How do you pick your ideas for stories?

Self explanatory. What's your process for coming up with a story idea? If you have multiple?

Do you mean within the same story as a future plot point, or as a completely new story?

1. Does this sound cool?

2. Can I make it work without plot holes or an overabundance of cliches?

3. Yes? Let's do it!

@Tartra - new stories

I've no idea. They overcome me suddenly, sometimes mid sentence.

Interesting question. For my series, Once Giants, the main character Size Queen is constant, so the stories have to revolve around her exploits as a global mercenary. Usually my core inspiration comes from geography, globalization and geopolitical speculation. Once I have an interesting idea I then turn it into something my character would wind up in and then flesh the plot out from there. Once the plot is established I then focus on the character journey and come up with a throughline for that and flesh out the story more and give it depth.

That's normally how the process works for me.

What @Chrysalis says. Someone says something, you see something else, a wizard woven his hands, and then an idea just sort of dawns on you. Over time, you'll shape it directly, but the first flash of inspiration is that: a sudden flash. The work's in chasing it. :D

Most stuff just sort of hits me out of nowhere, but I can also be easily influenced by whatever media I'm enjoying at the time in terms of what I'm in the mood for.

Unfortunately, I also go through ideas like popcorn, and by now I kind of hate/dismiss whatever fresh idea comes to mind by default. I only really give it any attention if it sticks with me and niggles at me long enough that I can tell I'm genuinely interested, instead of it just being a "flash-pan" idea.

I get an idea and they can come from anything. Once I get some establishing facts, I'll run it through my head for the next two weeks. If the idea can survive that two week period, then I go ahead and start fleshing out the story and working on it. I do it that way to cut down on wasting my time working on something I'm going to finish.

To add: I like to believe the ideas pick ME. :D

My imagination almost always creates a story world starting with a "What if?" I'll be observing something in real life, and then go, "What if this worked slightly differently?" The answer ends up being a whole new system of magic or fantasy kingdom.

Occasionally, I'll also have really strong ideas for characters, usually when I disagree with characterization in a movie I'm watching or a book I'm reading.

For me, coming up with the setting and main characters is the easy part. The hard part for me is coming up with the main conflict of the story. (I kind of always imagine my worlds to be nice and orderly and well-designed so nobody is in conflict.) It's coming up with this third part that makes me pick an idea to start writing over the other five or six fully-formed story worlds in my head.

For me, it'll be a single idea or picture which, independent of story, inspires me to write. I don't think I've ever actually come up with a story idea. It'll be a concept or aesthetic which I fall in love with. I'm very visually driven, storywise. Storylines are something that just develop.

By the way, good thread.

Overall story: It's completely random. I wrote the Western because of a dream I had. The Thief story started because of a writing prompt that got out of hand. I've got an idea about a 1920's gangster thing, because I happened to be listening to Postmodern Jukebox one day; also, I want to write a murder mystery, because I was watching an episode of Castle.

Specific chapters/scenes: I've got a couple of questions. First, how can I make things worse for my heroes, but not so bad that they're going to die? Second, how does this raise the stakes? Third, what does this to do for the overall narrative? (Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. I'd like to think I'm getting better at it.)

I normally get angry.

I have a vampire story idea I'll write eventually, because Twilight p****d me off, for instance.

For me, it's not sudden flashes, it's vague ideas that congeal into something more over time. This might be why I'm not as good at writing short works of fiction, I keep wanting to tease more out of a situation, or see if different ideas will clump together.

For my interactive "Epsilon Project", I tossed random plot options out to readers. The first time I did it, the choices were "Someone is stealing all the Roman Numerals", "Someone has discovered a weather control device" and "Someone is trapped in the basement". All very vague ideas. The first one was chosen, so I ended up spinning it out into a story about whether IIII or IV appears on clocks, tied in with 'Back to the Future' and 'Dr Who'. More recently "A world experiences a problem of scale factors" became this epic techno-magic fusion story. I guess what I'm saying is, I keep sewing in pieces until it looks like I have a functional quilt.

The best answer is: it depends on the idea.

Sometimes there's an image. I got one story out of the image of a 19th century trolley stopping on a modern street. From that, I got a time travel story that I intend to publish sometime.

My serial, The Legion of Nothing, came about because I'd once made a character for a tabletop roleplaying game (Villains & Vigilantes) and never got to use him. The character in question resulted from watching and loving the movie The Rocketeer. I'd wanted to create a character with a WW2 background that used a jetpack, but wasn't a copy of any character in the movie or the original comic.

Another story came about because I was thinking about why, if there are aliens, we've never detected any sign of their technology? There are a lot possible answers to that question, but I answered with another, "What would a civilization built on psionic technology look like?" From there I got a story that may someday appear online too.

I could go on for a while, but I'm not particularly consistent. It can be an image, a character, a bit of world building based on speculation, or a plot...

Asking how you come up with stories is a lot like asking how you write a song. Do you get the words, the melody, the chord progression or the idea for a hook first? I answer that the same way. All of the above.

@ChrysKelly That's awesome. I think I started getting interested in writing at first (15 years ago, mumble mumble...) because I thought Anne Rice's vampires were so damn whiny all the time. She's still a better writer than me, but at least my vampires didn't whinge about everything.

I steal. Not from Wildbow, but I do steal. I bring that up because Wibbles the Wonder Pig and I have had similar ideas unintentionally. If I was near him in real life and wearing a lacy pink skirt, this might be where I hug him and claim it means we're soulmates.

I've taken ideas from things that have happened recently, whether bad (an early storyline about invading Warhammer 40k-esque space marines from the future) or good (various super-hitman hired to go after a rich kid who killed multiple people in a crash but got away with being sentenced to probation). Made up one character as a reference to a comic book review done by Linkara. I even stole a subplot from the old Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy stories once.

And then, somehow, the setting got enough momentum to carry itself along. There are organizations and consequences and all of that.

All of my best ideas started with writing dozens of short pieces...flash fiction, vignette, character studies, monologues. Make a regular habit of writing a few random paragraphs throughout the week. The ideas will come.

For Riches started because of a writing prompt that spiraled out of control. Individual ideas within the story follow a simple format.

For about half of a given Part, I ask myself: "How could I make things worse for my main characters?"

For the last half, I ask myself: "Now how are they going to get out of this?"