We live in a time that is completely saturated by media. As a ’90’s child, we still had a huge back-catalogue of media to catch up on, affection ally called “old”, when referring to anything from the ’80’s back to when recorded media first began to exist. Now we are positively spoiled for films,books, music and games, and they are more accessible than ever thanks to the internet. What’s more is that the level of people making creative media, for better or for worse, is higher than ever. Thanks to accessible options from the internet such as Youtube, Soundcloud, Kickstarter and Amazon publishing to name a few, it’s easier than ever to publish what you’ve made for a wide audience. With such an abundance in creative energy floating around, the question has to be asked; Do original ideas even exist anymore?
One of the curses of living in a Capitalist society (You could argue that there are many), is that every piece of media is absolutely controlled by money. As such, those who hold the wallets and back creative projects only as a means of investment, aren’t interested in risks, but risks are where innovative ideas thrive. Although we are lucky to have ambitious individuals who go the “Indie” route, putting their own bank balances on the line in the sake of art, these endeavours rarely pull in the sales numbers needed to warrant future endeavours. This is of course why it seems every year a new reboot, remaster or remake is announced. Big studios and companies know without a shadow of a doubt, that even if these films are panned by critics and maligned by long-time fans, they will hit their intended sales numbers, because god help us, as an audience we are desperate to see if these are ever any good, but they so rarely are.
Of course, just because an idea is fresh and individualistic, it doesn’t always mean it’s good. We can give some of these a similar 50/50 ratio of a success rate as the remakes and refreshed ideas. Just because someone is passionate about their idea, and tells you relentlessly that “It’s gonna be good guys, I promise”, it doesn’t mean that said passion is going to shine through, and even if it is a great concept, excellent execution and everything promised, that doesn’t even mean it will pull in the numbers to be categorised as a ‘success’. That particular thought can be extremely off-putting for most. Why waste your potential Magnum-Opus on a venture that could possibly go completely unnoticed by the world? Or worse, criticised?
However, the one idea that will put any creator off a project, is the dreaded comparison. We have all had situations like this, whether we are the one who is so optimistic and excited about and idea, and the one who shuts them down. “Oh, that sounds just like (Insert-popular-media-title-here)”. It can be demoralising, but innocuous to the one who made the comparison. It can be an off-the-cuff statement as to better understand ones pitch, relating it to something you know, or even egregiously warning someone that if you could make the comparison, so could the wider audience and critics, and it’s something worth baring in mind.
So, with all that in mind, can we still create unique, original stories?
Of course we can you dumb-butt.
We just have to bare in mind, that people are going to compare what you’ve written, no matter what. From an audience who only absorb media and don’t create it, to those who live to make new stories, comparisons simply are going to be made, and that should never discourage us. It can be heartbreaking to have that dopamine releasing moment of “Eureka!” only to realise your idea is very close to a show, movie, game or book that you’ve never heard of before. It can be infuriating when you start conceptualising, planning and preparing for an idea you think is so unbelievably cool, and then realising you’re treading along lines someone else has already drawn.
It’s so important not to be discouraged though. There are so many ways around this. The principal thought is that it’s all in the execution, and to a large extent, it definitely is. You can have an idea that on paper seems very similar to an iconic movie or lesser known story, but it will obviously differ greatly, because it’s you writing it, and that make sit unique. The characters will be different, the way they talk and interact with each other will be different, the events and twists will be different, and that in itself is unique.
Of course, that isn’t always enough. Just because you’ve set a movie in a space ship, where the crew are chased by an alien; no matter who the characters are, what the alien is, and how it ends, it’s still going to be compared to Alien. Having recently watched Life, although the characters are their own, then alien menace is original and terrifying in it’s own way, but any review you read about the film is absolutely going to reference the 1979 film, which is a shame because Life has it’s own merits.
As creators, we should always strive for making good art, despite the criticism it might receive, this should take precedence over what you think might be the next big thing. However, we should also make sure the end product is exactly what we set out for. Inject your life, your personality into a project, make it your own beast. Take an idea, push it as far as the concept can possibly go in your mind, and it will be your own.
There is always going to be an audience out there who appreciates the effort we put into making something unique. Sometimes the best way is to go as abstract as possible, reach into the furthest, darkest corners of your imagination and pull out something no-one could possibly ever recreate, or take a tired trope or visual and pull a new spin on it. New, creative and fun ideas are out there, we just need to find them. Strive for something new, but make it your own, something no-one could ever conceive because they are not you.
What is your favourite example of a completely original idea, that pushes the boundaries of the ordinary? Let’s talk about it!