Everyone asks writers the question, "Where do you get your story ideas?" I can’t answer for every writer, that’s as individual as people are. I can only answer it for myself.
I get mine from the ether around me. Ok, maybe not the ether around me, but sometimes they just come into my head. My subconscious comes up with them in some mysterious process that it has. Then it sends it bubbling up through my consciousness. I need to write them down as soon as possible when they occur to me. I carry my pocket pc with a stylus for that purpose. I could use my fingernail to write with, but that is cumbersome. It’s much easier to write with a stylus.
Sometimes I get my ideas from other books, or TV or commercials. I once wrote a poem about riding a bicycle on the moon because I saw that image on a TV commercial. It wasn’t a very good poem, but it was a poem.
When I say that I get ideas from other books, I start by using the characters in the book and adding my own. Sometimes that develops into an original story, in which case, I remove the copyrighted characters and develop my own. Those stories are for practice as much as anything else. Sometimes I will take a book or TV show and write a wild back-story for one of the characters. Usually I end up changing the character to fit my back-story. Then I move forward with an adventure of the character’s own.
Sometimes I do free association. I’ll sit at my computer and try to empty my head of thoughts. Then I let the words flow back in and just think of them. I rarely keep those games. I’m not sure where my subconscious gets its ideas. I probably feed it little bits of things as I go about my daily business. My subconscious works in its own weird way. It takes the things I see today and combines them with things I saw yesterday or even decades ago and shoots the idea up for conscious mind to look at. Sometimes I reject them. Sometimes they aren’t good. That happens more often than not.
Sometimes, it only sends half the story. It’s annoying when it does that. I spend time trying to make something work only to have the subconscious send up another piece that suddenly makes everything fit. I’m coping with something like that right now. My subconscious sent up a story idea I thought was worth pursuing so I did. I invested a lot of time into it, only to have problems with it. Then the subconscious sent up the first half of the story. it was like it was telling me, "By the way, this is how that story starts." Now I have to redo the entire story to incorporate the new beginning. It’s annoying but the story will be better for it.
Two years ago, it gave me an idea that I developed and began writing for NaNoWriMo. I got to where I thought the ending was and the subconscious said, "This is only the first half of the story." I had to finish the challenge by writing without a plan. That’s like working the high wire without a net, both scary and exhilarating.