221B Baker Street: Character in Dialogue


I know, I know, it’s not YA. Heck, it’s not even a book (albeit based on books). However, I’ve been watching and re-watching BBC’s newest Sherlock series as research for my work-in-progress. Although I’m studying the mystery stories structure, something else caught my attention. A small, yet significant detail for building characters.

We know from previous blog entries (Ender’s Game: The Utterly Reliable Narrator, Blood Red Road: Language as Character & Setting, and The Hunger Games: Stakes, Risks & Character) that characters are defined by their actions. Further, in Ashes/Allegiant: Thought Acts in YA Lit, we concluded that a character’s thoughts, if written properly, may be considered action. But when discussing film and television, usually the viewer  is not privy to a character’s internal dialogue. Instead we have spoken dialogue, their speech acts.

In the first (aired) episode of Sherlock, A Study in Pink, we’re introduced to our main characters, Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and Mycroft Holmes, as well as, and perhaps one of the most famous locations in literary history, 221B Baker Street. And here is where my ears pricked.

Sherlock, upon meeting John Watson and discussing looking at a flat to share, takes his leave, “The name is Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221B Baker Street.” Nothing significant as written, however when Benedict Cumberbatch verbalizes the address, he pronounces it: Two. Two. One. Bee. Baker Street. A choice of articulation that specifies character.

In contrast, Sherlock’s older brother, Mycroft Holmes, upon his introduction to Dr. Watson, states, “If you do move into 221B Baker Street…” Mark Gatiss‘s character choice is pronouncing the address: Two hundred and twenty-one bee Baker Street. Not only is this a definition of character, but an illustration of the brothers’ relationship. They do not speak the same language, they do not see eye-to-eye, their familial relation is strained.

Finally, John Watson soon after his interaction with Mycroft Holmes, reiterates Sherlock’s pronunciation of his new home, “Baker Street. 221B Baker Street…” (Two. Two. One. Bee.)  Echoing Sherlock’s phonemics aligns them and casts Mycroft out of their fraternity. Additionally, the viewer now knows that Watson (the viewers’ entrance into Sherlock’s world and mind) is wholly trusting of his new friend by engaging in Sherlock’s world through common language.

So, again we return to the theory that writing is about choice, there is no midline for authors. Decisions, one of innumerable, must be made and executed. And every authorial decision effects all the others, is bound and dependent on each other.They are all unique and concurrently, one of the same.

Happy writing!






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