She Said What?
“We’re getting some lambs. And we’re actually thinking of getting a miniature cow. Because . . . you can eat them!”
This was a snippet of the conversation in front of me as I waited in the Post Office line this afternoon. I stood there for a moment before realizing I had done it again—gone into that writer’s zone-out I do when I hear something I might possibly use in a book in the future. A crooked smile plastered on my face, I stared blankly at nothing, the wheels spinning in the old cranium.
Why, I wondered, would a character find the edibility of a miniature cow a valid reason for buying one? We were all there, posting our mail smack in the middle of Loudoun County, Virginia, one of the fastest growing areas in the country over the past few years. Plenty of grocery stores, lotsa ground beef available. Is there something unusual about a miniature porterhouse? And what kind of psychotic freak would buy a cute little Muppet version of a cow merely to slaughter it? Do I want to share this person with my readers?
Nope, I don’t think I’m going to find a place for that line of dialogue in any of my chick lits. But I gave it a moment’s study, nonetheless. This is what we do, we writers, isn’t it? At least, it’s what we should be doing. We should listen to life around us as writers, not just as blobs of flesh with ears attached. We’re best served by listening to what the other blobs of flesh with ears are saying. I’ve come up with some of my best characters, dialogue, even plot points simply by, well, eavesdropping.
The trick, though, is to get it written down while it’s in its pure form, not yet rerun and homogenized (in keeping with our cow theme) through your own personal speaking style. You can always adjust the dialogue when you write your story. But jot now; spin later. And if people around you start to speak behind their hands or in mumbly voices, you’re being too obvious with the jotting.
If you hope to write story after story, you’re going to want to consider every idea that floats past you, whether it happens in line at the Post Office, or during a racquetball game, or while your dentist is taking a call between root canals. If you don’t yet have a file for fragments of conversation borrowed from the general public, I’d recommend getting one going now.
And if anyone wants to use the eating-the-mini-cow comment, it’s up for grabs.
You can visit Trish at www.trishperrybooks.com . Her website is as pretty as she is! Plus, you have to love a woman who describes her children as : a “brilliantly funny son” and a “gorgeous grown daughter.” Trish, though you’d not guess by looking at her, also has an “amazing grandson.” Her first book, The Guy I’m Not Dating, was released by Harvest House in 2006. Too Good to Be True is her new novel, released this month by Harvest House. Check out her website for the working title of her third novel. It’s a great one.
THE GUY I’M NOT DATING can be yours! (The book, silly, not the guy.) Enter a comment, and I’ll draw a name. The winner, drumroll, will receive (thanks to Trish) the book and an invitation to be a guest blog book reviewer when you finish reading!