Although I’ve probably talked about this topic ages ago, I thought that I’d return to it today. I am, of course, talking about how to make things that will inspire other people to create things.
It’s kind of like how “Blade Runner” was just one film from the early 1980s, but it has inspired and influenced more things in the sci-fi genre than anything else.
Or like how “Sherlock Holmes” was a series of detective novels and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from the late 19th century/early 20th century which has influenced virtually everything made in the detective genre since then.
Or how “Doom” was a computer game from the early-mid 1990s that popularised the first-person shooter genre in a way that no prior game could.
So, how do you make something that will inspire other people? Here are a few tips:
1) Ambiguity: One way to make something that will inspire other people is to leave as much to the imagination as possible. Yes, you’ve still got to dazzle the audience with interesting backgrounds/settings/characters/events etc…., but you’ve also got to leave a lot to the imagination too.
Why? Because it makes the audience curious and, if they’re curious enough, then they’ll probably start making new things of their own in order to explore the things that you’ve left hidden.
For example, a fair amount of my own art is inspired by the movie “Blade Runner”. To show you what I mean, here’s a painting of mine (which was also inspired by “Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex“) that appeared here a while ago:
But why was it “Blade Runner” (and not, say, “Star Trek” or “Star Wars”) that influenced me so much? Although there’s a “Blade Runner” sequel coming out soon, it was a stand-alone film for quite a long time. So, there was just one film that gave the audience a few tantalising glimpses at a giant, detailed futuristic world and then just left the rest of it to our imaginations.
Seriously, apart from a few streets, a few cityscapes and several building interiors, we don’t actually get to see that much of the “world” of this film. But what we do see is absolutely fascinating. So, it is up to us to imagine what the rest of the film’s “world” looks like. And, if you’re an artist or a writer, then this is a good starting point for coming up with your own original sci-fi art, fiction etc…. Just remember the difference between inspiration and plagiarism though.
So, yes, if you show just enough to tell the story, but leave a lot of tantalising details to your audience’s imaginations, then you’re probably going to inspire other people.
2) New mixtures: As the old saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun. It is quite literally impossible to create something that is truly “100% original”. That said, the things that tend to have the most influence on other artists, writers, comic makers, game developers etc… are more original than average. But, how do they do it?
Simple, they find something seemingly “unrelated” and add it to a well-known genre. For example, Sherlock Holmes wasn’t the first fictional detective, but he’s the most influential one for the simple reason that he was the first to apply deductive reasoning and the scientific method to solving crimes. Previously, no-one had really thought of combining science and logic with the detective genre. These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a detective story that doesn’t involve science or logic in some way.
Likewise, “Blade Runner” certainly wasn’t the first science fiction film ever made. It wasn’t even the first thing in the science fiction genre to question what it is that makes us human. But it was one of the first films to combine the film noir genre with science fiction. It was also one of the first western sci-fi films to take visual inspiration from large cities in countries like Japan, South Korea etc… too.
So, if you can find an interesting way to add something new to a familiar genre, then there’s a good chance that the things you create will end up inspiring other people.
3) Timelessness: One other way to make something that will inspire other people is to make something that is timeless. Thinking about it more, the best way to do this seems to be to make sure that the underlying structure of the thing you’re creating is the kind of thing that has a universal appeal.
For example, the original “Doom” is a computer game from 1993. It looks very old. It was originally distributed on floppy disk. In fact, you can play it using nothing more than the keyboard if you want to. It looks very 90s, but it’s an iconic game that people have been playing (and modifying, updating etc..) for over two decades because it is fun!
It is a game that focuses on fast-paced combat, basic puzzle solving and strategy (eg: many challenging modern fan-made levels for “Doom”/”Doom II” pretty much require you to know the ‘rules’ of the game, and how to use them to your advantage). These things are timeless and universal.
Likewise, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original “Sherlock Holmes” stories are (mostly) set in the 19th century (“His Last Bow” is set in 1914 though). But, they have a timeless appeal for the simple reason that the underlying structure of the stories revolve around a highly-intelligent detective using science and logic to solve crimes.
This part of the stories is timeless and it’s one reason why Sherlock Holmes has not only inspired many other fictional detectives, but why he can be easily transposed into more modern settings (eg: like in the BBC’s “Sherlock” series) and not seem out of place.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂