In creating plot, setting, and character ideas, I have always wanted to make something new that I had never seen before. Every time I would come up with something I didn’t think was original enough, I would scrap it and keep trying. This is one of the reasons it took me until my thirtieth birthday to start writing. In developing the episodes for Nate’s early years (when he is still called Nathaniel) I have lowered my standards of originality in accordance with the weirdness quotient (There is a force that causes his adventures to become less and less typical as he ages). Also, in order to be the genius he is in his later life, he has to learn sometime. What better way to learn than by experience? This is why some of the early episodes build foundational knowledge of temporal mechanics, such as introducing the common idea of a simple paradox – either one wherein the characters alter history or confirm it – even though this is a common trope.
As I get older, I find that more and more of my ideas have been done before in some form unknown to me. My idea of “breaking the fourth wall” that I invented completely on my own has actually been around since before I was born (I call it Realitarianism). My idea for beings that absorb the attributes of those they eat has been done by nudibranchs eating sea anemones and passing the stinging cells undigested into their skin so that they too may be protected (just not from other nudibranchs). Even nature steals my ideas!
Other things may look superficially similar, but are in reality based on other things. Since I always wanted to have an interesting life, all my childhood fantasies were built around myself as a long-lived being that had adventure after adventure in a certain chronological order. I like to read and watch series that revolve around one individual above all other forms of entertainment. This is really the only fiction worth creating. In order to have a long life and yet encounter a lot of danger, my character needs some way of escaping death. The Highlander is immortal and Doctor Who regenerates. Nathaniel reincarnates. I got the idea not from Doctor Who, but from religion. Over time, I developed its workings to the point that it is totally unique and doesn’t really resemble Hindu or Greek conceptions of reincarnation at all.
One thing that did kind of start out as something else was the crystal tree. In fifth grade, I was playing with the neighborhood kids and imagined that the crystalline entity from Star Trek was attacking us. We used a nearby tree as a stand-in. From the very beginning, we named it the crystal tree, not the crystalline entity, and it had several attributes based on the actual tree we were throwing things at, not on Star Trek at all (such as acorn bombs). After our game ended, I continued to refine the character to the point that the two were very dissimilar. Additional games with the neighborhood kids added numerous other episodes to the series I was just beginning to organize in those days. The crystal tree is now such an important recurring enemy that to remove it would require completely reimagining the whole series.
About half of my ideas come from games played with others (mostly children). This means that sometimes we incrementally build on each others’ ideas in such a way that I can’t say for certain which one of us actually deserves more credit. Sometimes ideas come from misunderstandings. Should I credit the one who misunderstood or the one who actually said something else entirely? Sometimes after developing a plot based on a game and incorporating it into the series I discover years later that the ideas from the children sound suspiciously similar to something else. I once played a game wherein we rolled pebbles near each other to release monsters that we could use to battle each other. It was highly unique at the time, and I came up with most of the monster ideas myself. It was only many years later that I first watched Pokémon and learned what the basis of the show was.
Of course, I would never want to mix my characters with others that already exist. I’m an individual! I want something I can call my own. Then I invented Realitarianism. Realitarianism started out as an alien religious concept that the whole universe is nothing more than a science fiction series created by somebody named Dan, the main characters of which were Nate and Derek. These aliens then had the ability to travel into other fictions and bring characters back and forth to create crossovers. Since the actions are supposed to be comedic, it would be counter-productive to make fictional fictions for the story that would require loads of extra description for the reader to understand. Real fictions must be used. The earliest ideas I have include visits from the tots of Tots TV, Barney The Dinosaur, Doctor Who, the cast of Star Trek The Next Generation, Levar Burton from Reading Rainbow, and the Power Rangers. One episode is basically a very long Snickers commercial. My reasoning at the time of why no one should mind was that since it is perfectly acceptable to write about real people (It seems like Abraham Lincoln is in every other book I read), it must also be perfectly acceptable to write about other real things, such as television shows. If an alien force pulls the characters out of the television so they can interact with my characters, then that is really no different. How else can I introduce such a great idea as Realitarianism?
The most important concept to the latest episodes is psychohistory. This is a word coined by Isaac Asimov in his Foundation Series. Since then, it has moved from science fiction into real, legitimate speculation as a field of study overlapping political science, economics, sociology, memetics, and psychology. I should be able to use the same word. Actually, I have to use the same word because Nate only discovers that psychohistory is being used after reading Asimov’s books and realizing that they are warnings written as fiction so that he would not be censored and killed. It is supposed to make the reader wonder about geopolitical reality. Twenty to Twenty-Five percent of my episodes (including some very very good ones) are directly based on this. Foundation’s Edge has probably been the most influential book on my work, my thinking (both in fiction and non-fiction), and my outlook on life. To avoid writing about it, I would have to stop being me.
Then again, since in The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship, it is revealed that Nate's entire universe might merely be a figment of his imagination based on fantasizations of real experiences of his, I suppose this all makes sense.