Two Better Alternatives To Writing Fan Fiction

A week or two after I started writing daily short stories last February, I found myself tempted to write some fan fiction. Basically, I had started going through a phase of reading things like movie novelisations (and, yes, the recent book reviews have been written very far in advance) and, at the time of writing, there didn’t seem to be any novelisations of the “Silent Hill” videogames [EDIT: Whilst editing this article, I found that there are several Japanese-language novelisations and an English-language spin-off novel].

So, for a while, I actually thought about writing some fan fiction. Until I remembered that I didn’t write fan fiction. So, I had to think of alternatives. So, here’s an in-depth look at two better and more creative alternatives to writing fan fiction.

1) Be inspired (by multiple things): Ok, you’re a fan of something and you want to write something like it but you don’t want to write fan fiction. Great πŸ™‚ This means that you can do something much better, you can take inspiration and then use this to tell an original story. But, how do you do this?

Start by looking at the basic, generic, underlying elements of the thing that has inspired you. These are general qualities that can be summed up in 1-3 words and which aren’t just found in the thing you’re getting inspired by (in other words, no highly-specific things like character names, location names etc..).

For example, the generic qualities of the old “Silent Hill” videogames would include: urban decay, implied paranormal horror, rust, gloom, vulnerability, grimy buildings, a foreboding atmosphere, psychological horror, mundane meets macabre etc…

When you’ve got your list of qualities, then try to tell a totally original story (featuring new characters, settings, background stuff etc..) that includes some of these generic qualities. You’ll end up with something that is evocative of the thing you’ve been inspired by, but also distinctly different, new and original. Because you’ve had to use your imagination, the story will also have a bit more of your own personal “style” too.

Of course, since you’ve got a list of generic qualities, then you’ll also be able to use it to find connections with other things – which you can also use for inspiration (via the same process) too. Basically, the more inspirations you have, the more original your story will be.

For example, after my initial thought about writing “Silent Hill” fan fiction, I decided to take inspiration instead. Whilst doing this, I realised that the list of qualities I was looking at were also shared by several other things such as the movie “Mimic“, the X-Files episode “Tooms” etc… I realised that all of these things were set in run-down urban parts of 1990s/early-mid 2000s America, they had a claustrophobic atmosphere and/or they often involved something lurking in the shadows.

I was then able to use these multiple inspirations in order to tell an original American-style horror story, set in 1997, about a haunted floor of an apartment block. Not only that, because I’d realised that claustrophobia was a major theme in this “type” of horror, I was also able to choose to use first-person narration and to set most of the story inside a lift/elevator carriage in order to add this quality to the story. This resulted in at least a mildly better (or at least less worse) story than if I’d tried to write some “Silent Hill” fan fiction instead.

Doing this kind of thing is better than writing fan fiction because it forces you to use your imagination a bit more, it means that your story will appeal to a wider audience (rather than just fans of one thing) and it also means that there are far fewer potential copyright issues with publishing your story too.

Although I’m not a copyright lawyer and this isn’t legal advice, this type of inspiration is actually encouraged by copyright law. This is because most copyright laws around the world deliberately don’t protect basic ideas, concepts, themes etc.. Instead, most copyright laws only protect highly-specific details (eg: specific character designs etc..). What this means is that, if you like something, then you have to do something new and original with the basic ideas behind that thing. In other words, you have to take inspiration and use your imagination, rather than just lazily borrowing.

2) Write an old-school British-style parody: Before about 2014 or so, there was no legal right to make parodies in Britain. What this meant is that if a comedy show on TV or a writer or whatever wanted to make a parody of something, then they had to be a little bit crafty about it.

In other words, they had to work out what they were going to ridicule (eg: the general qualities, ideas, themes etc.. behind something) and then come up with a new and original set of characters, locations etc… that evoked the thing they were parodying, and then use this to poke fun at the thing that they wanted to parody. Although this sounds like it would be really convoluted and result in worse parodies, the exact opposite is true.

What it meant was that things which originally started as parodies – such as the TV show “Red Dwarf” – are still going strong decades after they were first made. Because they had to stand on their own two feet, rather than rely on something else, they have a much wider appeal and a greater degree of longevity. Likewise, because they weren’t explicitly based on one other thing, they could also parody a much wider range of things too.

So, using this style of parody can result in much more interesting fan-based stories. For example, this short story of mine is clearly meant to be a parody of “Star Trek”. But because it includes original characters, original settings etc.. It also allowed me to write a much more general parody story about modern computer software, which will hopefully also amuse people who haven’t seen a single episode of “Star Trek”.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

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Three Examples Of How To Take Inspiration Properly

Well, although I’ve already talked about how to take artistic inspiration before, I thought that I’d look at it from a slightly different angle today. This is mostly because taking inspiration properly usually involves creatively “reverse engineering” things that you’ve seen, albeit in a very specific way.

It means seeing something and then breaking it down into it’s generic non-copyrightable elements (although I’m not a copyright lawyer, it is a general princple that “you cannot copyright an idea” [eg: copyright only covers highly-specific details]). Then, after you’ve done this, finding a way to use those generic elements in a new and original way.

But, if you haven’t done this before, then it can be difficult to know what to do. So, I thought that I’d provide a few examples of the process by looking at three images from various films/ games/TV shows, then commenting on and reviewing the generic features of each image and then creating a quick piece of original “inspired by” digital art that includes those generic features.

But, before I go any further, I should point out that you really should HAVE MULTIPLE INSPIRATIONS! I cannot emphasise this enough! Although I’ll only be (mostly) taking inspiration from one thing in each example, the more inspirations you have (and the more different they are), the more original and interesting your work will be.

Example 1: “Ghost In The Shell” (2017)

This is a screenshot from “Ghost In The Shell” (2017 Remake). Let’s break it down into it’s generic elements.

This scene from “Ghost In The Shell” (2017) contains many features common to the cyberpunk genre, such as high-contrast lighting (eg: where the background is darker, so that the lights stand out more) and a dense urban setting. In addition to this, this scene of the film makes expert use of complementary colours – with a slight emphasis on red, green and blue lighting (echoing the colours used in computer monitors/display screens).

Plus, it also makes very clever use of composition and negative space too – by showing the film’s main character silhouetted in the close foreground. Compared to the riot of lights and colours in front of her, her dark silhouette stands out in a very distinctive way.

So, what are the generic elements here? They are a dense futuristic urban setting, high-contrast lighting, red/green/blue lighting and the clever use of silhouettes and negative space.

So, an original inspired painting that used these elements might look a little bit like this quick piece of digital art.

A piece of digital art that uses red/green/blue lighting, silhouettes & negative space and a dense futuristic urban setting. As you can see, it also looks nothing like the screenshot at the beginning of this example. This is also partly because I’ve also added general elements from both the horror genre and other cyberpunk works too. As I said earlier, more inspirations means more originality.

Example 2: “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut” (1997)

This is a screenshot from a horror game called “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut” (1997). Let’s break it down into it’s generic elements.

This screenshot from “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut” (1997) makes excellent use of composition and perspective in order to create an ominous sense of dread. The camera perches above the player, with a candelabra and a stag’s head in the close foreground to emphasise the height of the room. Likewise, the lighting in this room is fairly gloomy and the room itself looks slightly old and run-down. Again, this is done to create an atmosphere of dread.

So, what are the generic elements here? An overhead perspective, objects in the close foreground, gloomy lighting, an atmosphere of dread and old/disused locations.

So, an original inspired painting that used these elements might look a little bit like this quick piece of digital art (which was also inspired by another part of the game [involving a hole in the floor] and a couple of other games too).

A piece of digital art that uses an overhead perspective, includes objects in the close foreground, has gloomy lighting, involves old/disused locations and contains an atmosphere of dread. As you can see, it looks fairly different from the screenshot in this example. Again, I’ve used multiple inspirations – as well as taking inspiration from another part of “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut”, I’ve also taken inspiration from two other games- “Alone In The Dark” (1992) and “Hotline Miami” (2012).

Example 3: “Murder, She Wrote” (1984):

This is a screenshot from season 1, episode 4 of “Murder, She Wrote” (1984). Let’s break it down into it’s generic elements.

Although this scene isn’t really typical of the show, it provides a stunning visual spectacle. Bright neon lights are contrasted against ominous gloom, with the garish neon lights contrasting irreverently with the sombre seriousness of the graveyard. The character in the foreground looks instantly “1980s”, thanks to the show’s costume and make-up department. And the open gates in the close foreground beckon the audience closer.

So, what are the generic elements here? 1980s-style fashions/hairstyles, neon lighting, the theme of death, an intriguing composition and a slight degree of irreverence.

So, an original inspired painting that used these elements might look a little bit like this quick piece of digital art.

A piece of digital art that includes 1980s fashions/hairstyles, neon lighting, the theme of death and a slight degree of irreverence. As you can see, it looks very different to the screenshot in the example. Like with the other pieces of digital art, I’ve also taken inspiration from other things too – such as gothic art, the music videos for a band called “Creeper”, the cyberpunk genre and other 1980s-style things.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Three Tips For Taking Inspiration From Other (Web)Comics, Whilst Keeping Your Webcomic Original

Well, at the time of writing, I’m still busy making a webcomic mini series for late February.

So, I though that I’d give a few tips about how to apply the proper techniques for taking inspiration to making webcomics, whilst also ensuring that your webcomic is still an original webcomic.

1) Humour styles: One of the best ways to take inspiration from other comics and webcomics is simply to read multiple (seriously, more than one!) other webcomics/comics until you start to get a sense of how the humour in these comics “works”. To get a sense of what the “rules” are for the humour in the webcomics you’ve read. To see what they have in common and what differs from webcomic to webcomic.

Once you’ve got this, try to think of a different situation or a different subject for your humour. Then, using the mixture of “rules” you’ve learnt from the webcomics you’ve read, try to see how you can turn this into something new that is also amusing.

Look at the general humour style in two or more webcomics and then try to find a way to apply the “rules” you have learnt from them to your own webcomic, using new subject matter and new jokes that are actually relevant to your characters.

2) Other inspirations: Even if you are mostly taking inspiration from one other webcomic, you can still make sure that your own comics are actually original by ensuring that you also take lots of inspiration from things that aren’t webcomics.

This will help to ensure that your inspired webcomics are still very much their own thing, even if they may be vaguely reminiscent of another webcomic.

Having other inspirations is also especially important with the art in your webcomic too, since this can help to give your webcomic a more unique and distinctive look, whilst also helping you to develop your own unique art style at the same time.

Of course, if you already have your own art style, then you don’t need to do this (although you should obviously always be on the lookout for techniques etc… you can use to improve your art).

3) Common sources: This is kind of the opposite of the previous two points on the list and it can work just as well, provided that you don’t mix it with anything else on the list.

Basically, look at a couple of webcomics and see what kind of general subject matter they tend to use in a lot of their comics (eg: videogames, politics, everyday life etc..) and then do some research about that particular subject.

Once you’ve done some research, try to come up with new jokes and ideas about the subject in question. This will help you to think of a topic for your next comic update and it will allow you to create comics that are “in the tradition of” your favourite webcomics. However, you should pay extra attention to making sure that the characters, jokes etc.. are different enough from your inspiration.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

A Perfect Example Of How To Take Inspiration Properly – A Ramble

Well, although I’ve already talked about how breaking things down into general elements is an essential part of taking inspiration properly, I thought that I’d look at a really great example of how this sort of thing can lead to radically different creative works, which are still reminiscent of each other whilst also being their own thing too.

The day before writing this article, I read a couple of E.W.Hornung’s “Raffles” stories. This was mostly due to a combination of watching this youtube video about the series a few weeks earlier and finding an old “Raffles” book whilst clearing out part of my room a week earlier.

E.W. Hornung’s “Raffles” is one part of a group of great late 19th century/ early 20th century crime stories. The most famous of these are, of course, the “Sherlock Holmes” stories written by Hornung’s brother-in-law, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But, there are also G.K. Chesterton’s “Father Brown” stories too- which can often get overlooked slightly.

(For the sake of brevity and simplicity, I won’t include either Agatha Christie’s “Poirot” or Allain and Souvestre’s “FantΓ΄mas” in my comparisons. But, these two characters are worth looking at if this article interests you.)

Although I’ve read a lot more “Sherlock Holmes” stories than “Father Brown” or “Raffles” stories (yet, at least), it’s pretty clear that neither of them would have existed if it wasn’t for Sherlock Holmes. Yet, neither character or collection of stories is a carbon copy of Conan Doyle’s stories.

Yes, there are a lot of similarities. They’re all stories that revolve around crime, they each feature a highly intelligent man and/or his companions, they’re all set in late 19th century/early 20th century Britain etc… But the differences between these stories are what makes them so interesting.

For example, all three stories set themselves apart in terms of how they approach the subject of morality. Here’s a chart to show you what I mean:

And, yes, I just wanted an excuse to draw all three of them standing next to each other.

On one end, you’ve got Father Brown – a Catholic priest who follows his conscience intently and will sometimes even deliver moral lessons. In the middle, there’s Sherlock Holmes. He’s mostly good, but is made more interesting by a small amount of moral ambiguity. At the far end of the scale, there’s Raffles – a gentleman thief who pulls off elaborate heists just for the sport of it.

So, by changing just one element of the stories, both G.K.Chesterton and E.W. Hornung made the entire tone and atmosphere of their stories completely different from the “Sherlock Holmes” stories that inspired them.

Likewise, these stories take a slightly different approach to narration. In both “Sherlock Holmes” and “Raffles”, the narration is (for the time) fairly modern and fast-paced. Both stories focus on grabbing the reader’s attention with alarming or intriguing events. After all, these were the thriller novels of their day (well, technically, “Bulldog Drummond” and/or “The Thirty-Nine Steps” were, but let’s not split hairs…).

On the other hand, G.K.Chesterton’s “Father Brown” stories are designed to be read at a much slower pace, and the narrative style reflects this. These stories will often contain much longer descriptions of characters and environments. Often, the crime won’t be solved or committed through a series of detailed fast-paced events, but will sometimes be nothing more than a background detail that helps to add flavour to the stories. Since these are stories about humanity, morality, theology and occasionally humour, this slower narrative style works in a way it wouldn’t do with “Sherlock Holmes” or “Raffles”.

But, most interesting of all, there’s the way that each collection of stories critiques the others. It seems like E.W. Hornung wrote his “Raffles” stories, because he was curious about what Sherlock Holmes would be like if he was a criminal.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, reacting to “Raffles”, wrote a story called “The Adventure Of Charles Augustus Milverton” in 1904. This is a story where Holmes and Watson break into a blackmailer’s house in order to retrieve compromising documents for a client. Although this story derives a lot of it’s thrills from “Sherlock Holmes breaking the law“, it’s also a subtle criticism of “Raffles” because there’s a lot of discussion about the moral elements of what they are doing. Likewise, it’s also made very clear that – unlike “Raffles”- they aren’t breaking the law for personal gain, but for a more moral purpose.

G.K. Chesterton’s “Father Brown” stories, on the other hand, are a criticism of the more “scientific” approach to crime taken in both “Sherlock Holmes” and “Raffles”. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown is more likely to try to convince a criminal to see the error of their ways than he is to hand them over to the police. He sees crime as a human issue, rather than as an abstract puzzle to be solved.

Likewise, these stories also contain a “Raffles”-like gentleman thief called Flambeau. In one memorable moment, Father Brown gives an impassioned speech to Flambeau about how “good” criminals often gradually become more evil and unprincipled over the course of their lives. This is pretty clearly a criticism of “Raffles”.

So, yes, this group of stories is the perfect example of inspiration taken properly. These stories share common elements, but they are interpreted in radically different ways by their respective authors. These stories may have a lot in common, but they each express their own unique and distinctive worldview. They each contain original characters who differ greatly from each other. They also take an intelligent look at both their inspirations and their contemporaries too.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Why It’s Important To Be Open To Artistic Influence – A Ramble

Well, today, I thought that I’d talk briefly about how useful it can be to be open to artistic influence. Before I go any further, I should probably link to my article about how to take inspiration properly (again!) since it’s an important thing to bear in mind when allowing yourself to be influenced.

Anyway, I thought that I’d write about this subject again because I noticed that I’d been inadvertently influenced by an old computer game I’d been playing recently called “Riven” (that revolves around exploring a series of mysterious islands and solving puzzles).

After playing this game for a few days, tropical islands started to show up in a couple of the paintings that I’d been making – like in part of the background of this random digitally-edited painting, which will be posted here properly in late January:

This is a reduced-size preview, the full size painting will be posted here on the 29th January.

If you’re new or inexperienced at making art, then the idea of being influenced so often might seem strange or scary. After all, you probably want to make your “own” type of art that is an expression of your own imagination, rather than something that is inspired by whatever you happened to be watching or playing recently.

Well, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, being influenced regularly can actually help you to express your own imagination. Why? Because you have to find a way to turn those pre-existing inspirations into something new and original. In other words, you have to use your imagination to come up with a way of incorporating your influences into your own art, without directly copying them.

Plus, of course, you’re the one who chooses what you are influenced by. Generally, you’ll probably be more likely to take influence from things that you consider to be “interesting” or “cool”. So, you are still in control of your own artistic development.

Likewise, taking influence regularly also means that you are expanding your imagination too. It means that you’re learning new things, imagining new things and coming up with your own “version” of new things on a regular basis.

Plus, being open to artistic influence is also how you develop your own art style too.

For example, as I’ve mentioned before, one of the latest changes to my style happened when I played this set of fan-made “Doom II” levels and was so impressed by the colour scheme used in it that I ended up changing how I used colours in my art (eg: I started focusing on including 2-3 complementary colour pairs in my paintings, I started using a slightly smaller colour palette etc..).

But, my art style has also been influenced by things like western cartoons/comics from the 1990s, anime & manga, heavy metal & punk album covers, old horror novel covers, etc…. It’s a unique mixture of different things. So, if you want a unique art style, then take inspiration from lots of different things.

But, best of all, being open to artistic influences also means that you’ll feel uninspired less often, which is great if you have a regular practice schedule.

What it means is that, if you’re feeling uninspired, then you can sometimes get over it by either watching or playing something interesting. Yes, you still have to find a way to translate that inspiration into a piece of new and original art, but this is something that becomes easier with practice.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

How To Take Artistic Inspiration From A Film (In Four Easy Steps)

Although I’ve talked more generally about how to take inspiration (and the difference between inspiration and plagiarism), I thought that I’d focus specifically on films in this article. Naturally, all of the stuff here can also be applied to TV shows too.

But, I thought that I’d talk about it after making a digitally-edited gothic sci-fi painting (which will be posted here in August) that was initially inspired by the bar scene from “Blade Runner“, but quickly turned into it’s own thing (as any inspired painting should). Here’s a reduced-size preview:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 3rd August.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 3rd August.

So, how do you take inspiration from a film?

1) Watch it: This step almost goes without saying, but get a DVD (or Blu-Ray) of the film and watch it.

Chances are, if it’s a film that you want to take inspiration from, then it’s one that you’ve already seen at least once. But, if you’ve only seen clips or trailers from it, then try to actually watch the whole film. If you’ve already seen it, try to rewatch as much of it as you can – paying close attention to how everything looks.

This will give you a sense of the atmosphere of the film and it will also help you to get into the mood for making original art inspired by it.

2) Freeze frames, screenshots and/or image searches: Once you’ve watched the film, then look at some still images from the film. This will allow you to study some of the general techniques and generic features of the film in greater detail.

The “generic elements” part is important! Although I’m not a copyright lawyer, it is a well-known principle that you cannot copyright an idea ( only highly specific expressions of an idea can be copyrighted). In other words, whilst the precise visual details of a single frame from a film can be copyrighted, the general idea behind that frame cannot.

For example, anyone can make a painting of “a rainy futuristic city, with tall angular buildings, neon lighting and flying cars“. This is an idea. Anyone can use it. However, if you then painted an exact copy of a frame from “Blade Runner” (or directly copied highly-distinctive details from the frame), then you would be breaking copyright rules. Why? Because that frame from “Blade Runner” is a highly-specific interpretation of the general idea of “a rainy futuristic city, with tall angular buildings, neon lighting and flying cars“.

So, take a close look at these pictures and see which colour combinations tend to be used often. Look at how the scenes are laid out (eg: camera angles etc..). Look at the general types of clothing (eg: formal, informal, old, new etc..) the characters are wearing. Look at the types of lighting that are used. I’m sure you get the idea….

Once you’ve studied at least several different images from the film in question, make a list of the generic elements that really appeal to you. Then move on to the next step.

3) Look for other inspirations: If you don’t have any other inspirations, then this is the time to find them. Look online for stills from other films in the same genre as the one that inspired you, read some comics, play some computer games, look online for types of art that interest you, or just watch another one of your favourite films.

The thing to remember about inspiration and originality is that the more different inspirations you have, the more original your artwork will look. If you just have one inspiration, then it is probably going to show. This isn’t a bad thing (provided you haven’t crossed the line into actual plagiarism), but it isn’t ideal either.

For example, in the preview I showed you earlier – although the initial inspiration was the bar scene from “Blade Runner”, I also took some inspiration from gothic fashion/traditional formal fashion (as opposed to the futuristic “film noir” fashion used in ‘Blade Runner’) for the clothing designs.

Likewise, although the idea of breaking up a scene into several parts by using pillars was inspired by the compositions used in parts of “Blade Runner”, the wall textures were probably at least partially inspired by the futuristic locations in the “Ghost In The Shell” anime franchise. Likewise, the picture is split up into two coffin-shaped areas – which, again, is more of a gothic horror kind of thing.

My approach to the lighting in this painting was mostly inspired by the orange lighting in the bar scene from “Blade Runner”, but my colour scheme (eg: orange/blue/green/purple) was probably more inspired by the one used in a set of “Doom II” levels called “Ancient Aliens“.

4) Use your imagination!: Once you’ve done all of your preliminary research and are starting to feel inspired, eject the DVD (or watch another one), close your internet browser and let your imagination take over. After all, whilst you now have a few general elements you can use, you are going to have to work out how to interpret them in your own unique way.

Although you will probably have at least one list of general elements, you now have to find a way to use those general elements to create something different from the film you took inspiration from. So, don’t look at anything from the film in question whilst drawing or painting. Don’t use any characters from it. Don’t copy any highly-specific details. Use your imagination!

Remember, inspiration taken from other things should only be used as a guide to help support your own imagination. It’ll give you a list of general things to use in your art, but you still have to find an interesting new (in the sense of not exactly identical to anything else) way of using them. It’ll allow you to produce art that is vaguely reminiscent of the thing that inspired you, but is also it’s own thing too.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

How To Take Inspiration From Other Things (Whilst Writing Fiction)

2017 Artwork Taking inspiration for fiction article sketch

Although I’ve talked about how to take artistic inspiration before, I thought that I’d take a more specific look at how to to take inspiration whilst writing fiction. Since fiction is a non-visual medium, there are some fairly significant differences between taking inspiration for fiction and taking inspiration when making art, comics etc….

As with making art, comics etc… you should always have as wide a range of inspirations as possible. You should always, if possible, mix your inspirations together too. This is very important, for reasons that I’ll explain at the end of the article.

But, for the sake of simplicity I’ll start with explaining how to take inspiration from just one thing (even though, for a very good reason I’ll explain later in the article, you should have more than one inspiration!)

Unlike making art or comics, you have a slightly greater degree of freedom when it comes to designing the settings of your stories if you’re inspired by visual media (like films, comics etc…).

Although I am not a copyright lawyer and nothing in this article should be considered legal advice, one general principle of most copyright laws across the world is that they only protect highly-specific expressions of ideas, and not basic/general ideas and concepts.

Despite the oppressive and restrictive reputation that copyright has, it is designed to allow people to take inspiration, provided that they do something new and different enough with that inspiration.

For example, your sci-fi story can include a detailed description of a futuristic spaceship crewed by both humans and aliens. Your spaceship could also have faster-than-light travel, touchscreens on the walls and/or sliding doors between each room. These are all general ideas and concepts which no-one can copyright.

But you can’t call your spaceship the USS Enterprise. You can’t call the engine a warp drive. The alien crew members in your story can’t be called “Klingons”, “Vulcans”, “Andorians” etc.. Your spaceship can’t consist of a saucer with two engine nacelles attached to it. You can’t say that the touchscreens use the LCARS operating system etc.. Why? Because those are all highly-specific (and therefore copyrighted) details from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.

Because the setting of a story consists of images translated into words (which are later translated back by the reader), you can actually make your setting descriptions relatively close to the images that have inspired you – provided that you don’t use highly-specific details!

The same holds true for characters too. In prose fiction, you can make your characters “look” similar to TV show, film, game etc.. characters that you like. You can even give them similar personalities too. But you’ll have to give them different names and different backstories. Again, general traits are a free for all, but highly-specific details are not!

However, with the story itself, you can only borrow general story types. So, look at the things that you really like and ask yourself “what type of story is this?“. Is it a story about a love triangle? Is it a revenge story? Is it a story about a time loop? Is it a story about virtual reality? etc..

Once you’ve got your answer, come up with a new (and different!) plot that also fits into that general category. It’ll still have the same atmosphere as the thing you’re inspired by, but you won’t be ripping anything off.

But, you might say, isn’t all of this bordering on plagiarism? Well, it is only borderline plagiarism (in the moral sense of the word, at least) if you take inspiration from just one thing. But, if you blend inspirations from as many things as possible, then you’ll ironically end up with something fairly original.

Going back to my “Star Trek: The Next Generation” example, if the main character of your sci-fi story is a bald man from Belgium called “Captain Ricard” then this might possibly technically be an original character – although everyone will probably realise that it’s a blatant rip-off of Captain Picard.

However, if you were to blend elements from other fictional characters (even ones from the same TV show, if you’re particularly lazy) – I don’t know, let’s say that Captain Ricard is also a telepath who has bionic eyes – then it’ll probably seem at least mildly more original. But, the more different things you blend and the more ideas of your own that you add to your inspirations, the more original it will be.

So, remember, taking inspiration is perfectly fine (as long as you avoid highly-specific details). But, the more inspirations that you blend together and the more of your own ideas that you add to the mix, the more interesting, distinctive and original your story will be. So, use more than one inspiration!

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚