It's a question most non-writers have. A question most writers don't quite know how to answer. I'm not sure I know either. Not exactly. But I have a short story to tell you.
It was National Novel Writing Month of 2012 - and my first year participating in the writing frenzy. I had an idea for what I was going to write, though I don't remember what that idea even was now. Why not? Well, because I saw this video. Back then I was really into machinima. (The use of real-time computer graphics engines to create a cinematic production - most often via video games.) And on many levels, I loved this particular video. Loved the concept, the emotion, the what if? buried inside.
Then I had a new idea. (I'm sure you've figured this out by now) I was going to write a story about a robot who was "too human" and was therefore, deemed faulty and sentenced to death. That's it. That's all I had.
So that evening, I was sitting with co-workers at the bar next door, on the patio, the same way we usually did. Everyone else was talking, having fun, yapping about work. Me, though? I sat there with my beer, staring into space, thinking about this idea. By the way, this particular evening was also October 31st - the day before NaNoWriMo starts. And I needed more than just this simple idea. An idea alone won't make a novel. And there was no freaking way I'd get 50k words written in 30 days without MORE.
I continued to sit there, thinking, imagining. But I did have a character. Then soon enough, two. Then three. I had this idea and I, in fact, had a story goal. (I mean, if this sweet robot boy is threatened with being terminated, the obvious goal is to avoid death, right?) So it was a decent start to writing a novel, I suppose.
And at midnight, I started writing. I passed my word count for the day. (Yay!) And the next few days went fairly well. As I wrote, the plot evolved and revealed itself to me. Yeah, that sounds odd, I know, but it's true. I just kept writing. Had a character do something. Then repeat, repeat, repeat. In the end, I had a decent plot - but absolutely awful writing. I mean, so bad. And...I didn't write 50K in 30 days.
But I had figured out the story I was trying to tell. I knew I could work my way to the end of the draft because I'd already written 32k words. I was too far in - and too far in love - to give up.
I didn't "win" NaNoWriMo, but I did eventually finish the draft. Then edited. Repeat, repeat, repeat - about 57 times.
And that is the short story of how PROJECT A.I.D.E.N. came to be.
Writers get their ideas from everywhere. Literally anywhere and anything can spark an idea. And an idea can morph into more. So maybe that's the answer to the question of where we get our inspiration. Something falls into your lap, hits you over the head - or maybe you see or read something bizarre and interesting - or maybe it's a thought that simply develops out of nowhere.
There's no true answer here, but I'm positive about one thing: writers require creativity and imagination. The rest pretty much figures itself out.