Three Ways To Make Things That Will Inspire Other People

2017-artwork-creating-things-that-inspire-people

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:

“Architecture” By C. A. Brown

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.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

How To Create Something Influential

2013 Artwork Influential Creativity Sketch

Ok, this is still very much a work in progress since (to my knowledge at least) I haven’t actually created anything influential yet. But, since I’ve been thinking about this subject quite a bit recently, I thought that I’d share my thoughts about this whole subject.

But, before we get started, here’s some filler background about influential creative works…

Although influential works usually initially fall slightly outside of mainstream culture, they eventually become a major (if somewhat subliminal) part of it.

Whilst some influential works end up becoming famous as soon as people see or hear of them (such as The Wachowskis’ “The Matrix” – which is, itself, heavily influenced by quite a few things) many end up becoming “cult classics”. I’ll talk about why this is a good thing later in this article.

Not only that, a few slightly similar influential works can often end up creating a new genre or art movement too. For example, the cyberpunk genre was technically started by a short story written by Bruce Bethke in 1980. However, it was only with the release of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” in 1982 and the publication of William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” in 1984 that the cyberpunk genre really took off.

If you look at any cyberpunk novel, comic or film then you will probably see something in there which was inspired by “Blade Runner” or “Neuromancer”.

In fact, even if a cyberpunk author, artists or film-makers somehow hasn’t seen “Blade Runner” and/or read “Neuromancer” their work still might be influenced by it because they’ve been influenced by things which were influenced by “Blade Runner” and/or “Neuromancer”. This is how influential works are passed on from generation to generation.

So, yes, creating something influential should probably be the main ambition for every creative person. Yes, it might not always get you that much in the way of fame or glory (compared to the latest fashionable pop star or whatever), but you’ll get something even better than both of those two things.

You’ll get the chance to see traces of your own work in all sorts of other things and you will be able to bask in the knowledge that part of your imagination will live on for generations to come.

So, whilst I haven’t made an influential work yet, here are some of my ideas and observations about what makes an influential story/picture/film/comic etc….

1) A good magician never reveals their methods, but you aren’t a magician. You’re a teacher: If you create something influential, then (whether you want to or not) you will become a teacher. This doesn’t mean that you’ll start working at a school or a college or whatever, but it means that at least some other creative people will want to learn how to make things like the things you’ve made. So, teach them.

Even if you keep your creative processes and techniques secret, then people will still look at your work and try to reverse-engineer it anyway. So, you might as well talk or write about your own influences, techniques etc.. to give the people who want to turn your work into something influential (eg: all the people who are influenced by it) a head-start. It’ll make your work influential a lot more quickly than if you keep everything about how you made it a closely-guarded secret.

I mean, if you see or read something which amazes you, then you’ll probably want to learn more about how it was made. Your fans will probably think the same way about your work too….

2) We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants: Almost every influential work is, itself, influenced by a few other influential works. This is how our culture evolves. However, an influential work can’t just be an imitation of things that have already been made – it has to be something new. Do you see the contradiction here?

Regardless of what people may say, many influential works are created when people combine several other things (the more different they are, the better) in a unique way and then add a small amount of their own imagination into the mix. Sometimes, that’s all there is to it.

“Blade Runner” is the perfect example of this whole process – the story and many of the characters were very loosely based on a Philip K.Dick novel from the 60s called “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?”, the style of the film is clearly inspired by old “film noir” films from the 1940s and 50s, some of the settings are inspired by various cities in Asia and some of the settings are clearly based on both 1940s-50s America and “roaring twenties” America.

On their own, none of these elements would have been particularly groundbreaking. But, by carefully mixing them together and adding a lot of his own imagination, Ridley Scott was able to create a masterpiece which has inspired countless other films and comic books.

This isn’t the only way to create something influential, but it seems to be fairly common. However, throwing any old things together won’t magically create an influential work – the real art seems to lie in knowing what to combine.

3) People should be able to geek out about it: Do you remember that I said that most influential works are “cult classics”? All this basically means is that, instead of a huge number of fans who just like your work, you have a relatively small group of fans who absolutely love it.

In fact, they’ll love it so much that they’ll probably geek out about it a lot. They’ll probably memorised every important part of what you’ve made, they’ll come up with their own theories about what you’ve made and some of them might even want to make something similar.

If you want to influence other creative people, then making a “cult classic” is pretty much mandatory.

I’ve written about this subject before, but the best way to make something that other people can geek out about is to geek out about it when you’re making it. Even though you might gain a lot of geeky fans, the geekiest and most knowledgeable fan of your own work should always be you.

4) It should be ahead of it’s time: As someone who is (subjectively and technologically) still somewhere in the previous decade at least, I probably can’t really advise you on how to make something which is ahead of it’s time. Sorry about this.

Still, from what I gather, most creative people who are ahead of their time generally tend to have a very good eye for emerging trends and technologies (for example, the internet was still very much in it’s infancy when William Gibson wrote “Neuromancer”).

I’d suggest making something about the impact that 3D printing will have on society. But, well, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” already covered that whole subject a couple of decades ago…

Predicting social changes is probably a hell of a lot more difficult, but there are probably still clues about future social changes hidden in the present day if you look hard enough or know where to look.

5) It should be you: Many influential works either include a lot of their creator’s own personality, worldview and/or fascinations. However, at the same time, these things are usually never obvious unless it’s something autobiographical or semi-autobiographical (like Hunter S. Thomspon’s “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas”). But, without them, the work would be a hollow shell of it’s former self.

The best way to think of this is to think of it as being similar to the bass parts of a heavy metal song – these are usually drowned out by the drums, the intricate guitar solos and the catchy riffs. But without a bass player, the song would sound incomplete. Likewise without discreetly adding your own personality, whatever you create will be incomplete.

This is why people who just try to imitate influential works often don’t create anything influential. They copy all of the superficial features of whatever has influenced them, but they don’t add any of their own personality to it. They don’t make it their own.

Don’t make this mistake.

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Sorry that this article was kind of random and contained a lot of fairly general advice that you’ve probably heard a hundred times before. As I said earlier, I’m still trying to work out how to make something influential. So, this article is probably something of a work in progress…

Anyway, I hope that this article was useful [or at least inspirational] 🙂

Good luck 🙂