You remember that time you got an excellent idea? The one you were certain you wanted to try in a rpg when the moment was just right? Yes. That one you never actually got around using.
In all likelihood this is a thing for GMs. At least I know it is a thing for me. I watch a show on tv (Netflix, what ever) or read a book or just randomly toss thing around in my mind and it hits me. “This is something I want to incorporate to my game!” I might even write it down so that I’ll remember it when the setting, characters, theme or what ever is right.
And when the moment comes I either have forgotten about it or just can’t find it from my notes.
“Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers steal.”
With the hoards of prewritten adventures out there and all the possible stories in all different media there is always something that will hit your imagination and seem like an awesome addition to your game. Over the years I have noticed this and tried my best to utilise these ideas. It almost a mantra for me now. Use it as soon as possible.
Got a great idea watching the latest Star Wars but you are DMing Dungeons and Dragons? Use it. Something in Orange Is the New Black made you laugh and seemed like it could work in an roleplaying game but you are running Call of Cthulhu? Use it.
There is always a way to work around the corners and add an idea from different genre to your game. If your gaming group caught you from stealing you it just means that you did it (hopefully) right and they got the reference. You conned them into a similar mindset and for a moment your vision of the game matched theirs.
Even clichés can be useful when used right. They are clichés for a reason. The shady patron turn out to be working for the Big Bad? It’s a twist they were counting on and might even be proud on noticing it in advance. The big corporation turns out to be just as big and bad as it should be? Good for them!
The key here is that reputation is what kills the mood. Not borrowing from a popular show you know your players are watching. Using the popular media as basis for the storytelling is something the popular media now constantly does. Look at Stephen King for example. There is a reason he mentions products by their name – they make the world seem more real, more tangible. He even used things from Harry Potter in one of the Dark Tower books!
Just be sure that you use the things that seems cool and do not forget them. If using those stolen ideas does not work that’s too bad. But at least you used them and not just sit on them until your mind decided they weren’t that great to begin with.