Writing Assignment: Write What Comes Next After Overhearing Dialog

by Randy Murray on August 15, 2014

“And that’s why I don’t eat hummus.”

If you pay attention, you can hear the most interesting things while out in public. It’s the writer’s prerogative to listen in to conversations and pick up those little things that can find their way into stories and other work. These snippets of conversation and dialog can be fascinating and extremely useful.

I was trained as a playwright and find that I jot down little overheard conversations in my notebook without thinking too much about it. I try and include a bit about the place, time, and surrounding details, along with the words that made me suddenly perk up my ears and reach for my notebook. These conversations, if heard in whole, are rarely interesting. But those little lines, those strange sentences, they can be endlessly fascinating.

It’s hard to go looking for them actively, but you can be prepared. I recommend ALWAYS having a notebook and a pen with you. Then go out in public. Have lunch. Sit in a coffee shop. Look around as you sit in that airport boarding area. You will enviably hear the most interesting things.

Don’t bother these people. Don’t take any pictures or make any audio recordings. Just make a few notes. Do not stare. You might, however, find some interesting things to describe if you have a chance to look at the people who are talking.

And then, when you are back at your desk, see what you can make of that bit of captured dialog.

For today’s assignment go and do all of this.

Writing Assignment: Write What Comes Next After Overhearing Dialog by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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