Tuesday, September 27, 2016


post by Lynn

I confess. I eavesdrop – anywhere and everywhere.

I will catch a voice, a murmur, any sign that an exchange is taking place. I tune in. Then I skulk away and write it all down in a small notebook.

Here’s a sampling of the results:

At a café in Denver –

“I had a cousin who shot himself in the head just minutes before he was going to sign the papers to make him a partner in his father’s business. What does that tell you?” 

At the airport –

“My grandma never got a social security check. She never earned a salary. When she was old, her only money came from two houses she rented out. Can’t tell you how many times some scumbag stiffed her on the rent and left a house trashed. And that being her only income.” 

On a bench –

“My hearing aid doesn’t work worth a damn. You can say it twice if you want, don’t make a difference.” 

Next booth over at the diner –

“Yep, come sheep shearing time, he asked me, ‘You want my best crew, or the one that speaks English?’ Course I told him I wanted his best crew and by God, those Mexicans work hard for the money, ya gotta give ‘em that.” 

In line at the post office –

“How’s your boy doin’, Jim?” followed by “Still in the marines, for now… not checkin’ them doors in Fallujah anymore though, thank God.” 

Shameless, aren’t I?

 I suggest you try out my guilty habit, if you haven’t already. Writers can learn by listening in.

I mean, how do people really talk to each other? What about the silences, the non-answers? Do they answer every question? Do they interrupt, leave sentences half-finished?

All that and more.

Eavesdropping helps you develop an ear for dialogue, and writing it down gives you practice in putting the sounds onto the page as truthfully as possible.

And stories? Try and tell me there are no stories in the snippets of conversation I’ve shared with you.

So go ahead, listen in.

Just let me know if you’re in the booth next to mine, okay?


  1. Count this as confession too - I love to eavesdrop, and I really liked this post.

  2. This is absolutely brilliant and well put together! I will be working on my dialogue for sure.

  3. Lynn, you won't mind if I have long silence between the times I listen to what you say and wait for the next thing you say, will you? ;-) Yes, I do the same, but often with the image I see with someone, a downcast or hopeless look, the brightness in the eyes of a young couple walking down the street, the energy of some children playing in a backyard. Often the images are surrounded by silence, no talk, maybe laughter or joyful screaming.

  4. If you're alone at a restaurant and you open a book and act like you're reading, you can eavesdrop in on some really good conversations. Not only do you find out how people talk but you find out what's on their mind that day or you can get pulled into a really good story. Oh, and occasionally turn the page to make it look like you're really reading. It's amazing what you hear when no one thinks you're listening. So next time you're at a restaurant and there's a single woman at the next table with her nose in a book . . . .

  5. Great piece! Yep, I love to eavesdrop for dialogue too. But I mostly write down funny things, because I love humor.


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