"How do you come up with ideas for your stories?"
I'm sure that most, if not all, writers will hear this question in their lifetimes. It is a good question. How do we come up with all those nifty little ideas that eventually turn into short stories or novels or poems?
Every single bit of information that we receive through our senses is, in essence, an idea. A sad song on the radio. A delicious morsel savored at a fancy restaurant downtown. A bit of gossip uttered in a whisper as you walk past an open doorway. The joy of birth, the grief of loss. Every person is bombarded with ideas as soon as he or she awakens, and they will never be in short supply.
An author's job is to extract certain ideas from the constant barrage and combine them into something new. For example, one morning I was skimming through a book about the early Church fathers and martyrs, and I got to wondering what it would be like to meet them in person and see what they had to say about their faith and the time period they had lived in. A few hours later I left to go to my classes over at Northern Kentucky University. I always liked to take the scenic route through the rolling hills of southern Clermont County as opposed to taking the interstate because driving on a winding road through forests and then along the Ohio River seemed so peaceful compared to the alternative. Driving along that route put my mind at ease, and what do minds at ease do? Come up with stories, of course!
The story hit me at some point as I traveled along Locust Corner Road. I knew I wanted to write a short story set in the post-apocalyptic future where humans and other living things could be resurrected through the use of technology so archaeologists could learn more about the past. I jotted down notes about the story when I got home. The story, which I named "Vapors," took me about eight days to write. (I'm currently trying to get it published--I'll keep you posted about that.)
Even non-writers come up with their own stories. Ever heard of dreams? I hope so. Dreams are like stories in that they result from oodles of ideas that combine in our heads and play out in new ways. Some authors even use ideas from their dreams and turn them into stories. Cool, huh? Ideas begetting ideas. The possibilities really are endless.
In conclusion, I suppose it can be said that ideas are the primordial ooze that eventually spawns fully-fleshed characters and the stories they tell. If you want to become a writer, let those ideas simmer. Let them grow. Turn them into something that will entertain or touch or scare.
But most of all, write.