Just for fun this year at the Catholic Writers' Conference Live, I ran a panel on ideas. Rather than a lecture, I took some questions and we all shared our personal tips on handling ideas, then we did exercises. I'd gone around the exhibitors' floor and picked books at random, writing down the protagonist, the setting and the crisis/object:
13th century cathedral
a planet where trees are sentient
a deaf woman
an alien wants to marry her
Then I gave them 15 minutes (later cutting it to 10) for them to write a story synopsis, novel outline or article proposal. The response was phenomenal. Not only did these people come up with different twists on the same three elements, but several of them produced writing that they could do some minimal tweaking to and submit. One person realized she can come up with a complete story progression. Another discovered she had a talent for flash fiction. (Her stuff was amazing!)
I can't claim any credit for teaching them because I did not teach. We shared our ideas about generating ideas, prioritizing when we have too many, and fleshing out ideas. Nonetheless, these simple exercises taught them some valuable lessons:
* Ideas are out there
* You can flesh them out if you concentrate
* It doesn't have to take a lot of time and contemplation
* Sometimes a forced creative flow can produce awesome stuff--you don't always need to "wait for the muse"
I hope the lessons they learned will help you as well.
BTW, thanks to them I have another idea for a DragonEye, PI novel: a thief steals a relic from a 13th century saint and smuggles it across the Gap to Faerie. However, the relic, being from the Faerie St. Dismas, wants to return home. It starts a epidemic in Los Lagos--but only among thieves. I'm thinking of calling it "Dismas-ly Ill"