Eavesdropping – The Secret Weapon Of The Guilt Ridden Author

Have you ever sat in a restaurant and eavesdropped on other patrons? Okay, guilty as charged. But for me it is action research.

I don’t purposely set out to eavesdrop, but some people talk so loud you can’t help but hear them. so what do you do with that? Make them a character. That makes it even.

And the things we overhear. . . way too much information for a restaurant conversation that half the world can hear. I always wonder if it ever crossed people’s mind that maybe a restaurant is not the best place to discuss some topics.

How can we utilize the things we hear in our writing?

Dialogue Building:

*Listen for common expressions. Developing character specific dialogue makes our writing stronger. Character’s have vocabulary that they often use that is unique to them.

* Guesstimate Education Level.  Listen carefully to the words one of the people uses for education level. Sometimes we forget to incorporate that in our dialogue, but a person’s education level impacts their dialogue. Try to guess how educated the individual is based on their dialogue. It’s great practice.

*Guess Occupation. Each person sees the world differently based on their own personal experiences and interests. See if you can guess a persons interests and occupation based on what they are saying.

*Identify Comment Length. Many writers have their characters talk in long paragraphs. Listen to how long the people speak at one time. Use this new found knowledge to guide you as to your character’s dialogue length.

Idea Building:

*Create An Imaginary Plot. Based on the conversation you hear, create an imaginary plot that these people might be living if they were characters on a page. Let your creativity run wild. You may or may not come up with a plot that you want to use in the future, but either way it develops your brainstorming skills.

*Listen For A Story. Story ideas can be found in all kinds of places. You just might hear something that sparks a story idea for a book.

How do you utilize the conversations you hear by accident to fuel your creativity?




About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

10 thoughts on “Eavesdropping – The Secret Weapon Of The Guilt Ridden Author

  1. I love listening to other’s conversation. That’s when I heard the phrase, ‘crazy as a road lizard.’ And when my friend and I talk about our wips when we meet for lunch, I’ve had people to come up later and say, “Ya’ll must be writers. Stuff like you’re talking about doesn’t happen around here.”

  2. Michelle Lim says:

    That is one of my favorite lines, Pat! I agree, listening can be fun!

  3. Robin Levin says:

    An even better way to eavesdrop might be on a public transit bus. The other day I (involuntarily) listened in on a most interesting conversation between a light-skinned black girl and her Pilipina co-worker. The former spoke of her Peruvian step-mother and how the step-mother’s family disapproved of her marrying a black man and tried to indoctrinate her half sister into their religion without her father’s concent. The two also talked about the differences in education between the U.S. and the Phillipines. You can learn a lot by keeping your mouth shut and your eyes open when riding a public bus.

  4. dtopliff says:

    Action research–love that term!

  5. Not only do I enjoy listening, but it’s also fun to see people in an animated conversation and guess what they’re saying. And you don’t have to be serious. It can be a lot of fun.
    I enjoyed this post!

  6. Beth Steury says:

    I work at a fast food restaurant and often hang out in a back booth with my laptop after my shift. Oh. My. Word. The conversations I hear could curl your hair… or make you gray in short order! I’m totally blown away by the things people say in a public setting. But, oh, the creative juices these overheard conversations make flow!

    Great blog, BTW.! I’m a writing friend of Michelle Weidenbenner from Indiana!

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