On Inspiration (Cinematic Themes)

The best feedback that I've gotten so far on Dragon Festival, Harvest Fire is that it's a really visual read.  That's not a coincidence.  Much of my inspiration as a storyteller comes from film (in addition to lots and lots of books).  The films of Akira Kurosawa, Hayao Miyazaki, Yoji Yamada, and Takeshi Kitano are some of the first that come to mind. I've taken some important lessons from these masters that helped me tell my story. Here are my favorites.


Scale and perspective - Do you tell things through the campaigns of Generals? Or with the voice of a peasant? The short answer: yes.  A convincing storyteller will show humanity in our leaders and with the same pen, put the reader in the story behind the eyes of someone much more relatable. 

Example - General Makabe vs Tahei and Matashichi in The Hidden Fortress (most people know these as the characters that inspired Artoo and Threepio in Star Wars)


Good Guys/Bad guys - Some of our biggest heroes are somebody else's villains, and vice versa. Don't ever forget that as a writer.  Archetypes tend to tell us otherwise, but it's OK to blur the lines; to make a 'good person' do bad things; to conjure sentimental feelings for the 'bad guy'; to make your characters real and compelling.

Example: Ashitaka and Lady Eboshi in Princess Mononoke


"Volume" - The quiet times are as important to your story as the roaring times.  That is where you touch your readers heart.

Example: Seibei Iguchi in Twilight Samurai


Violence - You can be violent by breaking a bone, but you can be even more violent by breaking a heart.  Violence is not always essential to storytelling, but it's a part of the human experience, as is overcoming said violence.

Example - Hiro (the boss) and Ryoko (the woman in the park) in Dolls. 

Bonus Round!

Jiro Asada

Family - For better or for worse, we have our family, and for better or for worse, they shape who we are.  The human spirit knows no bounds in the dealings of family.  To say the least, they will breathe life into your writing.

Example - I will say that my all time favorite character in any work of fiction (aside from my old fisher in Dragon Festival, Harvest Fire) is Yoshimura Kanichiro in When The Last Sword Is Drawn.  If you haven't experienced this story, add it to your list. You will be moved.

I hope that you enjoy these films as much as I do and I hope that my story does them justice. Find your inspiration in what you know and love. Be true to that and your writing will be successful.

- A.S.C

P.S. Speaking of inspiration, I have Tolkien's monogram tattooed on me...