting from the rooftops:
“Get into the history! Indulge in it, savor it, LOVE it!”
I am forever grateful to Jay Hartman, who was the first to tell me this same rule, if only in different terms. Historical accuracy was something that I had not thought of, though it was probably always in the back of my mind. I had by this time sent in two drafts and had read all of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, including the novels. But I had only scratched the surface. My real work was about to begin.
I went through that newest draft minutely, realizing that there was so much that I had missed. From that moment I researched everything from guns to poisons to diamonds, everything that could bring in more detail, make it more real, for us in the present day. I found myself fascinated by that which was already a part of Holmes’s world without a word from Conan Doyle—the society, the Victorian Era in which the author and his creations lived, breathed and found themselves. Only then did I become a true Sherlockian. The facts made my fiction more full, the characters more believable, the Victorian life, though far away, more tangible.
For those in the science fiction/fantasy genre, who often create their own worlds and societies, the rule would still apply. “How?” you may ask. Draw from what you know; if you are looking to create a futuristic America, for example, delve into its history. Ask “How could my version of the world realistically come to pass?” “What possibilities/strategies/conflicts can I draw from that are already available?”
This method of research not only enriched the work, but also enlightened me as an author. History is there not for us to repeat, but for us to learn from. Let us as authors drink deeply from the well of historical fact, thereby creating characters and work that are more rich, more vibrant, more alive.
Thank you to author Kara L. Barney for a great guest blog!