Author of Middle Grade novels about friendship, family, and figuring out where you fit in.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Overheard Conversations

A few years ago, I was heading into a Subway restaurant when I overheard the conversation of two people passing by. They were a father and daughter; the girl was maybe 5 or 6 years old.

"Daddy, let's get Subway!" she said.

"No, sweetie," he responded. "Daddy doesn't like Subway."

The little girl gasped. "How come you don't like Subway?"

"Because," he said, a firmness in his voice, "Daddy just doesn't like it, okay? Just like how Daddy doesn't like..."

That was all I heard. They were out of my range of hearing, and I was about to open the door to Subway, anyway.

Like I said, that was a few years ago, but it is still bugging me that I didn't hear the rest. Why doesn't he like Subway? What was he going to compare it to? "Just like how Daddy doesn't like..." What? McDonald's? Burger King? Something else, maybe, that isn't a fast food restaurant?

Overhearing conversations is one of my favorite ways to get ideas for characters. I don't go around eavesdropping on people, but I do love when I happen to be around interesting people while going about my business. The "Subway" man and daughter haven't inspired me to write anything in particular, but other situations have.

If nothing else, it's helpful to pay attention to the rhythm of a conversation. How long of a pause is there between each person speaking? Do they cut each other off? Do they make sounds like sighing or grunting in their dialogue?

And if I only hear part of a conversation, maybe it's better that way. I can fill in the rest.

"Daddy just doesn't like it, okay? Just like how Daddy doesn't like Quiznos. Sandwiches are evil, you know that."

Anyone else enjoy overhearing conversations? Have you gotten any good ideas that way?

6 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

I wonder if something awful happened to him in a Subway? Or if he once dated a person who worked there? Or... Yeah I like partial conversations too! :)

Tiana Smith said...

I tend to forget conversations very easily. Sigh. I'm sure it'd be good for me to try to remember.

Kelly Polark said...

On the train is a good place to eavesdrop. I heard quite the conversation from two homeless men that were chatting heading to a shelter. Opened my eyes up to a world that I knew nothing about. And I let one of the men use my cellphone to call his sister.

Carolyn V said...

I love hearing conversations. They tell so much. And now I can't stop wondering why he doesn't like Subway. lol.

Laura Marcella said...

One of my favorite things I overheard was when I was in line at Victoria's Secret: a woman answered her cell phone and said she was in line at the grocery store. Interesting! It could be as innocent as not wanting to embarrass who she was talking to, or it could be an individual who disapproves of her spending, or it could only be as sneaky as she was buying a gift for someone. Overheard convos are ripe with possibilities!

I wrote a fun post about overheard bookstore convos here if you want to see it: http://lauramarcella.blogspot.com/2012/01/overheard-in-bookstore.html?m=0

Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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