I'm part of a blog chain with a group of other writers in various genres. (You can find links to the other members in the sidebar.) About twice a month, we discuss different writing topics. This time, Shaun, whose novel The Deathday Letter was just published this week, asked us this question:
From where do you get your inspiration for stories? Give me the oddest, coolest, things that have inspired you.
Kate preceded me in the chain, and Eric comes after me.
I actually discussed this topic on my website ages ago, but I don't think it's enough for the blog chain to just provide a link. Besides, ideas are everywhere. I get them from my daily experiences, from people I meet online, from science articles, and from other books. This is good, as I feel one idea isn't always enough to create a story; you need two ideas to create a story with a unique angle. As an example, my short story "A Reptile at the Reunion" was inspired by an invitation to my graduate school reunion and a magazine's challenge to write a story around the line, "Say, aren't you dead?" (In the first draft of the story, my main character was presumed dead by her classmates, but in the final version, she's just been on another planet for a long time.)
I've also received inspiration from the Beatles, my favorite musical group. Their four-fold synergy inspired me to create a quartet of female magicians who must work together to save their country from a storm that mixes up the seasons. I also used to write Beatles fan fiction, and after reading a story about the Beatles in the Cavern (a club in Liverpool where they played before they became famous), I wanted to use the same setting too. As a science fiction writer, I wanted to give the story a SF twist, so I sent a descendant of John's back in time to clone him. That story, "Move Over Ms. L.," earned me an Honorable Mention in an international novella competition, but it also inspired me to then write a story about the clone. After many rewrites and removal of most of the Beatle references, I wound up with my current WIP, Across Two Universes.
That leads me to my final point: once I come up with characters and a story, I find that they inspire me to write more stories about them. What I think will be a short story may be the start of a saga. And while that may not be the oddest inspiration I've received so far, I still think it's pretty cool.