This may be a very short post as in short I have no idea. I think when I read Steven King’s book he said something to the same effect. Ideas are just there. I don’t think it is possible to consciously make them.
Don’t get me wrong, after I have a story idea, I’m often able to follow back my train experience to see how some thing that were in my mind at the time were able to come together (and sometimes I can’t), but I have never be able to reproduce the effect. I can’t say that if I do an activity of type A and combine it with a thought of type B, I will result in C: a story. It just doesn’t work that way.
That said there are some things that I have found conducive to coming up with stories that may or may not work for other people.
1. Be open to stories.
Some one told me once that psychologists studying dreams can have trouble with patients who say that they are unable to dream. The advice that they give, I am told, is to just give it a try. The psychologist will tell them to put a pad and paper next their bed. Low and behold, the next week the patient will come with their own book of dreams.
I think writing is much the same. The more I write and the more that I am thinking about writing the more ideas come to me. I don’t think these ideas are unique to me, or to writers in general. The difference is that writer, or any artist, will be receptive to the idea. While someone else will barely pay attention to it and get back on with what ever that thought happened to interrupt.
That’s why I say be open, and be ready. Listen to yourself carefully, so that when the time comes you’re ready to catch that idea.
2. Experience new things.
I think I get some of my best ideas from new experiences. Personally I like to travel, but even if that’s not possible, I do like to try things locally. If you’ve ever seen the message “yes man” then that should be your template. Go out try things that you’ve never done before and see what happens. It might inspire you to write something, if not at least you are living.
I think writing has a lot to do with perspective. If you get out there and do things, not just things the things you like. You come to understand people a bit better. This really helps with writing and really helps to inspire some interesting ideas.
3. Read, watch and listen
If you want to write in a certain genre then it really helps if you know about the genre. Often the best ideas are combinations of things that came before with a new twist. So to be able to do that you have to know what’s out there already. You don’t want to be plagiarising someone else’s work, but moving it on or giving it an extra dimension or perspective is fine.
A good example would be the Asimov stories. He is described as the found of modern android novels. Now if you look at the work that he did and say Data from Star Trek, you can see quite a few similarities, but the writers have moved things on and brought new aspects and new perspective to the original idea.
So reading all this I think it can be summed up in a single sentence:
Look for inspiration, don’t wait for it to come to you.