My assignment to Spice Up My Writing this past week was to record an overheard conversation. I really wanted to just make my character do this one, especially because I had a good place in my current story where I thought having my character record a conversation could lead to a key clue in the mystery. But since it's my first attempt at getting Spicy, I figured I should try the activity myself too.
In the comments of last week's post, BookChic suggested that I make sure to have a good cover, so if anyone approaches me I already have a good explanation as to what I was up to. So in addition to having a cover story, I also chose to have a disguise. The best disguise I could think of was to look so perfect and angelic that no one would suspect anything out of the ordinary.
So, when we were offered tickets to the Philharmonic Orchestra this week, I thought it was the perfect opportunity. Who would suspect someone was going to record their conversation at the orchestra? I put on my best outfit and smile in the attempt to look as much like an upstanding citizen as possible.
Luckily, my iPhone has the capability of recording memos. Not only did it save me from attempting to stuff an oversized tape recorder into an evening purse, but it also gave me the perfect opportunity to just pretend I was playing on my phone, instead of being covert and recording conversations.
So with my phone in hand, throughout the night at dinner and the show, I made a conscious effort to actively listen to people’s conversations. I didn’t know what type of conversation I would find worthy of recording, but I figured I’d realize it when I heard it. And this is what I discovered:
- I really should consider getting some Sonic Earz because trying to hear people from a distance is very hard. Even when they are only two seats away.
- If attempting yourself, make sure your companion knows. Because trying to maintain a conversation, while also listening to your neighbor's conversations is quite tricky. You start to feel as if you are juggling voices.
- Trying to find a good conversation to record was about as easy as trying to find a good pair of shoes when you have the money and the need. It always seems when you are on the hunt that it’s impossible to find anything good.
Even though it wasn't the most scandalous statement ever spoken, considering I missed the beginning, some of the middle, and the end of the conversation, this one comment still managed to raise a lot of questions: Why does this woman hate Notre Dame? Why does her son want to make her mad? Is it on purpose or accident? If her son is on the fence about attending college, do they really think a hard school to get into like Notre Dame is the best option?
And then my mind starting thinking of all the possibilities. Maybe her son's mad at her because he really wants to get a degree in art, but his mother is pushing for one of those "stable" degrees in engineering or business. And he's decided to get back at his mom by going to his dad's alma mater--not his mother's as she'd hoped--to study the art of religious buildings.
And I realized one of the greatest benefits of listening to people’s conversations. Not only can it help with dialogue, but it is one of the best tools of getting you to start questioning things. And as we all know, with questions come ideas. And with ideas come stories.
This weekend I was watching the Bo Burnham: Words, Words, Words special on Comedy Central. And not only can the guy create incredibly witty songs with his words, but he’s definitely an artist. So I wasn't surprised when during his act, he referenced the fact that a lot of people come up to him and tell him that he’s an artist. And then he gets asked how he can create art with words. He says the main thing that separates an artist from other people is that they constantly question things, like “where are all the Sour Patch parents?”
Not only is that hilarious, but I couldn’t agree with that more. To someone else listening to a conversation might just be that, but to a writer and an artist sometimes it’s more important to discover what you don’t hear or see.
--Emily, Miss Querylicious