Paying attention is a great way for writers to collect fodder for their stories. Watching and listening are great tools. Here are three tips for writers who eavesdrop.
I took myself on a writing date last week. It usually involves a pen, a notebook and a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. It also involves a babysitter, time and series of small miracles, but I persevere.
I went to a market where I shared a table with a young girl hidden behind big sunglasses and long bangs. We were at opposite ends of a long trestle table with benches. The kind where you need to coax your legs into twisty, bendy positions to get in. We sat in a courtyard, under swaying, shady trees. Cold wine, beautiful people, and an afternoon to write. Idyllic to say the least.
My pen found paper and I settled into my story. I thought the young woman was alone, but she was soon joined by equally hip, long-banged, individuals. All women. All talking at once. I was annoyed. I wanted quiet time to write.
I think they were around 23. They did not shut-up for a second. I haven’t been a 23-year-old in a long time. I forgot what it sounded like.
Today my conversations are filled with kid’s homework, play dates, cricket practice and the need for new ballet shoes. So when the young women started speaking about sex buddies versus boyfriends, I moved closer. I can write about play dates – but boyfriends and sex buddies? Well, I’m a little out of practice.
3 Tips For Writers Who Eavesdrop
Now, how can I use this conversation for my writing, this is after all a hard-won writing afternoon.
This is what I did:
- Words: I jotted down the words they used, especially the ones that I was not familiar with any more.
- Sentence Structure: They spoke fast. I couldn’t write it all down. I grabbed pieces and tried to concentrate on specific sentence structures.
- Body Language: I watched them move. Mommies are always keeping an eye on their kids. These women were looking at each other, their phones and the people walking past.
Then I had a page full of squiggles and I turned it into a scene.
Meet Lisa, Alice and Cara:
Use these tips for writers who eavesdrop. It can have fun. It serves as a great prompt and this particular conversation was more intriguing than cricket practice. Don’t get caught eavesdropping though, and if you are, just say you are a writer. People think we are weird anyway.
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