You’re watching TV, when suddenly, in a commercial, you see a smartly dressed guy with a slick haircut driving a cool car and you think, there’s my antagonist. He’s suave, good-looking, and acts like a charming guy on the surface, but deep down, he’s truly evil. That’s the creative seed. An external idea that gives rise to your fully developed creation.
The alternative is to sit and think. To pore over mental lists of potential character traits and physical characteristics until you’ve built the basis for that ingratiating character out of complete nothingness.
Creating is something that I think everyone enjoys in one form or another, and people go about it in many different ways. One person might like to sit in the dark and close themselves off from the world until a thought speaks to them, while another person goes out to get inspired by strolling through a museum and experiencing work that others have done. “Inspired?” you say. “But inspiration is a seed in its own right.” Well, it is and it isn’t. Inspiration can sometimes be directly related to your subject matter, but I think it’s often a more general concept. Searching for inspiration doesn’t necessarily mean mining for ideas. It just means you’re getting a motivational boost from some sort of significant experience. I think the late Mitch Hedberg summed it up well in one of his jokes:
I like when they say a movie’s inspired by a true story, ’cause that’s weird. It means the movie’s not a true story—it was just inspired by a true story. Like, ‘Hey Mitch, did you hear the story about that lady who drove her children into the river and they all drowned?’
‘Yes I did, and that inspired me to write a movie about a gorilla!’
One technique is not better than the other. In fact, I bet most people regularly use a combination of both seed and thought, whether consciously or not. We often hear of writers who have moulded plots around historical events, artists who draw their characters to resemble people they’ve known, and actors who include well-known peoples’ mannerisms in their roles. Contrarily, we have books containing completely original worlds and stories, and paintings depicting landscapes that never existed. And in most cases, the basis is not even the most important part. As long as the imaginative development is there, the end result will be a good one.
Image: TakingITGlobal via Wikimedia Commons