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Overheard

This week’s writing challenge revolves around my favorite inspiration: eavesdropping.

My mother would be horrified at my bad manners. When I hit the wall with my writing and need motivation, I go to my local coffee shop, and listen in on the conversations around me.

At my cafe, I’ve heard some great chats — from awkward first dates, to job interviews, to one-sided cell phone arguments. If a particular tidbit excites me, I’ll use it as a line of dialogue, as the first line in an essay, or as a writing prompt.

Here are a few examples of what I overheard today while I sipped my green tea:

“He didn’t even cry when I told him. I hate him even more now.”

“Cashiers can’t be drunk, but they’re not as strict with the baggers.”

Phone rings. “Hello?…No, you still have the wrong number, and if you call again, I am literally going to go insane.” Seconds later, the phone rings again.

I nabbed the second overheard statement, and used it as the start of a short story. There was no way I could pass it up.

Style and genre are entirely up to you.

Fiction, political rant, photo essay, poetry, personal reflections…the world is your oyster. Regardless of what and how you blog, your inspiration will be the voices around you. Can you hear what the strangers on the train are murmuring? What your coworkers are complaining about in the break room? What your kids are conspiring about when they should be asleep? If a snippet of conversation ignites your fire, take note of it, and use it to rock your next blog post.

If the government can do it, so can you: tap into your inner spy. Listen in on a conversation, and get blogging.

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  1. Wow i never thought something like would be given so much emphasis. Kudos! So i tried this in a coffee shop, and what i captured left me shocked for the next few hours – *a guy on the phone* – “yes so my wife isn’t in town, how about we do a court marriage? We’ll get done with it in a few minutes”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. HAHAH, exactly! and yeah that actually happened, i swear i started at that man for like a couple of minutes, and then walked away, like yes, this actually happens in real life too! All thanks to your eavesdropping exercise, now I think I’m scarred 😛 hahahaha

        Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so funny. I’m glad you mentioned this. I did this once in a Paris cafe. I don’t speak French, but grabbed a tidbit and used it as the starting point of a post. I have NO idea what the person was really saying, of course, but tried to read tone/body language.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hello, my name is layla. i am a life-long eavesdropper.
    my favorite places to eavesdrop are: ikea and the sidewalks of chicago. usually i’m inspired by languages i don’t understand, but i make a game of trying to decipher their tone and body language.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In Argentina, there is a large group on Facebook, called “people are saying” it feeds on phrases people heard in the street, on buses, subway,etc. . When you get a phrase out of context, it sounds very funny. They found a resource really worthy of being a headline.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve had a great time since I starting having to wear hearing aids. In a restaurant or cafe, if I’m bored with my own company, I simply turn up the sound and tune in on the lives of others. Great stuff. “He never heard me coming, and you should see his face!” What a terrific short story prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like to construct entire back stories for strangers based on body language. Sometimes I’ll hear them say something that fits perfectly into my little story and that makes my day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I often find it entertaining to go and “people watch”. Whether it’s people out shopping…. or in the lobby at the airport. Also, if caught in traffic, it’s particularly interesting to watch people in neighboring vehicles and try to imagine their dialogue. Their facial expressions are quite funny sometimes. (I enjoyed your blog entry. It was entertaining.)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a brilliant idea. Eavesdropping is awesome. One of the most fascinating things I’ve overheard was from a young man decked in a Gucci suit, smoking a cigarette on the dirty sidewalk of central Manhattan, yelling on his cellphone about not being ready for a deadline for a jewelry design. I was walking by slowly in my high heels. I spotted a gorgeous black leather silver watch on his wrist. I wish I could have seen the design because he had impeccable taste.

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