In many of the how-to-write fiction/nonfiction books that I love to read, one writing prompt that a lot of them seem to agree on is the idea of eavesdropping on other people's conversations. So lately I've been trying it out; rather than listening to my iPod all the time as I walk around, I listen to bits and pieces of other people's conversations. (It's not always by choice, though, since some people talk really loudly and apparently are not self-conscious of the fact that other people--like nosy writers--can hear them.)
Later I write down what I hear, because who knows? Some of those bits and pieces could be put together for an interesting story.
Here are a few examples of some of the things that I've heard, as well as what my mental reactions to them were:
Outside my bedroom window at 2 A.M., an angry girl is talking on her cell phone, screaming and crying:
Angry cell phone girl: Just tell me, WHY? WHY? How could you do that to me?
Me: I dunno, but could you take your whys down the street so I can go back to sleep?
On the train, a guy sitting behind me is talking on his cell phone, upset because he is low on cash and is afraid he will get evicted. So he calls everyone in his family for help:
Broke guy: Mom, I don't WANT to ask Dad for help. You know how he can be. But what am I gonna do? The landlady says I only have five days....okay...yeah, but he's such a JERK....okay, FINE. I'll call him.
Broke guy then calls up his father: "Dad? What are you doing?" He then proceeds to detail his money problems to his father, who promises to wire him cash for food. A few minutes later Broke Guy ends the call and then says, "DRUNK."
Me: I guess he won't be buying him a Father's Day gift this year.
On the street, two guys are walking right behind me:
Guy #1: My only problem with her is that she never showers. Even when she gets out of drag she only washes off her makeup!
Guy #2: Maybe she showers when you're sleeping.
Guy #1: No, she totally doesn't!
Me: Must walk faster so they don't hear me giggle. Must walk faster so they don't hear me giggle.
On a subway platform, two young subway performers, who are each carrying guitar cases, are flirting:
Male subway performer: I could spend hours listening to Mariah Carey.
Me: Yeah, right.
MSP: She's so much better than people like Britney Spears.
Me: Do not criticize the Britney!
Female subway performer: (smiles) Haha. Anyway, it was nice talking to you, but I have to go...
Me: Are you going to ask her for her phone number? Because I think she's interested in you.
MSP: Well, I hope to see you later.
FSP (walking away): I'll be performing later!
The conversation between the two subway performers got me thinking. Did they ever meet again? Did the male subway performer wait all day, hoping that the girl he liked would show up again? Did he start composing a song about her in the hopes that she would hear it?
And just like that, I started getting an idea for a story...
What about you? Do you ever eavesdrop on other people's conversations, and then become inspired to write a story? It's one of the reasons I love Chicago; there's always something interesting to write about.
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