Advice: Creativity and Originality
How Do I Be More Creative? How Do I Become More Original?
To oversimplify the philosopher David Hume, I believe there are no truly original ideas, only taking simple familiar ideas and combining them in new ways. We get impressions of the world through our senses, and by reorganizing our impressions we can produce new combinations that are seemingly original and new.
Hume uses the example that we can imagine the fantastic idea of a golden mountain, by combining two impressions we are familiar with, the idea of a mountain, and the idea of an object being golden. A more interesting example might be combining a Wild West story with a space setting to create Joss Whedon's Firefly, or the ancient Greek myth of Hercules combined with the Arthurian legend of Sir Galahad to create Superman.
This might sound disheartening at first, many people strive to invent something truly new or dazzle the world with an original idea and so saying that it is not truly achievable might come as a downer. But really I think this levels the playing field and takes a lot of pressure off of creative work. Many people might believe they must really make something out of nothing, that has no resemblance to anything that has come before, which frankly sounds terrifying. It is much more achievable to take experiences, combing them either by knitting them together or coating one with the other, and experiment to see if the result could be enjoyable.
For my current comic book project Nevera Tales, I am retelling a story about two very different characters who normally would have nothing to do with each other and have no common ground, but have to rely on each other to survive. For this element I took inspiration from the awesome movies Léon: The Professional and also Silence of The Lambs. Stories where the older, experienced and morally questionable male character forms a functional relationship with a younger, inexperienced and morally set female character so that they can both survive an extreme situation.
Another area of the comic book which used a great deal of influence was the narrative voice. I have always enjoyed narrators who have unique perspective on time, in this case because of being undead and what the passage of time must mean to a character like that, which can be seem used in the movie Interview with a Vampire and the video game Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver.
More influence for the themes and setting came from the movies The Man in the Iron Mask and also The Shawshank Redemption. But why am I being transparent about all of this? I believe there is a great deal of unfair pressure on creators to create something original and not directly embrace their influences, in case it makes them look less legitimate or credible. I think a creative culture which encourages the opposite would be much healthier and realistic, where creators openly discuss where they get their ideas from and how they combine them into interesting results.
I would argue that the most successful ideas when it comes to writing and creating stories actually draw on very familiar experiences. Game of Thrones on HBO uses many familiar elements such as European history, dragons, Arthurian legends, which makes the show more enjoyable than if we were expected to digest and form a relationship with an avalanche of unfamiliar concepts. And after all, isn't that how we describe new shows, video games and movies to our friends?
"You haven't seen The Walking Dead? You'd love it, it's like 28 Days Later but with Romero Zombies."
"I can't wait to see 10 Cloverfield Lane, I heard it's like if Alfred Hitchcock directed a claustrophobic movie."
"I've played over 100 hours of The Witcher 3, it's got a combat system like Dark Souls but with a better version of Skyrim's quests."
This is getting quite long, so I'll pause here and talk about the benefits of transparency next time. But hopefully I have convinced some people that you do not have to create something out of nothing to make an enjoyable experience, and that the best way to be more creative is to go out into the world and have as many new experiences as possible, so you have a rich pool of ideas to draw on and play with.