Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Confession Time...I Eavesdrop

Post by Lynn

It’s confession time.

I eavesdrop – anywhere and everywhere. I listen and then I skulk away and write it all down in a small notebook. Here’s a sampling of the results:

At a cafĂ© in Denver – “I had a cousin who shot himself in the head just minutes before he was going to sign the papers to make him a partner in his father’s business. What does that tell you?”

In yoga class – “I was going to turn over a new leaf this morning. Instead, I turned over in bed.”

At the truck stop – “My grandma never got a social security check. She never earned a salary. When she was old, her only money came from two houses she rented out. Can’t tell you how many times some scumbag stiffed her on the rent and left a house trashed. And that being her only income.”

At the mall – “My hearing aid doesn’t work worth a damn. You can say it twice if you want, don’t make a difference.”

Next booth over at the diner – “Yep, come sheep shearing time, he asked me, ‘You want my best crew, or the one that speaks English?’ Course I told him I wanted his best crew and by God, those Mexicans work hard for the money, ya gotta give ‘em that.”

In line at the post office – “How’s your boy doin’, Jim?” followed by “Still in the marines, for now… not checkin’ them doors in Fallujah anymore though, thank God.”

Shameless, aren’t I? I suggest you try out my guilty habit, if you haven’t already. Writers can learn by listening in. I mean, how do people really talk to each other? Do they answer every question? Do they interrupt, leave sentences half-finished? All that and more.

Eavesdropping helps you develop an ear for dialogue, and writing it down gives you practice in putting the sounds onto the page as truthfully as possible.

And stories? Try and tell me there are no stories in the snippets of conversation I shared with you today.

So go ahead, listen in. Just let me know if you’re in the booth next to mine, okay?


coffeelvnmom (Jessica Brooks) said...

Loved this. Thanks for sharing. The more we listen to "normal" conversations, the more food for thought, which of course, greatly helps in the writing process! (Also reminds us not to speak so loud ourselves when out in public! Ha ha.)


Dean K Miller said...

I listen and then answer or interject, usually not loud enough for the parties to hear me...but once in a while....ooops!

Tim said...

Rich, of course there are stories in the snippets. Like why are you writing in a notebook in yoga class when you are supposed to be meditating and hurting your tendons?

Kerrie said...

I love listening to other conversations. My favorite was in the mall. I heard a mom say, "If you don't start behaving, you are going to be grounded from your lipstick!"

And the recipient of this threat was a 4-year-old girl.

Lynn said...

I hear ya, Tim. I can barely breathe when I'm in a downward dog (bad, bad, yoga form) much less stop to write something down. Over time I've gotten good at repeating key phrases in my head so they'll still be with me when I reach my notebook. Brain working better than the body, at this point :)

Tim said...

Oops, Lynn, I apologize for thinking you were Rich. Wow, what a mistake!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I eavesdrop too, Lynn, especially in airports where folks talk endlessly and loudly about personal things on their cell phones as though no one could possibly hear..or they don't care because we're all strangers.

Deborah Nielsen said...

I once listened to the best love stories while sitting in a booth at Guadalajara's Mexican Restaurant in Cheyenne. Two adult couples were telling each other how they met their spouses. They were telling such good stories I lost all interest in the book I was reading. And I was wishing I had a tape recorder.

Luana Krause said...

When you're listening to the world around you, you never know what will inspire you or trigger a story idea. I'm also influenced by visual images around me. A little girl in ruby red Wizard of Oz shoes; a black dog against a white wall; the way a tree sways in the wind and rubs against a house.

Lynn said...

Tim: I thought you were calling my post "rich"! That's funny!

Pat: loud cell phone conversations at airports (and elsewhere) annoy me generally. But if I think like a true eavesdropper, I'll them as opportunities from here on out. Thanks.

Everybody: it's amazing how many ways there are to get inspired when you bring a writerly attitude to it.

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