“How do you come up with your stories?” my reader asked me.
The simple answer is, I do not know. The premises of my stories are easy enough to concoct: take things most people would never think to connect (like robbers and ramen, or hawks and handsaws), and connect them. Sometimes, I draw on experience – things I’ve heard, things I’ve seen. I tend not to do this too often because I find that the closer you stray towards real life, the less latitude you have to mould it into your own. The workability of a premise depends on the strength, and plausibility, of those connections: in other words, developing scenes and scenarios which are weird for a reason and not just for weirdness’ sake. Otherwise you end up on the slippery slope of surrealism, which is very slippery and always leads back to the sea.
Even once you have your premise, new ideas are only one very small part of writing stories of which you can be proud. You also need discipline (to write words and then words and then, after that, more words), and humility (to accept when your premise is in fact too weak, and cannot be saved, and must die), and empathy (to birth characters who are strong, and will survive for the term of your natural life). You need a love of the worlds both around and inside you. Most of all, I think, you need to understand your reader, which is not a goal but rather a choice that you have to make every day. My reader is both why and whom I’m writing for.
But even after all of that, I still do not really know.