Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What a Character

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 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?


  1. It must be the smile that draws people in!

    Since I started I writing I pay attention to everything more than before. The sky is my favorite canvas. I love laying in the grass looking up and watching a whole new worle evolve in my imagination.

  2. I'm a listener big time. Wrote something about this on Monday. You and I, babe. Great minds. ;)
    ~ Wendy

  3. I think I'm a good listener too. People must think so because I'm often surprised at how much people tell me. :)

  4. Good advice. I love to listen to people talk and tell their stories. I've definitely used more than one story told to me or overheard for my books.

  5. You just described me completely! My kids get embarrassed when I strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, but, hey, it's great fodder for my next piece of work. Listening is an art only a writer can understand.

  6. I'm sure it's the smile that does it!

    You're right, Beth. A great way to pick up characters and file them away for future use!

  7. I'm the same. I'm a smiler and people totally talk to me all the time about all of their personal stuff. I'm either a good listener or super nosy.