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Monday, 14 November 2016

Sometimes, it's the strangest things...

Inspiration for new books strike at the strangest times, sometimes when you never, ever might expect it to strike. It's nothing new that writers can sometimes find inspiration from random and casual activities, from washing up to skipping through TV channels, from watching the weather to swimming in the sea. Visions and unexpected thoughts fly through your mind, creating images across your consciousness that can coalesce into a bigger picture. I certainly can't speak for other authors, and you could always try looking through any autobiographies they've written: but I will speak for myself in this post.

Inspirations for my own work are primarily visual. When I read a book, I impose a visual image on things, but I don't get inspiration from them as I might from watching an incredible moon in the sky, or seeing the amazing special effects from a film or video game. My mind thinks in pictures a lot of the time, which also results in me sometimes falling flat when it comes to the spoken word. But don't fret; the written word is something I'm a lot more careful about, as I know stumbles in that regard are one of the worst things an author can do to themselves.

Story ideas have come from the weirdest places. Crystal and Sin came into my head over a couple of days watching this trailer for a game called Lost Dimension, which was basically made from the opening anime cutscene. But if you want the full story behind the story's creation and how it changed from my initial flash of inspiration, I've put it in my Author's Afterward in the above work's Complete Edition. In fact, trailers and random pieces of music, combined with a strong visual imagination, have triggered the creation of the majority of my works.

Other times, it's been a formula from something visual that I've seen. A discarded early story idea, 'The Tales of Helena', was basically me mashing up science fiction and fantasy in the wake of watching Primeval, Doctor Who and my fascination with the antics of Lara Croft. I was very impressionable back then, sometimes to my shame. I actually rewrote that thing entirely twice, and it still didn't come out right. But then, It was highly derivative and quite tacky in its story beats and character development; I basically used the trick of fusing science fiction and fantasy, in addition to crossing over multiple world mythologes. As this was pre-Megami Tensei exposure, it wasn't nearly as nuanced and entertaining as it could have been. I'll probably be saying that about my earliest published books in a few years time. Isn't that the way with authors.

Another influence that impacted my early work that's rather work off is the Lord of the Rings film series. An unpublished trilogy of books, dubbed by me the "Dragon Trilogy", was initially inspired by the grandeur and quest-driven magnificence of what I saw in those three films. It was also pulled in several directions by my love of the Bionicle film trilogy. Ironically, this was the work that helped me begin to refine my writing style, and realise just what kind of stories I wanted to write. I still didn't have a clue about the darker themes, the true importance of female characters, mixed race issues, LGBT, coping with some emotional or physical handicap, or the sublime mixture of comedy and ugliness that Japanese media excels at. After this, I knew I wanted to write stories with strong characters at their core and a blurring between what people commonly labelled as good and evil.

Nowadays, I'm far more carefully with my inspirations, as I realise that too strong an image can negatively impact the originality of my work. Music is a nice middle ground, as it can generate my own imagination with an easily-absorbed sensual experience while also leaving my head free to create its own images. It's become my main resource during work and for story creation. Trailers for video games and films, when they're not too forceful, are quite good at that. Ideally, they only present images and flavours rather than a complete work. Again, it's mostly the music that really hooks me and creates an image, even when it's in service to the images.

For both, my head receives them, and transmutes them into my own visions. At this stage, they're a bit like placeholders, stored in my head while I write my own narrative and characters around that initial impression. Of course I can also draw from books and they helped me realise where I was going wrong with my writing style, but the sensual input from visual and audio media have a stronger impression when it comes to crafting story ideas. I read books for what they are, not what I can draw from them. I also find that I'm watching fulms for what they are, as my story ideas crafted during watching them either completely disappear or are nothing like my 'first draft'.

My working habit may well change, but to date it's served me relatively well. You readers now, I'll issue a challenge. Watch this video and do this: ignore the branding and what it was intended to be, and just drink in the atmosphere and music to create your own incredible scenario, around which the next blockbuster release may be based... Post your flashes in the comments below, or in the comments of this post's associated post on Google+. Oh, and in case the first video wasn't enough, here's another for you to try. Enjoy!

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