When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his first novel about Sherlock Holmes, A Study In Scarlet , in 1886, I doubt he thought how big his success was going to be.So what makes Sherlock Holmes so popular and successful?
The character is genuine
Sherlock Holmes was inspired by Joseph Bell, a surgeon who drew conclusions from minute observations, which could be the parent of the so-called deduction which impressed the audiences and still does.
Why is important that Sherlock is genuine?Well, in the process of creating a character, the fact that you have a little model of how it is going to look like will help you in making him more complex.
He uses logical thinking and common sense , not “inspiration”
One of the things that annoyed Conan Doyle was the fact that most of the detectives in crime stories resolved almost impossible cases through “inspiration”, not logical reason.
This motivated Doyle to create compelling stories in which almost impossible cases were resolved by a detective who was so observant and logical that when he drew a conclusion and started explaining it, everything seemd plain simple.So in this way, he wrote original and true stories, which rewarded him after a very hard work.
Sherlock doesn’t necessarily have special abilities, basically because his deductions are based on observation, and observation is cultivated through hard work.So, by highlighting the fact that Sherlock was good at deduction through hard work, Doyle transposed himself in the story and made it more emotional and sincere.
Having this logical reason, the character was seen by the audience as someone who can’t be wrong, and even if he is, he still has the capacity to see where he did wrong.This thing made him more appreciated by the audience, who started seeing in the character a hero.
And in those times, when Doyle wrote the stories, it was the Victorian era and people didn’t have electricity or very much light, so robberies and crimes were pretty frequent.And by creating a character who resolved crimes in that logical manner, the audience felt like they could do that too, so they gained confidence and safety.
I think that this is the main reason why Sherlock Holmes gained so much popularity because it had a bigger impact than other books on the people and it created an acceptable model of hero, with a unique personality.
Holmes is just enough human for us
But even if the character is a hero for the audience, in order to make it even more complex, Doyle had the brilliant idea of making the audience feel attached to the character.And in order to do this, you can give the character some sad or heroic background, or you can highlight some of his personal problems (which is what Doyle actually did).
Sherlock Holmes is awesome and all of that, but he is a sociopath, a loner and a junkie with strange habits, some qualities which most of the people would not bear.By giving him these problems, Doyle made him more human and closer to us because we will attach easier to someone we can empathize with.
He is honest
I call this the “Walter White Syndrome”, when you finally recognize that what you do, you do for yourself.Sherlock has always said that he doesn’t care in particular for the lives he could save, but rather for the pleasure ke takes in resolving complicated problems.By recognizing this, the audience had the opportunity of knowing the character better and indentifying easier with him.
However , Watson makes 50% of everything
It is fair to say that Sherlock wouldn’t have the success it had (and it still has) if Watson wasn’t there.This innovative style of storytelling has proven itself to be fantastic.This whole idea of creating a narrator who is sometimes confused by the logical thinking of his friend helps us think more and savour the complex mind of Sherlock Holmes.
So why is he THAT popular?
In a way, the success Doyle had with his books reflects the success the shows and the movies have.Basically, Sherlock Holmes stopped being “just a book”, or just “a detective”, he is now a hero in the hearts of many people.He is a model, despite his problems, because he does stuff that almost everybody could do if they are willing to put time and effort in it, but there are not so many people willing to do that.