This question was left in comment in a post I wrote about my screenwriting process.
Gigi, in St. Martin (where my family is from) is one of my favorite blogs. I told her I would write a separate post regarding her question.
My original ideas usually start with questions like:
I tend to write scripts are more character driven than plot driven. However, Hollywood wants films that are plot driven. Sigh. I'm trying to come up with "bigger" ideas.
Most of the things I've written have been comedic. Unfortunately for me I love comedies, one of the toughest genres to sell (it's very subjective) and to execute.
The saying, "write what you know" exists for a reason. You may not have lived through the exact same experiences as your characters but you might understand them emotionally.
I read the idea for The Hangover came from one of the producer's own bachelor party in Vegas. Did he steal a tiger from Mike Tyson? No, but the kernel of the idea came from him.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received about working in film was from Forest Whitaker. He said, "how can you be a creative person if you're not living in the world?"
I agree. You can't be inspired if you're not paying attention to the world around you. You have to be open. A great idea can come from anywhere, anyone or anything... a song, a funny sentence your friend says, a dream, one word in a book or newspaper/magazine article, a really bad date with a guy who then tries to push up on you for a kiss, a photograph, your family, etc.
Where do your ideas come from?