The creative process is different for everyone. How I think of things is not how you will at all. The following example is some of the things I see in word association.
To show what I mean I’ll use a random word generator to get three random words to start with, and try to build ideas from those words.
I got match, celery, look. Pretty darn random.
To take the words in order:
Match could mean an identical thing, a romantic joining, or a matchstick.
Celery is a lot more narrow. It’s not really slang for anything, and is a vegetable. You might be able to say a noise might sound like celery being crunched.
Look has a number of possibilities. It could mean trying to see something, investigate for subtle nuances, alertly attentive, a particular emotion conveyed non-verbally, or a signature appearance.
It’s how you see the story falling together. As an example, and in the form so far, here are three story ideas from three random words.
A fashion designer comes up with a signature look that includes a celery colored dress, a color so unique that the fashion world scrambles to try and match the color, but can’t as no one knows how the designer first made the color, or what ingredients are in the dye. The story could revolve around how cut-throat the designing world is, that a simple color would create a series of attempts at copying, stealing, or extorting the color from the designer.
Another story that comes to mind could be one where a shipment of celery from some location is contaminated, leading investigators to look to match soil samples gathered from the celery with a geographic region, to determine the origin of the shipment. Once the location is found, they have to look for the cause of the contamination. This might be a good mystery crisis something like the movie ‘outbreak’ was a few years ago.
A third story could be that a child who is told to get celery from the corner store. She’s never seen uncut celery, so she looks at a piece of celery, then goes to the corner store to match what she remembers, which could be a neat children’s book.
Those are a few ideas. There are as many as there are people who love to imagine.