Adventures in Writing: Listening to Your Surroundings

Overheard Bits & Pieces

Confiscated Cuteness from Pinterest

I’m sure I’ve mentioned at some point or another that I keep a handy OneNote file with things I overhear. Bits of conversation that catch my attention and make my muse wake up and take note of her surroundings. (Think of a Meerkat keeping lookout.) The people around you, the conversations that don’t concern you, are a gold mine for things you can use in your writing.

Especially if you write naughty erotica or steamy romance. Double-Entendres are your best friend. Even typos in a text message (which are huge online if you didn’t know) can be a source for hilarity in any kind of story. (Unless you’re writing horror, which then it might be misplaced somehow if you use it at the wrong time….)

Either way. Tune in now and then. Eyes straining when you stare at the monitor? Close them and perk up your ears. Something that appears innocuous could be the next thing that makes your head explode with ideas.

Even listening to audio books or reading books, of any genre, including non-fiction, can be a source for inspiration. Don’t like how an author phrased something? Figure out how you would do it differently. Then think about it again. How you can make it better. How you can add a twist and a turn or a whole entire plot behind the one little change you made because you disliked a phrasing. There are so many things, so many ways that you can take something you dislike and turn it into something that becomes beloved. (I do this with my daughter. If she complains about what I made for dinner, in my head I change it to “thank you for feeding me.”)

I’m sure you understand where I’m coming from. Keep up a file that you type the random things you hear. Is a coworker being a little on the rude side to a customer? Write down some of the snarky things they say that are making your ‘oooh, they’re being awfully rude’ antenna rise. You can use that as inspiration for several things. Frienemies, mainly.

Use the sarcastic one-liners from your kids or that coworker that annoys each and every person. They can be a catalyst in some way. Perhaps some sarcastic thing they say sets your character off in a direction they never thought to go. Perhaps it’s the last straw and they snap. It’s these little details that create a better, richer story. It’s going beyond the five senses and into the psyche of your characters. WHY did they snap when someone was trying to be funny? Did it bring up some ugly past memory or perhaps reminded them of someone they lost?

I listened to this one book and — it was so awful that I ended up not wanting to finish it. I forced myself through it and I am so glad that I did. Not because I ended up liking it (I didn’t) but because I learned how badly an author can do something and use it to make me a better writer. Yes, my posts here are sometimes (more often than not) scatterbrained. I feel that my free-flowing thoughts that I share should be completely different from my writing. I want to attract you in long enough to get your attention and make you say ‘oh wait, is she talking about this or this down further?” which will, hopefully, draw you out to comment with your own ideas and experiences being a writer.

Regardless, keep your eyes peeled for interesting sights, keep your nose aware in case there are any interesting scents, your ears perked for what can be turned into juicy tidbits of fictional gossip, and well… I don’t recommend touching your coworkers but you can put something sweet onto your tongue to help keep your mood in a good disposition. And then look past that.

Someone came to me and told me straight out that they were in a grumpy mood. I didn’t ask why, but I did commiserate with them and then asked my muse what was possibly going on that caused a grumpy mood other than the weather. Don’t forget to visit with your creative department if you have one. They are always full of crazy, weird, and zany ideas. Now, go out there and keep notes on the conversations around you. It might just lead you to your next juicy story.

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