A question a lot of authors get asked (and I'm no exception ::g::) is: Where do you get your ideas?
When someone asks this, I'm never sure they really want the answer, 'cuz it's involved, yeah? I did a whole series on it on my Amazon plog, but I think most readers, reviewers, interviewers mean, "Where do you get your ideas for the plot of the book?" when they ask the question. I think maybe because a lot of people assume the plot comes first. And for some writers, it does. But for me? The characters always come first. And somehow the plot develops from them.
That could mean that the plot is a natural progression from the place in life my characters are at when I meet them. It could also mean that I look at the characters and ask the question, "How can I cause them the most trouble?" I mean a book that has no conflict for those characters you come to love is pretty boring, right? So, I set out to cause them trouble...or facilitate them causing each other no end of complications.
But I think people want to know where the idea for those complications come from...and the answer is everywhere, but mostly some kind of imaginative morphing on a theme from reality. You've heard the adage that truth is stranger than fiction and well, it's an adage because it's right!
I'll read a newspaper story, hear someone talking in the mall, see something on the news, read an interview or article in a magazine and my imagination gets sparked. Something like, "Oh, wow...I can so see that happening to Jillian (my heroine in my current WIP)." And thus a plot or scene is born.
The plot or plot elements often come from research. When I went to Vancouver B.C. to research their film industry ('cuz that's where Jillian is working), I came away with tons of ideas to complicate my plot and develop a more intricate story. The same thing happened in my merc trilogy as I researched Army Rangers and mercenaries...comments my interview subjects made sparked entire storylines. Very cool, you know?
So, the answer is that I get my ideas by spinning real life through a very fertile imagination. You may never recognize the germ of actual happening in the story I write, but maybe one of the reasons so many readers have said my books feel so realistic is that deep at their heart, the stories are real.
There is nothing imagination can conjur that can compete in sheer fascination appeal with truth.