A question writers often get asked is "Where did you come up with your ideas?"
For me, the general answer is 'everywhere'. If the question starts with a 'how', the answer changes to 'no clue, they're just there'. Where? Everywhere.
Orson Scott Card* is attributed with saying: "Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any." I don't necessarily ascribe to that. I think I'm a good writer, but I don't get five or six ideas EVERY DAY. I think I'd go nuts if I did. I'd be like a puppy with a dozen different toys all thrown at him at once... GAH!
I do get ideas a lot. The really good ones... the ones that won't leave me alone... they go into a Word file. Most of the ideas never make it there.
News stories often make for good ideas. Especially for crime fiction. Natural Causes got its kernel from a crime story that made headlines. Of course, the book totally diverges from the real story, but the kernel is there.
Sometimes, the ideas just come from my brain noodling through things. Like with Early Grave. I started with the idea that I wanted to do another SCIU novel and then I got to thinking about how I could write a suspense novel with a serial killer that's premise hadn't been done to death. (pardon the pun) I came up with the idea that someone was killing old people in nursing homes and making it look like the deaths were natural. But I didn't want to do an Angel of Death thing. This killer actually hates old people and wants them dead. Then I remembered I'd sent Ned Washington to Toledo at the beginning of Fertile Ground. Voila! Plot, MC, Setting and we're off to the races.
Sometimes something that happens to you will give you ideas. Accidental Death was an assortment of experiences, people, and events over the course of my life that rolled themselves into a novel.
Of course, AD actually started with the basic question 'What if...' The 'What if' is often a valuable source for ideas. In the case of AD, the question was 'What if a death that they ruled was accidental wasn't?' And it sort of snowballed from there.
Every rare once in a while, I'll get a story idea from a dream. That's where Untitled Fantasy came from. Of course, the end product isn't much like the dream. Hell, I can't even really remember what the dream was about. I know I got out of bed afterwards and wrote down the crux of it and then when I got up, I transferred it into my Ideas file. And then I started writing the book. (Which took me a huge amount of time to finish.) Like I said, for me, the dream ideas are rare. Mostly because my dreams are too weird to translate into a story people would want to read.
So, really, ideas are everywhere. If you can't see that, you're probably going to have a hard time as a writer. Oh, you could still write. Some writers only ever have one good idea and one good book in them. Look at Margaret Mitchell. She only ever wrote one book (even if some of her other scribblings have now been published) and it was BIG. If that's your course, if you find yourself NEEDING to write that one book, do it.
Me? I'll be over here fending off new ideas so I can focus on writing and editing the ideas I already have in the works. Which, right now, means getting off my dead ass and working on this crazy fantasy idea I dreamed up.
What about you? If you're not a writer (yet), what ideas do you have that could be made into a story? If you're already a writer, where do your ideas come from?
*If you're not familiar with Card, he wrote ENDER'S GAME. Yes, the one they made into a movie. He wrote a bunch of other stuff, too. Definitely not a dude who was short of ideas.