Sometimes when I get to reading an AU I ponder the nature of identity.
I was avoiding Performance in a Leading Role
for a long time, but I gave it a try tonight and it's great so far. It is the sort of AU, however, that does bring up questions of character identity.
For those who haven't come across it, the conceit is that Sherlock and John are screen actors. They aren't their own
actors—not Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman—they're just BBC Sherlock and BBC John, slightly calmer and having gone into acting instead of the business of not-being-heroes.
So. I am reading it. It's about Sherlock and John, so I am emotionally invested. Because my mind has multiple tracks, I am also thinking about the interesting things the fic reveals about the entertainment industry, and also thinking, would I enjoy as much reading a love story about random (but interesting) actors and the pressures of staying closeted for Hollywood?
That's the sort of question that shifts its own mental track into the foreground. I pause reading and consider.
No. I don't go out looking for love stories to read, generally. I read science fiction/fantasy, nonfiction, sometimes mystery but not a lot lately, sometimes Jane Austen. Non-genre-wise, I read a really great novel called Quincunx, also not a love story. Read some Master and Commander, allegedly not a love story. SF, fantasy and mysteries can have love stories in them, and so can Austen, but it's not generally the point (even in Austen).
So, supplies my brain, I am reading this love story because it is Sherlock and John. And this is the part in my thought process where I wonder: how, exactly, is it really Sherlock and John?
Is it the names? Do I believe it's them because of their names? No, slapping their names on a random love story obviously would not work. Having their names is necessary but not sufficient.
Is it their characterization? It's consistent but not completely the same as in the show. It has to be different enough for them to be able to work in this completely different profession, after all. Sherlock has to be less insane, John less damaged.
If this were doujinshi, I could bring up visual cues, but that's clearly not it. I'm responsible for my own visual cues in fanfic.
I guess it is largely characterization, but I think part of it is somehow... expectation. I simply expect that the characters are Sherlock and John. I endow them with Sherlock-ness and John-ness in my mind by reading with the expectation that they have those identities.
I guess that comes back to their names, in the end... but only in as much as the names are signifiers of the author's intent. I trust the author's intent (unless and until they lose my trust; this fic has it) and enter into a shared expectation of them
It seems very handwavy and insubstantial, but there it is.