Listening for Writers Part II: Eavesdropping

Author’s Note: Due to Hurricane Irma I was unable to post until now. All is well but for some shingles off my roof. I hope you enjoy the following post. I invite you to click the Follow Me button on the right-hand bottom of the page. Thanks to all.

Dog listening

How can eavesdropping be a listening skill for writers? You have to be kidding, right? Just listen to what the American playwright, Thornton Wilder said: “There’s nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head.”

Writers need to hone their eavesdropping skills. Now if you have visions of shoving your seat backward so you can get closer to listening to juicy gossip, that’s rude and certainly runs afoul to the rules of the road.  That said, in the new age of mobile phones, people seem to have no qualms about having a loud conversation, mostly one-sided, for all to hear.  Obviously, while in close proximity to people having a conversation, such as in line, or sitting on a bus next to chatty people, one cannot help but overhear what is said. For a writer, all this free chatter is great research!

To write good characters that act and talk like real people, you need to know how real folks act and talk. People watching and listening to conversations is a useful way to learn how people look and sound during conversations. What do they do with their hands? Gesture wildly? Smooth their brow or pull their ear? Dribble their food while talking? What does a real conversation sound like? Uhs and Ums scattered throughout, or expletives? Are they calm, excited, fearful, or agitated? Jotting all this down into your notebooks is fair game and useful in future writings.

Yes, an entire conversation might have wonderful possibilities for a future story,  but don’t overlook little snippets of conversations. They can be just what the muse needed to start your imagination roaring. It is up to the writer to call upon their imagination as to how they can blend those overheard snippets or full conversations into a story. So don’t be afraid to listen in discreetly, you never know when that will spark a fantastic idea for a story, a character, or a scene.

My favorite overheard snippet? “Don’t spit your peas in my shoes!”

I would love to hear from you as to what interesting bits of conversations you have used in your writing? Comment below.

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