Line of Overheard Dialogue

Stepping outside my front door, I heard my neighbor say to her Poodle,  “Oh, Xena, I wish you weren’t a dog.” 

Although I laughed when I heard her say this, immediately characters in a story began performing in my mind based on this piece of dialogue. 

Talking with my neighbor, I discovered she, her husband and Xena were embarking on a trip.  Where could they eat that allowed Xena, too?   Many wouldn’t have outdoor seating so Xena would have to stay in the car. 

We writers have a rather impolite way of poking our noses into others’  lives.  I’ve been known to follow a couple around the block – – completely out of my way – – just so I could hear the rest of a conversation.  Snoopy?  You bet.  But for the right reason.  Sometimes you discover a line of dialogue or a character quirk that is just too good to pass up. 

Ever borrow traits from what you’ve heard and saw to plop into a character?   Of course you have.     Real people have appeared in my children’s books and sometimes unknown actors from old movies pop into my stories too.  At least they have physically.  It’s helpful to have a model of someone and then you can create the personality you need.  Like Franzen borrowing his brother’s family album hobby to add to one of his characters.  Learning about your characters are part of the fun of building a story.    Why not use a line of dialogue to help you start?

Writing Prompts:

1.  Write a story or poem that goes along with the line of dialogue I heard above.

2.  Hang out in a place where lots of people mill around.  A town square, mall, airport, or a park all are examples.  Lounge around with a notebook and overhear conversations.  Jot down dialogue for future inspiration. 

3.  Use one of the lines of dialogue you’ve heard recently to inspire a piece of writing or artwork. 

4.  Build a character from one flash of a real person.  It can be from a picture in a magazine, someone you barely know, or one trait from someone you know well.  (Just don’t use that whole person.)  Plop your character into scenes of conflict to see how your character will respond.

No Responses to “Line of Overheard Dialogue”

  1. Joanne says:

    I sat across the table from the bride’s grandmother at a recent shower. Staring at a revealing nightie, Grandma said, “If I wore that to bed, Ed would tell me, ‘You’re gonna get cold, go put some clothes on.'” I can’t wait to use that line in a story – but probably not a children’s story.

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