I’ve never asked nor been asked the question, but having read dozens of comments and accounts of professional authors it appears to be a common one among fans and would be writers.
Where do your ideas come from?
Seems like a simple answer doesn’t it? It’s a rather simple question to be honest. Writers in particular, humans in general, innately learn from experience. Take mundane moments in life and apply them to future events.
There is an old adage “write what you know” that is driven into every creative writing student. Taken literally, this is crap. If we wrote only what we knew there wouldn’t be Harry Potter, there wouldn’t be monsters, there wouldn’t be super-heroes, and there wouldn’t be Stephen King. Well I’m sure there would be Stephen King, but he’d be a literary hack who writes riveting stories about the human condition in small New England towns, without all the gore, horror and intrigue.
“Write what you know” isn’t meant to be taken literally. What it means and how it should be taught to mean is to take your experience, your encounters, and apply them to atypical scenarios.
Let’s say you live in a small community and close enough to work that you can walk each day. This is routine, it’s mundane. On that walk each day you meet the postman. He gives you a smile and you watch him walk up and down walk ways and driveways. One particular house you notice he always gets out a milkbone for the dog. Knowing the long history of dogs and postmen you assume its a bribe to prevent an attacked. A writer on the other hand suspects conspiracy. An unnatural interaction between the postman and dog can only mean bad things are afoot.
This has germinated an idea. The postman was trying to save himself from a dog bite, but in your reality as a writer, the postman lime-lights as a burglar and has cleverly canvased his route for houses with dogs who he has trained to welcome him and not see him as a threat. From there you could write any numerous outcomes in any various genres.
See it wasn’t necessary to be the postman or to be a thief to build the idea for a story about body snatching — oh, is that where the story went — only thing necessary was the seed, the fragment of experience that you could build upon.
If such a little element as a man giving a dog a bone can generate a story of post-apocalyptic alien domination, then any little bit of your experience if you let it can phantasmagorically blossom into a story that even Stephen King would be envious of.
Your story ideas come from everywhere. From anything you encounter: news, books, dreams, television, co-workers or a chance encounter with an alien postman. Your job, your challenge, is to take that experience and put it somewhere it doesn’t belong. Where it can cause the most effect and stir a chain of events turning the mundane into something adventurous.
Are you ready for adventure? Are you ready to write?