Most writers, either intentionally or subconsciously, draw inspiration for their writing from the world around them. Their life experiences, education, travels, and especially the people they meet are all fair game in fiction. On some level I think this can create a slight paranoia amongst a writer’s family and friends. However, I’ve found that the most interesting fuel for fiction comes from strangers. It’s amazing what you can overhear strangers say without even trying very hard to listen in on their conversations. It seems like people believe they are in their very own personal cones of silence and no one else can hear them.
I like to take some of the odd things people say and use them as starting points for writing exercises. I’ve found that random pieces of conversation when taken out of context can create interesting fiction. After all, that’s how gossip works.
If this sounds like a writing exercise you’d like to try, I’ve decided to help get you started with five pieces of overheard conversation.
1. “If you don’t take the batteries out then it’ll turn on in your backpack.” This could be in reference to just about anything electronic with removable batteries, but I like to think they were discussing vibrators. Makes the conversation a bit more interesting.
2. “Man, if we hadn’t been in jail this weekend we could’ve gotten chimichangas.” A friend of mine overheard this one and I have to say, at least their priorities are in order.
3. “You don’t really know someone until you’re fisting them.” I overheard this chat between two men while working as a cocktail waitress, and it’s one of the few times that I was left speechless. I suppose, however, that they could have a valid point.
4. “I just think that humans have a more meaningful existence than chimps, you know? It’s just better to be a human.” I heard this one in a bar as well (surprising, I know). It wasn’t worth it to get involved, but I can think of a few apes that might disagree with this drunken philosopher.
5. “It’s all about penis! Penis, penis, penis! Penis all the time!” Again, I overheard this being shouted in a bar. I’m not really sure how this could inspire something other than erotica, but if you do, let me know. I might be willing to share the title of Next Great American Author with you (maybe).
These are just a few of the delightful gems I’ve come across, but there are so many out there so long as you don’t have ethical qualms about listening to other people’s conversations. I figure that if people are in public, then there’s no such thing as a private conversation but, however, I draw the line at phone tapping or reading text messages. That’s crazy behavior.
But you can still collect underpants if you want. No judgment.