How often do you read a book, and wonder where the writer came up with the plot elements that have you falling in love, or sitting at the edge of your seat, or pulling the drapes closed as you turn on all the lights?
From everywhere! The silliest situations can foster incredible ideas. Many of my character idiosyncracies come from doing research (okay, maybe from my bizarre-but-happy family and friends, but also through research). Sidebars to articles lead to more stories, more sidebars, more stories--before you know it, I have a character fleshed out, complete with the habits, preferences, dislikes that make each character real, make each character unique.
I love to drive. Sometimes I'll pop in CDs of my favorite stuff (vintage Meatloaf is numero uno), but most often I ride in silence, just thinking. Anything may trip an idea, flesh out a character or a scene. Sitting in the ATM line at the bank, after hours, and a person walks up to the drive-thru. Without sound, you can easily picture a mime, going through the motions. An elderly farmer pumping gas into his rusty, seen-better-days pickup truck. A young girl with a well-behaved dog who is nearly as big as she is, walking sedately through town, checking out all the lovely shop windows.
On our farm,it's my job to mow the fields to keep them from going fallow, if they're not hayed. My best ideas happen while I'm mowing. I brought a Dana word processor in a carry-bag with me on the tractor, and I would stop every time inspiration would hit, and type away. However, since that didn't work so well in the bright sunlight, I finally opted for a notebook and pen. Entirely due to my mowing (combined with Nona Raines, my weekly critique partner), books I'd planned for a three-title series grew to five books, then six and seven, finally eight. I felt so brilliant, it was scary!
Even when I watch television, I keep a notebook handy, especially during episodes of Discovery or the History and H2 channels. My characters are usually military, former military, law enforcement, or psychotic bad guys--so I check out the Military channel, anything to do with the FBI or Secret Service (the "old" SS, not what's been making the news lately). Maybe one of your characters, even a secondary character, is a fantastic chef or a real foodie. You have a plethora of food channels to choose from. Maybe use an old family recipe, and weave it into your story line (Nona loves the meals my characters cook or eat--says they always make her hungry.)
Fall is approaching. The weather is cool and breezy, the trees are dressing in their colorful autumn cloaks. Look around you--your story is there, waiting to be written! Stories, waiting to be read!