The other night I had a dream that my home town was populated by the characters from "The Andy Griffith Show". Opie, the boy from the show, was a teenager, and was preparing to go to the prom; but his date was very sickly looking and had lost all her hair, and everyone was concerned that if she died, Opie's heart would be broken.
(We've been dealing a lot with cancer involving friends and family the last few years.)
On the drive to Emily's work the next day, I outlined the dream (I was in it, but mostly as an observer). It's not unheard of for me to use elements of dreams in my fiction, but I told her I didn't see any way I could turn this scenario into the kind of stories I write.
Then we started talking about it.
It's an hour long trip. I dropped her off, then started writing down the ideas ... By the time I was done, I had a sloppy thousand word synopsis and some short character sketches. There is now no sign whatsoever of the "Andy Griffith Show" characters--all I have is the prom scenario, a sickly girl, a sensitive, loner teenage nerd, and a small town. Just the same, I gave tribute to the original dream in my working title:
A UFO does not actually appear in my story idea, but my mind works in strange ways. For now, I've added this to my list of 50 or so "to be written" stories.