“It’s not where you take things from . . . it’s where you take them to.”
The above is a quote from ground-breaking French film maker, Jean-Luc Godard.
Godard wasn’t afraid to take influences from his favourite works – be that in film, literature or music – and put them in to his own work. He was supremely confident that his unique creative voice would ensure that what he produced would be just as powerful as the original – sometimes more so – because he had taken it in a new direction or put a different spin on things.
As creatives we can spend too much of our time fretting over whether our work is too derivative of something else. Once you accept that there really are only so many stories you can tell, you can focus all of your creative energies on ensuring you bring your own personality and viewpoint to an idea.
Is it original?
You only have to look at a genre like Horror to see that despite a relatively small number of set situations and creatures (werewolves, zombies, vampires etc, etc) there are millions of different stories out there and new sub-genres are being created all the time.
Often, it’s more about using a genre to tell the story or explore the themes you are interested in – as Sci-Fi was used in 1950’s America to reflect the growing threat of The Cold War.
Steven Spielberg famously wanted to tell a story about how the divorce of his parents affected him as a child. This resulted in what he describes as his most personal film – E.T – the Extra Terrestrial! There have been scores of films about aliens visiting from another planet – and yet Spielberg’s film seems fresh and original because he has focused on telling the story from his very personal standpoint.
As writers we should do the same. Go out there, absorb all these fantastic influences of film, music, literature and culture and create something new.
Become a thief and your work will be all the better for it.
Do you worry about being derivative? What influences your work and what stories are you interested in telling?
This was my 20th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – U is for Uncommon Courtesy, a rant.