Where do Ideas Come From?

I'm sure most authors find inspiration from multiple sources.  I know I do.  The inspirations for my novels have come from three distinct places, and I'm always on the lookout for a fourth source of story ideas.  The three sources are:

  1. A personal experience.  These story ideas tend to be extrapolations of something I participated in during my business career.  It is typically something that surprised me, shook me, or got me thinking about just how far the situation might go.  Then I "amp up" the core idea, trying to take it to its logical extremes.  My novels LEVERAGE, HEIR APPARENT, and the soon to be released PURSUING OTHER OPPORTUNITIES all come from this source of inspiration.
  2. Something I've seen in the media.  This typically takes the form of some strange or particularly heinous business scheme that I've read about, although in one case a television program inspired one of my upcoming novels.  At a minimum, these tales are substantially transformed to provide the settings, characters, and circumstances that are more in line with my preferences.  For example, the inspiration for DELIVERABLES occurred in the UK, and involved Russian businesses and an Accounting firm.  EMPOWERED, which should be released late in 2014 is a twist on the television series "Undercover boss."  SYNERGY was inspired by an apparently successful businessman's suicide in the wake of an impending scandal.
  3. The desire to highlight an issue.  This is my least common source of inspiration, and definitely the most difficult to turn in to a novel.  In INCENTIVIZE, I set out to profile the physical and human beauty in the country of Ethiopia, and the African struggle against corrupt institutions and poverty.  In the novel I'm currently working on, SUPPLY CHAIN, I wanted to expose people to the indirect impact businesses can have on the horrible circumstances involved in human trafficking.

Initial inspirations, however, don't always make it through unscathed to the final product.  LEVERAGE, for instance, was inspired by the way false accusation can ruin a career, which almost became a footnote in the overall story.  The final twist in DELIVERABLES came to me late in development of the story, and set some of the original inspiration on its ear.  Ethiopia might have been portrayed as darker and more dangerous that it really is in order to suit the story line for INCENTIVIZE.

I consider these things as a part of normal story evolution, and as long as they contribute to a more enjoyable reader experience, I don't mind deviating from my original concepts -- sometimes significantly.