I saw Sherlock Holmes a couple of weeks ago, absolutely LOVED it (and I hope they make another one), and I got a couple of short stories from the library on CD. As I hack my way through this short story that I've been writing, a mystery set in my Flatiron City setting, I take notes on how Conan Doyle crafted his stories. I realized very quickly that an attempt to mimic that style (especially with the setting to consider) would be a disastrous mistake.
I have another author who I can go to for inspiration: Jim Butcher. He's written several short stories for his Dresden Files series, and he plans on releasing a collection later this year. But his style doesn't work for me, either. That doesn't mean that I'm not taking notes!
Here's a bit of a comparison: Holmes has a tendency to go out and research a crime, investigating through stealth, observation, and deduction. And it's often out of sight, since Watson (the Narrator) doesn't follow Holmes everywhere. Sometimes, an important clue will be left out until the detective reveals how and why the crime was committed, though that clue (as far as I can remember) only gives the perpetrator motive. In the stories that I listened to recently, all of them showed the reader all essential information to solve the mystery before Holmes revealed who it was that committed the crime.
In contrast, Butcher's Harry Dresden is the narrator for his own life. He doesn't have a sidekick chronicling his adventures, so in order to keep things interesting to the end of the story, Butcher keeps a couple of facts hidden from the reader. It makes it pretty difficult to solve the mystery, but all of the action (Dresden fights and runs around in dangerous situations A LOT!) keeps the reader hooked.
I use those exampled because I want my short story to look like a combination of both of those styles. My protagonist is the narrator, he's capable in a fight, and he's very sure of himself. At the same time, he uses his brain more than his muscle, and his deductive reasoning is off the charts! I also want to justify the reader's time by giving them a fair chance to figure out "who-dun-it" before I tell them. I realize I'm not Conan Doyle, so I know that I need to place suspenseful situations in my story to keep the reader hooked.
Anyway, that's kind of something that's been on my mind all week, and I thought I'd share it with you so that you could see where I'm coming from as I work on the Short Story.
Question: When you write, who influences you, why, and how? If you don't write, who do you read? Why?