Eavesdrop and Take Notes

Photo Credit: Frank Selmo (frankselmo on Flickr)

I’m always looking for inspiration for my next short story, novel, blog post, characters, setting, etc. While my dreams provide the foundation for many stories, some of them are a little too out there to mold into anything useful. I’ll be the first to admit my muse and I don’t always get along. There are times when we don’t talk, but if I’m going to take this writing thing seriously, which I do, I can’t go around making excuses.

“We value results, not excuses.”

So, what can you do when you’re fresh out of ideas and your muse is on vacation? Eavesdrop and take notes. I know as kids we’re taught listening in on other people’s conversation is rude, but I’m not convinced it applies to writers. After all, are we not tasked with observing the world around us and capturing it with words?

And while you’re noting story ideas, plot twist, dialect, key phrases, or potential conflict, go ahead and note how people interact. What are their hands doing while they speak/listen? How do facial expressions change? How are they sitting (leaning close/away or a combo)? How much eye contact is going on? Are people standing? If so, how are their bodies positioned? Straight? Angled? Weight shifted to one leg?

Observe and take notes. Just don’t let them catch you doing it. 🙂

Where do you find inspiration for your work? Have you ever eavesdropped? Do you take notes? Anything from your ‘field study’ you’d like to share?

Another Exercise in Voice

Early, I posted an exercise on Character Voice a.k.a. characters’ attitudes toward their environment.  I had a blast reading the comments in response to how characters would finish the line, “Life’s like a box of chocolates…”

You never know where/when the next ‘light bulb’ moment will happen. My inspiration for the next exercise came to me while driving by a handyman truck with the slogan that read “From Mild to Wild”. My first thought: wish I had my camera, nobody’s gonna believe this. Second thought: a writer could take a line like that anywhere, no matter if they wrote paranormal, romance, horror, crime mysteries, etc. Which made me think how much genre affects the voice of a story. Word choices, sentence flow, details…all vary according to the author’s intent with the story.

My challenge for you comes in the form of this quick prompt.

The third police car concerned him.

Write the next line(s) from two different genres.  Here are a few to choose from, but feel free to add your own: paranormal, fantasy, mystery, thriller, horror, science fiction, romance, humor, chick lit, action adventure. Did you stick to your comfort genre or stray? Were you able to convey the genre through voice?

For tips on Voice, be sure to read Dawn Allen’s and Laura Diamond’s guest blogger posts.