This past Saturday, at my local Sisters in Crime meeting, we engaged in a POV writing exercise. As I scribbled furiously, letting the words flow - this was timed, after all - I suddenly realized an idea for a romantic suspense was forming. True, it was a rough sketch about two dancers, hardly the stuff of suspense at that point, but it didn't matter.
So, ideas. Where do they come from? The great cliched question. And I'll admit it depends on the particular story. For example, many of my stories start out as "What if?" questions. I remember sitting in gridlock during a particularly hot, humid July. No air conditioning and traffic moving at the proverbial snail's pace. As I sat there, I wondered what would happen if girl fell out of the sky, hit my car, then vanished. Another "what if" story came while driving down Hwy 44, through verdant forests and twisting curves. What if a young girl moved to a cursed, isolated village? That story became "White Pine Village," a YA and my first work of fiction in over a decade. (No, I've never submitted it. It still sits in my drawer.)
Although I don't do this as much, I sometimes clip articles from a newspaper as possible ideas. Pictures are also influences. A portrait of a woman holding an umbrella over her face inspired "Family Tradition," my latest dark fiction suspense short story.
Whenever an idea comes to me, I write it down and keep it on a file. Even if it's no more than a title, I note it. Many of these ideas won't become stories but this doesn't mean they're not valuable. Sometimes an idea may not work for one story but might work for another.
Mystery, paranormal, suspense, romance, genre doesn't matter. Only the story does.