A question that I’m sure every writer out there has been asked at some point is “where do you get your ideas from?” and I think it’s one that rarely leads to satisfaction for the asker.
When I answer that “I heard a conversation that got me thinking what if…” or “there was this scene in a movie that made me picture a world where…” or “I was watching a storm roll in and…” the asker still can’t see how that led to 100,000 words set in a completely made up world with talking snakes.
I think because what they’re really asking isn’t about the idea, but the inspiration.
To me, inspiration is the magical bit where visual (or other) stimulation causes bits of your brain to come up with an idea. For some people that’s just something their brain does naturally.
Of course, the asker’s disappointment can also arise because the writer tends to answer with the initial inspiration and idea when the finished novel might have evolved a long, long way from there. I think often with spec-fic – whether you started with a scene, a world element, a character, a story or a question – you do evolve away from that starting point, because you have to make up so much other stuff and that can shift the focus or bury that one idea.