Every artist has their sources.
It’s a truth that too many creators deny too often. Sure, we all acknowledge the debt that we owe to real life, the true events that have inspired our stories – but for whatever reason, one generally wants to believe that he or she experiences divine moments of inspiration, devoid of the influence of outside media. Somehow, one prefers to reject the notion that any books, comics, movies, TV shows and books have in any way helped influence the creator’s baby.
But once again, I repeat – every artist has his sources.
Yes, this point may seem obvious. It’s easy to say that we find inspiration in other forms of media, without acknowledging our debt to those specific works. But really, it’s important to do so. By recognizing which artistic works we were inspired by, we can both pay tribute to those works – and we can also successfully differentiate ourselves from them. After all, there might only be a handful of different stories in the world, but what’s really important is how you make that story your own.
In Stephen King’s fifth Dark Tower book, Wolves of the Calla, there’s a great scene toward the end where Eddie – a former heroin addict – and Jake – the Gunslinger’s adopted son –are discussing the startlingly familiar traits of of the “Wolves,” a pack of bloodthirsty robots that have been terrorizing the Calla for years. See, the Wolves are eerily familiar, in a number of ways. For one, they utilize miniscule, golden hand grenades—grenades that they call “sneeches.” At close quarters, the Wolves attack with energy swords. Perhaps most significant of all, though, is the Wolves’ appearance. They have robotic, humanoid bodies, and the only garments they wear are green cloaks, hoods and togas. As Eddie tells Jake, these wolves look almost identical to a certain classic Marvel Comics super villain – a Latverian dictator known by the name of Doctor Doom.
Now, these traits aren’t simply coincidences; they’re actually a part of the plot. As the Dark Tower series tells a tale that reaches across thousands of alternate universes, having references to such sources as Doom, the light sabers from Star Wars and the sneetch from Harry Potter actually makes sense, in the context of the story. What’s most inspiring here, though, is the fact that Stephen King goes so far as to call himself out on these obvious sources of inspiration. Through the mouths of Eddie and Jake, King displays a brave willingness to openly cite his sources, and he even allows the readers to take part in the game.
I remember the first time I read the Dark Tower series, I found this passage enormously inspiring. I realized that the idea of a writer denying one’s sources of inspiration – the reality of what happens when a writer pretends that he or she isn’t influenced by the media he/she enjoys consuming – is a fabrication that people will always see right through.
Let’s face it. Let’s face the truth. Every artist is inspired by something. Every artist has his/her favorite works of art; the creator doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and to pretend otherwise is to present a falsehood.
And see, this is what’s important, contradictory to what we might generally believe – originality isn’t found by having an “original idea,” originality is something that comes from the unique execution of an idea. Believe in your concept—believe that, by telling it through your own voice instead of someone else’s, you can make it original—and then you’ll have something special.