Monday, October 25, 2010


One day, in an acceptance speech for some grand writing prize, I will express my gratitude to the many writing advisers who have licensed me to eavesdrop in the name of dialogue research.

Mid-morning in a coffee shop, two baristas and a customer discuss airport security hassles.

“Yeah, you can fly with a gun. You just have to pack it in a special case.”

Good to know.

Saturday afternoon at the airport, a man explains to a woman:

“You done a lot of time in school, but you ain’t learned all you need to know. What I’m saying is, there’s more than you know what you don’t know.”

Not that I could use this carefully recorded conversation verbatim, but there might be a place for a minor character whose way with words leaves the protagonist no more enlightened than she was before.

Friday morning before work, two guys in shirts and ties in a breakfast café reveal their plans:

“My wife’s going on a women’s retreat with the church.”

“All three kids all weekend? You’ll be exhausted.”

“They said I have to feed them, too.”

Unguarded conversation is a valuable aid to understanding the male perspective.

Sunday afternoon at the pet store check-out, a grandmother calls to her excited and bouncy elementary-age granddaughter:

“Get back here and carry your own damn hamster.”

Reality demonstrates how easy it is to create a villain.

At a public boat launch, three men wrestle a boat onto a trailer:


“Whoa, Nelly!”


Proving that not everyone uses expletives, even when landing on his. . .patootie.

When the characters in my head begin to sound alike, I go out for a listen. I call it a writing exercise--sometimes enlightening, sometimes alarming, and always worth a note or two. Also, a lot of fun.


Christine said...

So funny! Thanks for sharing :-)

Jeanie said...

Great post, Chris, and a valuable lesson. The best inspiration is all around us! You can't make up stuff like this. Too funny.

Callie James said...

Too funny, Chris!

Carla Swafford said...

Oh, Chris, now that's what I call the right frame of mind to listen to people. Others would see tragedy. You see the humor and convey it perfectly. LOL!

I'm a firm believer that intelligent people make the best comedians/romance comedy writers.

Heather said...

What a great post! I needed this after a day in court where the things I've been hearing haven't been nearly as funny!

Chris Bailey said...

Hey, y'all--thank you so much for your supportive comments. The funniest part to me is that I thought the post was kind of a bomb. As in, not funny. So maybe my WIP has some humor, after all?

Louisa Cornell said...

Are you kidding, Chris! This is hilarious!! Life is definitely much more colorful and head cocking (you know the thing a dog does when it appears he hears you, but just doesn't get it) than anything we could make up!

Cari Hislop said...

I've always loved eavesdropping on other people's conversations. One day in high school I was sitting at my desk before class listening to a conversation on the other side of the room and laughing (the guy talking was always funny) and the guy sitting in front of me turned around, looked at me like I had two heads and said, "Why are you always laughing?" I didn't tell him why, but it was a strange thing to know that someone had been watching and listening to me...that was kind of freaky!