I eavesdrop a little bit. <puts both hands up, palms out> Woah. I'm not talking about standing outside a door like mean old Danka from Downton Abbey (Ellie makes me watch it), or bugging people's phones like some secret shadow government. What I'm talking about is stealing snippets of conversations in public places. No, not stealing. Just catching the things other people toss around like they don't matter. Because people just send these little snippets of their lives flying around willy-nilly.
Why? Because this stuff is pure gold, that's why. More often than not, these snippets end up coming out of a character's mouths in a story I'm writing. Not always main or even supporting characters. Sometimes they're background chatter to add texture to a scene, or they flesh out an ancillary character that you'll only ever meet once.
I literally could not make this stuff up. Well, I could make it up, but if I had made some of this stuff up, I'd reject it as being too ridiculous, as being too much. I wouldn't believe someone actually said these things unless I'd heard it myself. An example, you ask?
"Girl, I just needed to get under somebody, you know?"
I was sitting in a coffee shop at a big table with my headphones on. Two girls in their early twenties sat next to me, catching up and sipping their coffee.
When one of them dropped that bombshell, I almost bit my tongue in half. I've already used that bit of conversational gold, especially gold because it goes against so many common lady stereotypes. And look, I'm all for the empowered woman (see previous reference to why I knew who Danka was.) But an everyday girl with an active sex drive who isn't dressed like a hooker and also not looking for the one? Definitely noteworthy.
"I think they messed up your operation, and something's still in there."
Almost broke my neck whipping it around to see who said this one. It was an older man on a bench by a water fountain on the phone. In hindsight, he may have meant some kind of leftover cartilage or a leftover piece of a tumor. Maybe. I'd prefer to think that he believed a surgeon left a sponge or some scissors inside somebody's body cavity. I'm imagining him poking his finger into his buddy's belly button. "That feels a lot like a clamp to me, Carl. Could be scissors, though. Yep. They forgot some tools." Poor Carl.
"We could be together. It's good when we are, and he treats me so well, he'd be such a great boyfriend. And I love him, you know? I just don't know if I'm in love with him."
I had to think back to remember exactly how this one went. I heard it in the produce section at a grocery store. A Kroger in Cincinnati, to be specific. Some girl I recognized from the gym was having what I thought should have been a private conversation on her cell phone by the bananas. But it made sense. She definitely gave off a "look at me" vibe at the gym, so of course she'd give off a "listen to me" vibe while grocery shopping.
I'm not going to write a moral into this story, because I certainly don't want people to stop sharing little pieces of their lives. (You don't have to look too hard to infer one, though.) What I will say is that when people wonder where ideas come from, sometimes the answer is as mundane as the coffee shop, the water fountain, or the produce section, by the bananas.