You’re walking on the street, umbrella in hand, worrying about some distant bill or a friend’s misfortune. You stop next to the Bank, but you don’t enter. You sit on a bench and look around. A woman passes. Tall, dyed hair, painted nails. Journalist by her hand (battered skin, from where she’s held her microphone). Cheap bag, cheap shoes, expensive jewelry. Good boyfriend. Not married. Prefers headphones (the cord is dirty and tangled. It would have been clean, but she used them in various places).
A man crosses. Old case. Traveler. Widower, living with his sister. Has traveled abroad at least five…. No, six times. The markings of the Heathrow… Wait, that old lady going by. Her son is a drug addict. She used to smoke cigars. Her husband worked in a wood factory and died on the highway. The girl lost her phone. The man is suffering from severe asthma. The woman will die unless she quits her job. That beggar was a rich man. That, that, that, that……
It looks like a lot of information? It is. Can Sherlock handle it? Obviously. Can you handle it? You will.
The art and science of deduction goes beyond looking at people and thinking “Hm, that spot on his right cheek looks like a burn…. He got it while cooking.” The way the master himself put it, we see, but we don’t observe. I’ll take that even further. We see, but we don’t understand what we see.
Think about it. When John studies Connie Price’s death, he notices the cat’s scratches AND the dots made by the Botox shots. However, he concludes that only the former could have had a direct influence in the incident. He had noticed, he had observed, but he couldn’t put to good use his observations. And that’s where most of us fail too.
You need to acknowledge what are the details that show who that person is and then process that information, in order for you to get a proper reading.
I tried this, during a bicycle ride. Very close to the road, a new house had been built. It was small, wooden structure, with a tiny garden, a new car, not a very expensive model. A German Shepard, the couple was young.
My deductions went like this: they met at university, studied in the capital. They came back here, so obviously his parents are from here. By her clothing, she’s a big city girl. He worked in an adventure park, would love to buy himself a Land Rover. His parents didn’t agree to the marriage. The dog is hers. The car is nice and practical. Old. 4 years at least. 7 at most, though. That model isn’t ancient. Still.
That was it. Nope, it wasn’t enough. Sherlock could have told you what they did for a living, their health conditions, the schools that they went to, everything. I observed much more, but I have no idea what to think of it. There was a large suitcase near the entrance of the garden. What am I to think of that? Ideas I have – Lord preserve me – I have enough. But deduction is not about guesses and it is definitely not about stories. You eliminate the impossible. Science is not a field for making up stories. You can do that, obviously, and if any of you will write a story on a forgotten suitcase in the Garden of Kensington, please, give me a link, so I may read it.
But let’s go back to whatever remains that must be the truth.
In order to gain Sherlock’s abilities, you need to develop two skills: observation and processing. He has them both at exquisitely high levels, thanks to his years of practice. In BBC’s masterpiece, Gatiss hints that Sherlock had started at the age of 8. Now, hadn’t that been funny for his brother to watch… Since most of us, Sherlockians, are teens and older, I’ll tell you this.
It’s not too late.
Habits are created every day. Sherlock says Do something for 30 days in a row and afterwards you won’t even feel the need to stop. That moment is the birth of a lasting habit. (Playing Sherlock says… It’s like Cabin Pressure all over again. :D)
The thing you have to practice right now after reading this opinion that I inflicted upon the world is deducing yourself.