This perennial question is feared by writers, mainly because we are expected to offer up a hidden insight that only we are privy to. Some authors shrug off the question with a quip, such as, from the merchant if ideas. Others go with the truth: Ideas come from everywhere and everything, the trick is in selecting the good ones. Of course this is not what people want to hear. They want to know the secret.
Well here goes: Think of any idea that involves conflict and turn this idea into a, what if? Once you have this, the story is simply down to plotting, or repeating a new question, what next?
Fine, but that doesn’t tell me where the ideas come from? I hear them groan. Then try this: Take two existing and different ideas, now gel them together, thus, creating a fresh story. By the time you’ve re-shaped your tale you’ll be hard pushed to find any resemblance of the originals.
Alternatively, eavesdrop. Recently I overheard one woman gossip to another, “They’d been taking each others drugs by mistake.” If that line doesn’t conjure up an idea or two, you can’t be helped.
And be forewarned, the next time I’m asked: Where do you get your ideas? I’ll be sure to reply: From standing on my head in a bath of brain dust.