Once, long ago, I took a college level creative writing class. The instructor, Professor Larry Pike, was more a poet than a fiction writer but he had an excellent grasp on how to develop a story and what tools the writer needed in his/her arsenal. I enjoyed the class so much, that I took the next level course the following semester. Unfortunately, Professor Pike had succumbed to cancer and was replaced by one of his former students whose main claim to fame was that he was a Professor of Industrial Management at another local university. He didn't want us to write science fiction. He didn't want us to write romance. He didn't want us to write fantasy. To be honest, I'm not sure what he wanted us to do unless it was to bask in his glory.
This fellow seemed to think that we couldn't come up with our own ideas so he spent inordinate amounts of time giving us 'imaginative' items to create stories around. That approach might be necessary for first year creative writing students but it didn't do a thing for me.
Ideas are one thing I've never lacked. Big ideas, little ideas, tiny tidbits that worm their way into plots I'm already working on...they hit me like the salvo from a battle cruiser.
My first novel, Heartstone, arose from the idea of colony insects but I morphed it one step (okay, a couple of steps) further. Instead of a colony or hive mentality, I gave the villainous alien life form a single mind. Lots of bodies, yeah, but all controlled by one mind.
My second novel, Devil's Choice (which has just been bought by Triskelion Publishing and is now titled Altered Destiny) was predicated on the idea that major, world changing decisions could create alternate worlds. Okay, that's been done a few times but my twist involves the elf-like Qui'arel whose science is based on belief.
The third novel, Rider, involves a sentient nanobic life form that lives as a symbiotic parasite on its host.
Then there's my short fiction--a disabled man who lives in computer generated worlds and whose job is to act as both an escort for and counselor to normal humans who rely more heavily on those worlds than the reality they live in; explorers investigating a planet revolving around a binary star system; a cleaning lady who is jolted into a bubble universe with a handsome scientist; a woman warrior who is brought back from death by an evil sorceress...you get the picture.
Ideas are not a scarcity around here.
I've been asked by some of my students (I teach fiction writing techniques at my local community college) where do my ideas come from? A lot, I admit, come from reading Scientific American or watching the Discovery channel (I have a passion for the science shows), some come from dreams (the cleaning lady gets bopped into the bubbleverse by a dust bunny--don't laugh, the ones in my house could probably transport us all into a different universe!), some just show up knocking on my mental door with a big cheesy grin and a 'Hi, wouldn't it be cool if--'
Nope, ideas are not a scarcity.
Oh, and the Professor of Industrial Management? For my final, I wrote a short story depicting him as the victim of a gruesome murder using the items he'd laid out to 'spur' our imaginations. I believe that was his last semester teaching Creative Writing.