I don't know about you, but strangers LOVE to talk to me: in the grocery store, in line at the movies, on an airplane when I have a laptop in front of me. Sometimes I think I have a sign on my forehead that says, "TALK TO ME...FOR HOURS...BECAUSE I'LL LISTEN." Would I like to hear about your recent colonoscopy? You betcha! Oh, man, you're getting a divorce? Sure! Tell me all about how ugly it's going to be TOTAL STRANGER!
I really should travel with a pop up leather couch and start charging by the hour.
I think, however, that I may have pinpointed why total strangers like to share their life stories with me:
I smile. I'm a smiler. Yep, that's me.
Actually, most of the time I'm happy to talk with people and hear about where they've come from, where they've been - especially the elderly. Oh man, I could listen to their stories for hours (if only they could stay awake that long!). The only time I get a little cranky with chatty people is if I'm in a big hurry to get somewhere (which is rare) or have a cranky child on my hands (which is NOT so rare).
I love to listen.
This works to my benefit where my writing is concerned. I put away these stories in my mental filing cabinet and pull them out when I need a little something extra for a character. In fact, one of the supporting characters in my book is based on a woman I met in line for an amusement park ride.
In the busy, day-to-day goings on, it's really easy to tune people out. But if you're a writer, maybe the next time a total stranger strikes up a conversation, you should tune in! You never know what you might hear...like the time a lady told me that she had "accidentally" shot her husband (he lived, although I'm not sure she was happy with that outcome!).
What about you? Are you a listener? Do you use what you hear in your stories?