3 Valuable lessons content creators can take from popular fiction

popular fiction

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

When I traveled to Italy for a month to recover from my creative burnout, I launched through 13 books and watched four complete anime series in a month. Swiss travel thrillers, futuristic health dystopia anime, justice thrillers about the death penalty, young students teaming up with death gods to punish crime—yeah, the gamut ran wild.

I consumed the fiction onslaught for entertainment purposes, but I always learn something for my online career and life.

Most entrepreneurs and content creators I know tend to consume mostly non-fiction. They read books about technology, social media or entrepreneurship. What they often forget is that fiction entails so many lessons and benefits we can use for online business life.

Below, I want to reveal three important benefits you gain by consuming speculative fiction.

1) Fiction will help you come up with new ideas

Late management coach and German scientist Vera Birkenbihl once described your brain as net of neural networks. To increase your capacity for creativity, you have to ‘connect’ the different networks so new associations can be formed. One way of accomplishing that is by learning different skills seemingly unrelated to each other. Learning new languages, sports, and drawing are unrelated skills. They, however, feature overlap that increase your pool for creative combinations.

Another way of fostering fresh thinking is by consuming unique and stories that challenge your thinking. They can make you see the world in a different way, i.e. helping your brain create new neural networks that exponentially increase your ability to form new ideas.

Below are three recent examples that changed the way I see the world:

  1. “Death Note.” A Japanese anime series about a young student called Light Yagami teaming up with a death god. The student gains the ability to anonymously kill any human being by merely knowing their face and name. The dark series deals with justice, power, and morality. It made me challenge my own assumptions. How would I react if I could decide over death?
  2. “The Force.” A new top-notch NYC crime thriller by Don Winslow about a Northern Manhattan elite task force and their descent into corruption. The book, strengthened by years of research, shows you the faults of the justice system and how corruption penetrates every aspect of governorship.
  3. “Aldébaran / Bételgeuse.” A French sci-fi comic book series by LEO about humans colonizing habitable planets. The series focuses less on space action and spends more time on humans establishing societies, dealing with new life forms and environments, as well as repeating mistakes from the past.

Consume stories out of your comfort zone and let your neural networks form new associations.

2) Fiction improves your storytelling

Ugh, listen, I know, the term storytelling has become another hype word in the marketing world. But it’s more than a buzz word, it’s a tool for survival. Whether you want to sell an idea, connect with customers, or explain your mission, storytelling is the fast lane to your target’s brain.

The best TED talks, the best pitches, and the best business presentations often involve storytelling. Elon Musk showing CGI videos about space ships traveling to Mars is more captivating than bullet-listing all the numeral facts of Martian colonization.

Even when you consume ‘dumb’ fiction in the form of bland Hollywood movies or predictable book thrillers, you learn by analyzing them. Ask yourself questions such as “Why is this story so boring” (because it’s predictable and cookie-cutter), or “Why is the character so repulsive?”
(because he has no redeeming qualities).

Finding the faults of other creators’ stories will help you improve your own.

3) Fiction helps you anticipate trends

With Google, Facebook and other tech companies constantly changing the content creation game, we have to understand tech trends to survive. Consuming science fiction can help you predict trends of the (near) future and prepare you for it.

A perfect example is the sci-fi anime “Harmony” which I watched at a recent Berlin film festival.

The sci-fi story takes place in the far future where nation states have disappeared. The WHO (World Health Organization) has become the world government. Every citizen living in a WHO country is connected to the decentralized cloud. Their bodies get monitored 24/7. In exchange, the citizen receives high-tech, nanobot-based healthcare and is basically immune to every disease, including aging.

The biggest crime in the WHO world is suicide, as your body is considered a property of the government. Damaging your body means damaging a public good.

In case some citizens do get sick, their bio-data gets transferred to a mobile 3D printer that produces the medicine with the exact dosage in real-time.

The story features concepts which governments and tech corporations are already working on:

  • permanent surveillance of your body
  • PAN—Personal Area Networks, turning your body into a wi-fi spot
  • ‘Free’ healthcare in exchange for privacy and personal freedom
  • individualized nanobot-based medicine, printed on demand
  • smart contact lenses that replace your computer and smartphone (see Google lenses)
  • a global social citizen ranking measuring your worth by the value you bring to society (see China’s social credit system)

This 120-minute animation movie has taught me more about future trends than countless tech articles only stating the facts. And because the information was packaged in story-form, it will linger longer in my memory.


Fiction can be more than mindless entertainment. It can change the way you see the world, help you anticipate trends and teach you how to connect with people and get points across. Why don’t you actively search out a speculative series or book and learn something in storytelling form?

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase athttp://www.marsdorian.com and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian
Original illustration by the author.

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