Thursday, 13 December 2012

Eavesdropping your way to good dialogue...

Brain &  doodleIt's important to be nosey curious when you're a writer. Otherwise, how would you know anything about how others think, talk, treat people and generally live their lives? Being interested in the human condition is surely a pre-requisite for a writer, right?

Ladies Eavesdropping on PhoneI'm not advocating snooping through people's emails or phones or rifling through their underwear drawers (that would be creepy and wrong on so many levels and could end in quickly severed friendships or even divorce courts) but eavesdropping on a conversation between two teenagers on the bus home will probably give you a lot of valuable insight into how teenagers think and talk these days - not so different from when I was a teenager not that long ago (ahem) but if you want to make your dialogue real, then an eavesdropper you must become.

There are several ways you can do this with stealth.
  • Put earphones in but don't play any music. Even really quietly. You will get distracted and start singing along in your head (or aloud which will really blow your cover. Stealth, remember).
  • Pretend to read a book but remember to turn the pages sometimes.
  • Even better, read a kindle. Nobody will know you're getting nowhere with 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.
  • Pretend to be reading emails on your phone. As with the music, don't actually read them. Just stare intently at your phone and occasionally swipe your finger across the screen.
  • Most importantly, get your poker face on. Smirking when one of your conversationalists says something amusing will be a dead giveaway.
Another good way to get into the heads of people is to read blogs (seriously. This isn't just a plug for blogs at all. I promise). I've recently been picking my way through some of the blogs that bloggers I regularly read, regularly read. This is all in the name of research of course. It is definitely NOT a displacement activity. No way, ho-say. 

Writing on laptop
These are the ones I really liked; some are writing blogs, some are food blogs and one of them is the website of a very talented sculptor.
Reading blogs also helps you get an idea of style and voice. The most successful blogs are the ones which consistently engage you by making you want to cook that recipe RIGHT NOW or laugh out loud or nod your head in agreement. Sometimes they're blogs that are written by people who just make you crazy jealous of their creativity but whatever they make you feel, they are written in a such a way that makes you come back for more and that, my friends, is good 'voice'.


  1. Hi Gabrielle. How are you?
    I must say, I do enjoy eavesdropping to people's conversation, especially on train journeys. Though, the funniest one I heard was among three teenage boys at a pharmacist. I wonder what they teach at school these days. But let's keep that story some other time :) Yes, it is a guilty pleasure...
    Thank you so much for the mention. Hope you're enjoying your weekend.

  2. Hi Michael! You're very welcome for the mention - I like to share interesting websites when I find them. I can imagine what that pharmacist conversation was about!! Teenagers certainly have the most comedic value when eavesdropping...