Most people would probably refer to it as ‘eavesdropping’ but frankly, that sounds a little rude. Overhearing might be a little bit nicer, but if we’re going for honesty, listening in to other people’s conversations is rude. As a writer, it’s one of the best places to find ideas, both for stories and characters.
Out-of-context snippets are filled with questions, largely because of the lack of context. When you don’t have any information on a conversation besides one piece, it can ignite a lot of questions. When you need something to spark idea however, the almost nonsensical things you overhear provides a lot of good sparks and probably more than a little fuel.
I make it a habit to keep a notebook with me. Usually it’s just a small one I carry in my purse so I can jot notes down (usually right alongside my shopping list). Notebooks being what they are however, they do eventually get filled, and I finally got around to transferring most of the notes in my previous one to the computer, which is what brought up today’s post. Sometimes the best way to find an idea is to listen.
Overall, I have about two hundred lines so far. Some of my favorites:
- “What’s she up to today, besides basking in her own glory?”
- “The frozen broccoli is only for emergencies.”
- “He strikes me as a decent fellow for a penguin.”
- “You do not have a good selection of funeral attire.”
- “Well I had her veil so they knew not to shoot me.”
- “My blood pressure disagrees.”
- “Tell Santa I don’t give a damn what he says.”
As an exercise: The next time you’re out in public, listen to the conversations around you. Don’t intrude on them, but take note of interesting lines. Without the context of the original conversation, what lines and snippets inspire new stories?
2 thoughts on “On Listening”
Those are some great overheard lines. I think one of my favorites that I’ve heard, though I’m not really sure in what context I could use it, was some guys from the ski team at my old school coming in to the dining hall and going “So are we having a shower party after dinner?” Makes me laugh years later still.
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I’m laughing just reading it!