How to Write a Sherlock Holmes : Solve the Case Scene


Quick Overview of Sherlock:

Appearance: Tall, thin man with dark hair and piercing gray eyes, with a hawk-like nose and long nervous fingers.

Mentally: Considered one of the most brilliant minds in the world and has been sought after by some of the most respectable houses in the world. When he comes across a period of stagnation of activity, he uses the vial seven percent solution of cocaine. He has spent some time with the Head Llama and has some spiritual sense.

Environmentally: He prefers an atmosphere of thick pipe smoke when he thinks about a case. It can get so thick that he cannot see four feet in front of him.

Personal life: He has a brother named Mycroft Holmes. His brother shares his astute observation powers but he doesn’t use them to stop crime. He is a sort of bookkeeper for the British government. Sherlock Holmes has a low opinion of women, thinking that a woman cannot be as crafty and cunning as a man. That is until he met Irene Adler. She completely took him by surprise.

He has even been known to propose marriage to a housekeeper in order to get information on a suspect/criminal. He had a french grandmother that was briefly mentioned in one of the cases. Sherlock doesn’t have any other job besides a consulting detective, he doesn’t need one because he has enough money to reside in a flat on Baker St. He is addicted to cocaine and he plays a violin at any given time of the day or night.

Part One

  1. How much time does the character have and how old is the case?

»A. When was this case first introduced? How important is it? There are also “Human factors” that investigative supervisors take into consideration:

  • The crime is of an ‘infamous’ nature
  • The crime offends the sensibilities of the community
  • The crime involves a political ‘hot button’ issue
  • The victim is defenseless (child, senior citizen, mentally or physically challenged)
  • I. It can be an old case or a new one. Very few cases are ever “closed” until they have either been “Cleared by Arrest”. “Exceptionally Cleared” or the statute of limitations has run out. Why was the detective assigned to case now? What does the body or crime scene look like?
    II. Who or what is waiting on the case to be solved? How do they have an input on how it gets done? Does anyone care besides the friends and family? Maybe the news 

    Suggest YOUR Scene Idea


    »B. Is your detective working alone? How much skill do they have in the trade and do they have any tips, tricks or quirks that will stand out to the reader??

    I. How long has the detective been a detective? Think of Monk (the show). He has a quirk of being too clean yet he notices the tiniest details and is great at his job. He has been a detective for years and only works with one partner but could solve cases alone. How about your detective? 
    II. What items do they have and how can it help the case out? Could be anything from a new computer to a new way of finding evidence in a dead body.

    III. Sherlock Holmes has no love life. His main love is of solving crimes and figuring out all the elements involved. Every time he gets a case, he would become excited and energetic. Much like a man in love, except his love is of the chase of the criminal.


    IV. Holmes is formidable at the Japanese form of wrestling, fencing and boxing expert. He is quite the actor and has been known to fool criminals, police, Mrs. Hudson and even Dr. Watson. He WILL NOT try to learn anything that doesn’t pertain to his line of work.

    »C. How much time do they have to solve the mystery and what’s at stake? Who is counting on them??

    I. Is a reputation of a victim, the detective or even the president at stake? Can the decaying body be the motivation to rush the case? Was this case put before another case because it’s more important? Is it a loved one? Are they doing their job pro-bono?  
    II. How many people are counting on them and who is counting on them to solve the case? What happens if they don’t? What happens if they don’t solve the case correctly? Is there a temptation to sabotage the case? How do they maintain their integrity and their promise? To what lengths do they go to keep their sanity, especially if the case is very heinous?


    Part Two

      1. Be careful of the policies and regulations when your detective goes searching. They have to abide by the rules to keep their job.(Sherlock Holmes solved murder cases but you can combine the following to add a more intense storyline. Such as someone being murdered and their dog kidnapped or jewlery missing.)

    »A. If it’s a murder case….

    I. Study all the crime scene evidence, whichever direction they may point. 
    II. Go through list of suspects and rule out each one by alibi (and whether the alibi holds up). That would rule out opportunity.

    III. Look for the trinity: motive, means, opportunity (time/location). Note: There is no statute of limitations on murder, so a murder case can be investigated for as long as it takes to catch the killer, or the investigators run out of leads (potential sources of information) to investigate. If there are no longer any leads then the case is considered “cold” and the information on it is stored until new leads found. Some cases can stay cold for many years and then new information will be found that revives or even solves the case. 

    Suggest YOUR Scene Idea


    »B.If it’s a kidnap or assault case

    I. This will vary depending on the facts of the case. The definition of harassment will also vary. The physical kind is defined as offensive contact such as pushing , inappropriate grabbing. The other harassment is electronic, mostly by excessive unwanted calling, video or texting.

    Typically the detective/police will call the accused last to find out if the elements of the case fit the criminal statute. Then gather the evidence, photographs, witness statements, or copies of phone records. They would use witness testimony or surveillance tape if available in an assault case. Once items collected, it makes it difficult for the accused to lie and makes the questions more appropriate to the case.

    Most of the time they wrap these up in one day. In some cases it may take a few days, up to two weeks to get phone records.  
    II.  An assault charge is a serious crime. It will take as long as necessary to assure the Investigating Officer that he/she has sufficient evidence to have a warrant issued for the arrest of the person involved. If, by chance, they cannot gather evidence needed, the case would be closed.

    When, and if, the arrest is made, the accused is taken for an Arraignment before the Court where this person could possibly allowed to post bail. If the bail is too high or the case is very serious, no bail would be allowed and the suspect would remain in jail awaiting trial.


    »C. If it’s stolen property or a lead on an attempted (not yet accomplished) crime…?

    I.  After a police report is filed for theft, the police will investigate the claims. If the evidence is substantial, the criminal(s) are arrested, and the district attorney then reviews the evidence to decide whether or not to file charges. However, most departments don’t have the resources (unless it is one of their own that is the victim) to investigate individual grand theft claims  
    II. The statute of limitations varies according to laws of the township, city, county, municipality, district, state, and/or country where the police report was filed. If a police report has been filed for grand theft, the statute of limitations is usually three to five years. However, in the case of stolen art the statute can be decades. If the criminal(s) are caught selling the stolen goods after the statute of limitations has passed, then the statute does not apply and they will be prosecuted.

    III. Most property crimes are solved by detectives watching trends. Where are the crimes being committed, wen are the crimes happening, what is being taken, where is the stolen stuff showing up, what methods are being used to steal, are there any criminals on record who use these methods, etc.

    Once you can find the pattern you can find the offenders. It does take a lot of time and patience. Sometimes we can shorten the process by an innovative sting operation. But those are expensive, difficult to set up, and even harder to run.



    Part Three

      1. Spread some red herrings and give the reader a chance to solve/figure out what the main character may have missed.

    »A. Who looks guilty but isn’t? Is the character led through a different path? How do they use their tricks to find their way back to the correct path?

    I. You could write a scene about how the criminal does certain activities and the detective is unaware of the suspicion but the reader can be. Almost like the audience is yelling at a television set to “get out while you can” to the detective.

    II. Sprinkle a few misguided directions in your scene. Your detective thinks one thing but it happens to be another thing completely. The reader can be in the dark as well. How do these red herrings affect the plot and can they be used to guide the detective to the appropriate solution? Ex: Let’s say the detective has gotten an anonymous lead that the suspect is a bus driver. So the detective stakes out at a bus stop and watches for anyone that looks dangerous. Well, the lead was false and the detective finds out he/she wasted a huge chunk of their time. But instead of walking away, they direct their attention to the passengers who board the buses and discovers a man who fits the description of the person of interest. The detective just used misdirection to their benefit.  

    Suggest YOUR Scene Idea


    »B. What’s obvious to the reader but not to the detective? What must the character do to see what the reader sees? Don’t let it be the criminal just yet.

    I. You can use certain words or description to highlight a certain place or character. For example, the detective can walk into an empty building not thinking much of it. But using the word ominous or hauntingly silent would make the building sound dangerous or threatening.


    II. How has the detective figured out what should have been obvious in the beginning? Do they finally question the right people or connect the dots of photos that they found weeks ago in an abandoned warehouse?

    BONUS: Here are additional clues the reader may know that the detective does not. You can write them in your scene or story however you see fit!

  • Witnesses to the crime
  • Knowledge of the suspect’s name
  • Knowledge of where the suspect can be located
  • Description of suspect
  • Identification of suspect
  • Property with traceable, identifiable characteristics, marks or numbers
  • Existence of a significant method of operation
  • Presence of significant physical evidence
  • Description of the suspect’s vehicle
  • Positive results from a crime scene evidence search



    »C. Reveal a thought, opinion or memory the detective has in order to push the crime solving forward. How do they finally see what the reader sees…and then some??

    I. Maybe they had a similar case or maybe they remembered what their great grandpa said about boats and that helps solve the case. What if the detective is very determined and strong-minded that he doesn’t listen to anyone when his colleagues tell him to stop when it seems like no hope is left. Because of his persistence he stumbles across an old file or an old case that has the same incidence as the current one he/she is working on. Maybe a file from 1972 and the murderer just started killing again in 2017.  
    II. Don’t forget opinions. Let’s say the detective has a stereotype or strong dislike for people who wear certain hats or shoes. It could be for a number of reasons. Their dislike can make him/her pay extra attention to the person wearing them. And perhaps the person turns out to be the criminal or an accomplice. An opinion can lead to a judgment which can lead to a discovery. OR, it could lead to a problem. The detective could overstep his intuition and take someone in to question based on a bad hunch. There will be consequences if that happened.


    Part Four

      1. Have a drawback, a dilemma. Once your detective thinks he/she has it all figured out, take it from them. Give another twist to the scene.

    »A.Have the detective get trapped or lose a partner. Something that is temporary.

    I. What location are they in and how is the weather like? Where are they trapped? It can be physically or mentally. Such as a mental block. Physically they can be stuck in a building or a makeshift prison or trap. It could be from the criminal, a random person or the detective himself. If they set up a trap to catch the criminal but ended up catching themselves.

    II. Throw in some arguments between the detective and someone. What are they arguing about? Does the argument lead them to a discovery? Maybe someone reveals a little too much information or they arguing in a car ride that leads to a dead end road where clues can be discovered. It’s possible the argument reminded them of something important they forgot about the case.  

    III. Think big on your list of suspects. Not everyone has to fit the stereotype. It could be the partner, the detective, the detective’s mom, or even natural disasters or an animal…. You decide. And maybe the motive wasn’t always vicious. It could have been an accident or a way to defend themselves. 

    »B. Have them lose something permanently but soon figure out how to take back control of their case. How do they plan on preventing this from happening in the future and what lesson do they learn from it to make them a better detective?

    I. It could be anything from a body part to a materialistic item. Notes, tools, photos, etc. This will force them to think outside or the box. To reinvent their ideas and realign their tracks. How they lose it is even more important. It could be detrimental and could have been avoided.

    II. Let’s say they lost some evidence in an accidental fire. Then they probably would leave their future evidence somewhere much safer or put it inside something that cannot burn in flames. Without their evidence how are they going to solve the case? Remember the time they have too. Will they complete it in time?


    »C. Add in a last minute twist. Did someone else die? Has he/she been following the wrong leads all along? Was their idea to capture the criminal sabotaged by someone they trusted??

    I. People who are close to the detective can die or another victim. It can affect the way they work and think. Especially if the death was directly caused by the detective not solving the case in time or fast enough.  
    II. Anyone can sabotaged the crime scene and the detective wouldn’t know it until later. They also can screw up the scene without realizing it. Did they take what they though was important evidence prematurely? Too late? Was it not even evidence at all; just looked like it? How long has this been going on and is this why the case isn’t solved? Let’s say the partner secretly messes or rearranges everything the detective did previously. So this makes the detective have to restart everyday in order to get back where they first were yesterday. The added work and stress doesn’t allow the character to get very far.


    Part Five

      1. Solve the case. Give the criminal a consequence and have the character say a few words as conclusion. End the scene with a question or somehow have the reader wondering about the next scene.

    »A. How is the case solved and who solves it?

    I. Lead the reader to the ending location and person. How are they cornering their target? Is it working as planned or are they winging it? Add in some thoughts and show how the detective is either anxious or calm about the entire ordeal. 

    II. Note: the detective doesn’t have to be the one to solve the case, nor does their partner. It can be a stranger, a child or even an animal. The detective can also use a person as a way to locate the criminal or further evidence to convict the person of interest. Who helps out the detective throughout the case and is the person recognized as a hero when the case is solved?

    »B. What happens to the criminal??

    I. Jail is usually the destination for them. What is the estimated time they will be receiving and are they the only ones being convicted?  

    II. Both “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” and “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” end with Sherlock Holmes solving the case, yet neither story has an arrest of the guilty party. Holmes has his own version of justice, and he applies it where he feels it is more beneficial than the actual law. Holmes knows what he’s doing, even if the readers do not. Despite his emotional detachment, he really is tuned to the mental state of others, and he knows what’s best for each situation. Because he isn’t connected with the police officially, he’s in a unique situation to do the better thing, even if that means circumventing the law. The fact that he sometimes lets the perpetrators go only increases my respect for him.

    In the case of “The Adventure of the Specked Band,” the guilty party was killed, and so there couldn’t be any arrests made. But with “The Boscombe Valley Mystery,” Holmes was able to “deduce” that to turn Mr. Turner in would cause more harm in the situation than to give him a severe warning. If you’ll look back on it, Mr. Turner begged Holmes not to turn him in, because of his daughter. Holmes must have known that turning in Mr. Turner would cause so much more trouble for the family than needed. Besides, Mr. Turner was willing to follow through with the law, though he said otherwise. He was a sick old man and he didn’t want to fight anymore.


    »C. What are the last remarks the detective has for their partner, themselves or even the criminal??

    I. Are they thankful to have a partner or is their partner useless? Is anything said or done for their partner and vice versa? 
    II. Do they threaten the criminal, curse or laugh at them? Hope about any gestures or disgust? Does the criminal say anything back or do anything harsh such as using the middle finger or spitting in the detective’s face?

    III. How does the detective congratulate themselves? What are they saying inside their head or even out-loud to themselves? Is there anything they wish they could have done differently?


    »D. Is there anything to reveal at the last minute to have the reader wanting more??

    I. Is that the correct person to be convicted? Is a victim that was dead found alive and they have a confession? Was the entire thing a mistake? A lie?  
    II. You can fit in another case if you’d like. Maybe as the detective is leaving for home after a celebration with his/her partner, they find a corpse on the side of the road. Or, there could be more to the case then what was thought.


    III.How does the detective console the families or the victims? What is the conclusion to case? Is there closure for the loved ones? For the detective? What does the detective do for the victims, if anything at all?


    Need additional help? We researched other resources to Write a Sherlock Holmes Scene, just for you! Enjoy:
    Searching and Examining a Major Case Crime Scene
    Investigating property crimes: A checklist for success

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