"Where do you get the ideas for your stories?"
I haven't even been at this very long, and I've already lost count how many times I've been asked that. Maybe it hasn't been that many. Maybe I'm just blocking the memories because my answer often seems to be, "Um, well ... I don't know. Places."
Part of the problem is that no two stories have had the same clear-cut idea-spawning process. One came from a line of lyrics that I thought I'd heard wrong. One came from experiences I saw repeating for a certain subset of my students, and I realized I could fictionalize the essence of it. Most of the others, I don't have a solid memory of where they came from. One little germ of a thought smooshed into another, then another. A main character, a premise, a plot ... they just kind of evolved. By the time I had the full "idea" in my head, I couldn't remember how I got to that original germ in the first place.
Another thing I've lost count of is how many times I've heard other authors say they've gotten ideas from dreams. Tons of them saying they have to keep a notepad on the nightstand so when they wake from a dream that'll make an awesome story, they can jot down the important points before it slips from their minds.
I have a confession. My dreams are utterly useless to me as a writer.
I can't say they're necessarily boring. They're just either too ordinary or too weird to make good story fodder. A lot of my dreams involve mash-ups of my current life with older memories. I'm at school, and I'm supposed to go teach something, but I'm also a student again, and it's supposed to be my high school, but it's more like classrooms from the deaf school I interned at got transplanted to my junior high building. The supporting characters are a mix of people I went to school with and kids I've taught at various stages of my career.
Oh, and the best part is when some people are using ASL while others are speaking, and it almost never matches up with who would be doing each in real life.
(Someone's going to waltz in and do a dream analysis on this, declaring my subconscious to be either really dull or really messed up, right?)
The good news is, it doesn't really matter where the ideas come from, as long as they come. Maybe it's on my mind because I'm wondering where I'll find the next one.
Do your ideas tend to spawn in ways that are easy for you to pinpoint? Or are they a little more amorphous as they sneak up on you?