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  Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde (October 24, 2006)

The Secret to Writing Good Dialogue: Eavesdropping!



Whenever I travel (and much of the time when I, for example, am out shopping with my wife or daughter) I enjoy eavesdropping. To eavesdrop means to "to listen to a conversation without the speakers being aware of it." Nosey, yes, but an essential quality of good writers is their nosiness!

Besides giving you a good idea of what people actually do say, eavesdropping can also, when practiced in a foreign country, give you good insights into what people are talking about and what interests the locals.

Here are some prime eavesdropping spots:

Movie theatres can be a great place to eavesdrop before a movie begins (well, it used to be before we started being inundated with advertising).

Tim Hortons or any other coffee shop is often a good spot. Sit down, spread out your paper (and include a sheet of notepaper, too) and listen. You might have a chance to write some snippets of conversation when you're still sitting there (discreetly, of course).

The bus (sometimes) is a good place. Those darn Ipods have reduced the chances, however, but if you travel by bus regularly you might catch some conversation.

The public square (if your city has one) can be a good place. Get a newspaper, pretend to read it, and listen in on the conversations around you.

And, my favourite: while passing people on a sidewalk or seawall. Why? Well the overheard "chunk" of conversation can be intriguing! What the heck were they talking about?



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