I recently read an article titled Looking For Ideas In All the Wrong Places. I was disappointed. This article did give you places to look, but only three or four tired examples.
The article mentioned a writer using Jane Austin’s Emma for the foundation of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It also mentioned George Luicas using samurai movies for inspiration in making Star Wars.
I suggest you try using advice even older than that. Look and read the classics. I know you will be appalled. Everyone will call you out for using the tired old classic like Greek or Roman myths.
People call out George Luicas for using samurai movies, but he still makes a lot of money from those movies. The Magnificent Seven film used samurai stories long before Mr. Luicas did. Besides kids are and millennials were schooled to pass a standardize test. They don’t know and haven’t been exposed to the classics. It will be all new to them.
Are you tired of the Greek and Roman classics? Then look to the Russian folklore, or the Slavic folklore. Don’t forget the French have a folklore that is not classic Disney fairytales. The Mideast also has treasure trove of tales that are not in the 1001 and one nights set of stories.
It’s going to take some work to find these stories and set them in space or the 1800s steamunk world. But other authors are not going to work that hard. They want quick easy ideas, handed to them fully formed and populated with characters.
Read up on myths and legends from other cultures. The Hobbit pulled pieces from dozens of Germanic mythology tales. Escaping from the bad guys in a wooden barrel and using it to float down a river was taken right out of an old German legend. (Don’t try the barrel trick, it’s harder than it looks and you better know how to swim). Go to the source, the original tales, don’t copy the Hobbit. You’ll always run into the reader that is a teacher of Germanic culture, but all your other readers will find your stories new and different, because they have not been exposed to the source stories. Schools only have time to teach standardized tests.
Dig into the tales of your ancestors. The tales of Appalachia, Mexico, or the native Americans of Canada. Those stories are different, sometimes they don’t make sense and you have to research the culture of the story teller, but your reader will never have been exposed to them, except for that grumpy old teacher.
Stay strong, write on, retell the old tales with computers and lasers.
Professor Hyram Voltage