Brace yourself. This is a big one (that’s what she said, hahaha – sorry). Also, some major spoilers might be included in any of the items listed on the influence map. You have been warned.
The thing about inspiration is that it strikes at really weird–and usually inopportune–moments. A certain music track can send the creative side of your brain into overdrive, or you see a film and realise that the amazing idea you had last week was already done in 1990. Best yet are in the minutes before you’re about to drift away into dreamland, your brain jerks you awake to the chimes of “Hey, bitch! I just figured out how to sort out that plot hole you’ve been crying about for a month. Don’t go back to sleep or you’ll forget it!”
That’s why I’m so thankful for my iPhone. I keep the Notes app on the home page, and at the minute there are easily twenty or so notes, ideas that I’ve had at 3AM, woken from a dream or just while sitting on the toilet (and don’t act all high and mighty like you don’t use your phone on the toilet, alright? Everybody does.).
They’re not all amazing ideas, of course. But the thing about ideas as opposed to finished goods is that you’re allowed to have bad ones. Besides, Muse works hard as a net to catch the shit ideas, so any new ones I get don’t tend to be developed until I’ve had the green light from her.
Anyway, the point I’m skirting around is this nifty little influence map thing I came across quite a long time ago on Deviant Art, which I’ve just now got around to filling in. Having a reminder of the things that inspire you can come in super handy when you’re having a difficult day, a reminder why you love the things you do.
Really long and overblown explanations for my choices are below. Despite the guidance at the bottom of the map, the size of the images doesn’t really correlate with the amount of influence these things have: it’s just that certain ones looked cooler in difference shapes and sizes.
Also, after completing the map, I then got a bit carried away and made a video about some of them. So now that exists.
Because obviously. I love everything about Blade and find it to be a near perfect vampire film. The setup of the world it takes place in, the relationship between characters (especially the surrogate father/son business between Blade and Whistler), the idea of vampires taking over the world and only one epic badass to stand in the way…it’s all just so neat. The opening sequence at the club is one of my favourite openings to any film.
Plus, Deacon Frost is a great villain. He’s young, ambitious, arrogant. He wears really high collared shirts. Everything you should look for in a man.
One of my favourite things about Blade, and to a lesser extent Blade: Trinity is that they do not involve any romantic storylines whatsoever. That’s one of the reasons why, in my opinion, the second Blade film failed so very hard, because of the pointless romance bit sandwiched in (I know it’s not really romance, but it’s weird nonetheless). That and the dislocating jaw vampires. They didn’t help, either.
This is a bit of a weird one. I have seen the Ergo Proxy series twice now, once with the English dub and once in Japanese with subtitles (I like to watch things with subtitles from time to time, because it makes me feel intelligent when I can read), and I’m undecided as to whether I even like it.
It’s very slow paced, layered deep and thick with over-arcing themes, and it’s quite heavy to sit through. That said, there’s this whole “gods” thing that I go all faint over, which is why I think I am drawn to it. Plus, the art is lush, and the score is haunting and despondent. Just the kind of thing you want on a Saturday afternoon.
The Lost Boys
The Lost Boys was the first vampire film I ever saw, and I have long since attributed it–along with American Werewolf in London–to my interest in the supernatural. I remember we used to have it on VHS (remember those?), recorded from a late night showing on BBC2. It was also one of the first DVDs I bought, when those first came about. I’d say I still watch it around once a month. The characters are fun, it’s a nice mix of tones, the story is told from every angle, the music is so 80’s it hurts (but in a good way! You don’t get sexy greased up, half-naked men playing a saxophone quite like you get it in The Lost Boys), and it has a young Keifer Sutherland as a hot vampire. Plus, without it, we wouldn’t have this great picture, and the world would be a sadder place as a result.
There is some link between the first time I ever saw The Matrix (at my 16th birthday party in January 2000) and when I wrote the very first draft of “The Genesis” a mere two months later. The very first draft of the Genesis was essentially The Matrix with vampires in it, right down to the long black coats and Catrina being “the One”. So if Jacob was Morpheus, and Catrina was Neo, obviously, that would make Fox Trinity. Brilliant.
While the story has evolved from its basic origin since then, there are still some small sweeps of its influence in there.
The Matrix is just fantastic down to the very last detail, and another favourite soundtrack in there, as well.
Joss Whedon is one of my idols. He brought us Buffy, who I’ll get to further down, as well as
great incredible series such as Firefly and Dollhouse. He’s an immensely talented writer. I both envy and adore him. Plus, he writes some epic women. (Side note: Whedon was once asked in an interview why he writes the strong female characters that he’s known for, to which he simply responded: “Because you’re still asking me that question.” (transcript of that can be found .))
The Usual Suspects
Ah, the film that gave us Keyser Söze and the line “And like that…he’s gone.”.
I remember watching The Usual Suspects for the first time on DVD. I watched it twice in the same day, because the ending was so freaking epic and I just couldn’t believe it, and realised on the second watch (and many subsequent viewings) all the signs I’d missed. It’s one of the few films that really changes once you’ve seen it through.
Stylistically, the film is gritty and dirty and wonderful. The score is eerie; I have it permanently listed in most of my writing playlists. The characters are simply brilliant and their with their on-screen camaraderie you just can’t help but fall in love with their little band of criminals.
The witty dialogue, clever twists, and sprinkles of clues throughout are the real nuggets here. The only unfortunate thing about The Usual Suspects is that you can only watch it in that “I’m so shocked/never saw it coming” kind of way once, since after you know what happens, your viewing experience is forever altered. When private selective amnesia rays are invented (and they will be), I will use mine to erase my knowledge of this film so I can watch it again and again and again.
Side note: This was the first DVD I owned that had its own Special Features disc, and the first film commentary I ever listened to. It’s my favourite commentary, because Bryan Singer is adorable, and I can’t get enough of listening to him and writer Christopher McQuarrie saying: “Does the dog die? Does the dog get killed in the fire?”, “No, the dog lives. The dog definitely lives.”
She’s just an incredible, amazing woman. I first came across Musk’s work while perusing the virtual aisles of Amazon.co.uk, and my magpie eye was taken with the shiny cover of a book called “Bloodangel”. (I should also include an honourable mention to the illustrator Christian McGrath here, who is responsible not only for bringing me to Musk’s work, but also piqued my interest in the Dresden Files and the Cal Landros series by Rob Thurman, among others. Anyway, check out his web site. Thinking about it, I really should’ve included him on the map. Oh, well.)
Where was I? Oh yes, Justine. So I got the first book, devoured it in about two days (which is good for me. I’m a massively lazy reader), promptly bought the second, devoured that, too, and I’ve been waiting for the next instalment ever since.
She lately seems to have drifted from her authoring to concentrate focus on her inspirational posts and other work at her web site TribalWriter.com, which is fine, I guess (sad face). She talks a lot about women and gender roles, assumed stereotypes and how we as a culture should overcome them, as well as general posts about creativity, which are all fabulous.
You should also buy her book. Just sayin’.
The Land Before Time
Oh God, this film.
As a child, I watched this on video ALL THE TIME, so much so that I had two copies on VHS: one at home, and one at my grandparent’s house where I spent many a weekend, just so I could be sure to watch it whenever I wanted. Translate that to ALL THE TIME.
The strange thing is that as a child, I don’t think I really appreciated the power behind the story itself, and I don’t recall ever crying at it when I was young.
Now, though, hooooo. Now I cry at all of it; not just the obvious part. I cry when Littlefoot is born. I cry when his mother fights Sharptooth. I cry when the earthquake splits the families. I cry when he hears his mother’s voice in the tree star. I cry when Cera crawls into the group to sleep because she’s cold. I cry when he chases his mother’s spirit into the Great Valley and then calls his friends to join him, and he says “We did it! We did it together!”. Just thinking about it makes me a little bit blubbery. I sometimes cry just hearing the music (which is also beautiful), which is a first for me.
It’s just SO FREAKING POWERFUL.
It’s also beautifully animated by Don Bluth, who is an animation genius.
And no, I haven’t seen any of the sequels and have no intention of doing. Ever.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I am of the opinion that if you do not like at least some of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. It might be wrong of me to think that, but there you go.
If The Lost Boys got me interested in vampires in the first place, Buffy kept me interested in my teens (and beyond!).
Buffy is another “chosen one” a la Matrix (though technically before The Matrix came out – I’m not the only idea thief! o/); it is her destiny to hunt vampires, leaving her in the unfortunate situation of balancing high school life with hunting monsters.
I love the writing on the show, in particular the ensemble cast and the show’s ability to involve most–if not all–of them enough to make you genuinely care about everyone.
And I love the balance of tone, the equal measures of comedy and drama, the witty banter and the clever storylines. All in all, just a great show, with lots and lots to draw from.
Final Fantasy VII
What can I say about Final Fantasy VII? Well, first of all, if you haven’t read it already, I’d suggest you read my MtWNB post about it, since I do a lot of my gushing there. I don’t know why so many people (myself included) fawn over this game (and, by proxy, the franchise as a whole). Aside from the music, which is all epic, a lot of it is in the story. I must’ve played through VII about ten times, and I still don’t fully understand what happened to Cloud.
And then there’s all the spin off junk, Crisis Core, the anime, the film (that’s “Advent Children”, not the other Final Fantasy film which has nothing to do with anything), Dirge of Cerberus. It’s all great stuff, although I suspect I’m somewhat flawed in my opinions due to my love for the original game.
Still, nothing cheers me up quite like listening to the prelude music from the game:
It’s just so full of whimsy and gives me nostalgiagasms like nothing else can.
This might seem like another weird choice. I remember going to see this at the cinema with a friend from school. Turned out she and I were the only two people in the entire cinema, so it didn’t seem to turn that many heads at the box office. The general consensus of this movie among alien film fans is that it’s a poor man’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which I’ve never seen, so…
One of the main things that kept me coming back to this movie is the soundtrack, which I still have a CD of, even though it is scratched to buggery, as it was a perfect rendition of mid-to-late 90’s rock, an era I still desperately cling to twelve years later.
The Faculty was written by Kevin Williamson (the writer behind Scream, Cursed, and the TV adaptation of The Vampire Diaries), and while the story itself is not my usual taste, I overlook the aliens bit, because of his wonderful characterisations and interaction between the band of misfits and miscreants forced together to deal with aliens taking over their school.
Plus, this was the first film I saw with Josh Hartnett in it, thus beginning the obsession.
Tunnels and Underground/Abandoned Areas
First of all, the fact that I’m fascinated by tunnels might in fact be some psychological sign that I am actually a lesbian. But anyway, that aside.
There’s just something so mesmerizing about buildings with their insides exposed, ruined walls and dust-covered scatterings of furniture, or long tunnels with only vague flickers of light to lead the way through man-made (and natural) structures gouged through the earth itself.
Basically, pictures of underground areas and abandoned buildings are kind of like my porn. There, I said it.
A little picture that covers a lot. If you haven’t noticed from the previous entries, a lot of my favourite things about my favourite things are soundtracks and scores.
I write better to music. I write blog posts on the music I write to. I’m not really sure why I chose Skinny Puppy as the embodiment of that influence. Maybe because they’re weird. I don’t know.
What do you get the show that’s got everything?
What started as a story about two hunter brothers looking for their missing father, the show essentially became a story of good versus evil, another destiny rider, and – you guessed it – more chosen ones!
The show merges large, long story arcs with episodic intervals, mostly the brothers hunting every single type of monster in the world.
It’s writing is so sharp, and the character interactions are priceless, in particular the relationship the brothers have, and – in later series – the odd friendship that develops between Dean and the angel Castiel.
The Dark Crystal
Another childhood favourite, Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal was another VHS recorded off the TV kind of deal. I remember it being a recording because when I finally got around to buying the DVD some years later, I realised that I’d never seen the first two minutes before, where the narrator basically gives you the full story of what you’re about to watch. Which I never saw. I thought it started with the Skeksis taking their power from the dark crystal. In any case, I figured the story out for myself by watching the thing. I was a smart child like that.
I love, love, love the tone of the film, particularly for a children’s film. It’s just so dark. I remember being absolutely terrified as a child, particularly by the Garthim, with their great big bodies and clattering claws. Considering that these puppets are made by the same people who made Kermit the Frog, I’d say that’s quite an achievement. The Emperor’s death where he crumbles to pieces is a work of genius.
Besides, the Garthim and the Skeksis might have all terrified me, but I still watched the film into oblivion, to the point that I can still quote the entire film, word for word. Like a boss. Except the first two minutes, of course, because they were never drilled into my subconscious as a child.
The story, while arguably simplistic, is your classic “good versus evil”, the hero’s journey, all about destiny, about prophecies, about chosen ones. It immerses you into this magical other world, where you truly believe the powers of good and evil can be governed by a giant shard of purple glass.
The Dark Crystal also has some brilliant female characters, both Ogra and Kira, who in my humble opinion are so great because their actions, abilities and mannerisms are not at all defined by their gender.
And lastly, the soundtrack is a wonder in of itself, brought to us by composer Trevor Jones, the man also responsible for the Labyrinth soundtrack.
Back when there were only four terrestrial TV channels, I seem to recall Dark Angel played occasionally on Channel 4. I missed the thing entirely when it was first aired in the UK, only ever catching snippet episodes and having a bit of a thing for Logan whenever he popped up. It wasn’t until around 2004 when my now husband moved in with me and he brought his Dark Angel DVDs with him that I sat and watched both series in one weekend. I tend to do that a lot.
So after watching the series on DVD, I can say with some confidence that it is now one of my favourite shows of all time. I love everything about it: the broken post-pulse city of Seattle that you could believe would happen, genetically-engineered soldiers, the military regime of Manticore (the episode(s) that show the place itself are some of my favourites) and how Max is just a little bit better/different than the others (aren’t they always?).
Closing with more of an honourable mention, since I can’t really claim her work hasn’t had some influence over my writing in general, although in what capacity is difficult to say. I love the Interview with the Vampire film and its ability to really immerse you into the time and story. That said, I haven’t read all of Rice’s books, only Interview, Queen of the Damned, and The Vampire Armand, and I have to say I find some of her work a little “hit and miss”, particularly “Interview”, which I came very close to hating. I just wanted to slap Louis, screaming “Cheer up, you miserable bastard!” for 300 pages. But anyway, I digress, yes Anne Rice’s work still has some sway over my own, and the stuff I do like, I really like.
I should point out that this map is by no means an exhaustive list of all the things I draw influences from/get inspired by, rather they’re the most prominent ones that came to me when I first sat down and thought about it. I can already think of a number of others. Maybe I’ll cover them in another post.
If you want to do your own influence map, check out the template and information here.
Inspiration takes many forms. What inspires you? What do you draw from in your work?