Ever feel like every movie you see and every book you read are just the same one story over and over?

Here are seven pieces of fiction that are completely innovative in what they do.  More importantly, their uniqueness is both visible and intuitive, which makes them easy to learn from.


Spirited Away

– Fantasy Genre –


This story will change the fantasy paradigm for you.  For a genre that’s supposed to be about letting go of the boundaries of the natural world, fantasy stories have become less about imagination and more about following the rules and tropes laid down by previous works.  Spirited Away brings wonder back to the fantasy genre.  It changes up the kind of story fantasy usually tells, the kind of rules a world usually follows, the kind of relationship the main character has to those rules, the kind of setting in which the story takes place within a fantasy world.  It will open up doors you never knew existed when it comes to fantasy story methodology.



One Piece – Episodes 36-37

– Powerful Emotions – 


One Piece will teach you how to push the emotional peak of a story arc to its limits.  These two episodes comprise a standalone backstory of one of the main characters and it showcases the One Piece method beautifully.  Where western writers hedge and trip over themselves trying not to be too blatant and over the top, Eiichiro Oda shows the kind of genuine and deeply moving story you get when you’re not bound by these kinds of fears.  It doesn’t matter how simple and silly the superficial facets of your story are–powerful, honest storytelling will always evoke the most meaningful emotions.

I should mention that these two episodes were the first episodes I saw, and without question, they were what inspired me to watch the other 500 episodes of what became my favorite work of fiction ever.  One Piece is truly a masterpiece.



Pretty Much Any Decent K-Drama

– Female Characters – 


I’m not kidding.  The genre is downright goofy but the female protagonists of K-dramas are bursting with personality in a way that western female characters just aren’t.  They express themselves differently, have different values, get into and out of relationships differently, and struggle with challenges western female characters don’t have.  Without a doubt, they do all start to blend together a bit after you see a few of them, which is why you only need to watch the first several episodes of one or two of these shows (I recommend Coffee Prince, Reply 1997, or Boys Over Flowers), but these eccentric, emotionally vibrant, rom-com heroines will surprise you.




– Fundamentals – 


Journey is a video game with no dialogue and basically only one character.  It’s also one of the most moving stories I’ve ever experienced.  It strips away everything but the core of what evokes powerful emotions in storytelling.  It shows you don’t need complex characters with complex relationships and crazy plot twists showcasing esoteric themes to move a reader or viewer.  By using a mix of simple but evocative devices with beautiful imagery and music, it will remind you how important basic storytelling fundamentals can be.



Portal 1&2

– Villains – 


The Portal Series is the biggest subversion of the classic villain character I’ve ever seen.  GLaDOS is not great at coming up with evil plans, and she’s not really trying to do evil per se.  She’s just a computer trying to do her job.  When the story’s hero makes that difficult, GLaDOS responds in her monotonous tones with the most childish, passive-aggressive sarcasm you’ve ever heard out of a computer.  The Portal Series shows us an interesting, annoying, so-bad-it’s-good kind of villain that makes us question why every other story out there is going for the same cruel, power-hungry villains we see time and time again.




– Surrealism – 


When I first heard about FLCL I went online and read reviews, and every one said the same thing: five stars, I love it SO much, but I have no idea what happened or why I feel this way.  There’s no better way to sum up this ridiculous six episode anime series.  It’s a coming of age tale told in a way that’s incomprehensible.  You walk away with strong impressions of a theme, but you can’t really say what that theme is.  Amid surreal imagery, out-of-the-blue South Park references, and giant robot battles that are somehow also baseball scenes, FLCL shows how to tell a story that doesn’t have to make sense, as long as the characters are vivid and there’s enough well-placed symbolism to keep the viewer thinking.



Atlas Shrugged

– Themes – 


There’s no better book out there for learning how to use themes than Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.  Every aspect of the story is directed towards a single goal of impressing the theme upon the reader, from the details of character design to the descriptions of how they move to the nuances of every line of spoken dialogue.  The overall plot is designed to display the author’s ideals and value system in the most powerful way possible without making any sacrifices in accuracy or depth.  The book isn’t for everyone, especially if you have a problem with its ideas or find the style too preachy.  But if you’re looking for new ways to showcase ideas and themes, Atlas Shrugged’s methodology will open up your mind to tons of new ways to do so.



For writers who are trying to tell stories in new and interesting ways, finding guidance and inspiration can be hard.  The biggest mistake is thinking that you need to do something completely different, when in reality, changing up a small aspect can make an entire story feel fresh and revolutionary.  Hopefully these stories will open up the kinds of door that lead down those paths.

That’s all for now!  Come back in two weeks for a new post!

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