Friday, June 17, 2011

Inception and a Bit About Stories

I saw Inception in theatres last year. I recently re-watched it on Blu-Ray because it is one of the most powerful stories I can remember having ever enjoyed. Much like The Prestige, it’s a movie that bears multiple viewings on the merits of its story. And by the way, good stories aren’t just in books—that’s why my company isn’t called C.P. White Publishing. Stories today come in all kinds of media, and Inception is an incredible example. That story just rips me apart.

Maybe it’s because DiCaprio plays a distant father. It’s not by his character’s choice that he’s been removed from his family, not directly. But as we discover near the climax, he can be blamed for it pretty squarely. The flaws of fatherhood are something that speak to me deeply, because I am one—a flawed father, that is.

Or maybe it’s because the story is about dreams, and we all have them; we wonder at the mysterious universal. The idea of a dream within a dream within a dream begs the question of what’s actually real, much like The Matrix did when it broke onto the scene years ago.

Maybe, though, the story of Inception affects me simply because I like stories that pose hard questions and then lead the audience or reader in a certain direction only far enough to allow us to make the final connections on our own. Inception does this masterfully, and I plan to watch it again, studying it so that I can learn more about how to craft a proper story.

So much has been done already at this point in human history; it’s difficult to innovate. Mary Shelley arguably invented the horror genre in the mid 19th century with Frankenstein, but it’s difficult indeed for any of us to produce such literary shockwaves today. To use another example, just tune into pop radio and listen for a bit and see if you can identify a single song that is truly unique. It’s a tough time in creative media; everything looks or sounds almost identical. It seems we’re resigned by necessity to produce works that are similar to what’s already been done yet just different enough to be able to be called “new.”

Inception is a story that will be talked about for a long time to come. It is different in a sea of sameness. This is the kind of story writers, or creative artists of any kind, ought to study. Sure, it has familiar elements…betrayal, deception, the ubiquitous thuggish baddies that could have starred on the A-Team. But God, it’s a good movie…and a fantastic story.