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Thursday, October 08, 2020

Be a Good Writer, Be a Good Listener

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I am a good listener. It is one of the facets of my personality, which has been invaluable to me as a writer. As a child I was shy, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention. Every conversation, every tidbit of gossip, and every event was tucked away in the file in my mind for future reference. As I grew and became less shy, I began to ask questions. If someone wanted to tell me their life story, I was ready and willing to take it all in. If someone was a bit reticent about divulging their past, I would prod them a bit by telling them about an incident in my life. In most cases, they eagerly responded with a story about a similar event in their life.

I enjoy meeting new people so I can discover what makes them tick. Whenever hubby and I used to go out to eat, I would listen to the conversations of the diners at other tables. Social gatherings gave me an opportunity to meet new people and study them.

When I began to write in earnest for publication, I never had a problem putting together new characters because I had a lifetime of characters to draw from. I usually created composites--a little of this person, a little of that person, and a splash of someone else just for fun.

Then came the pandemic. 

No eating out, no social gatherings, no opportunities to meet new people. Of course, I kept up with everyone I already knew via Zoom. Video chats are nice, but not the same thing as seeing someone in person. Also, video chats usually contain far more than one person. 

Then there is Facebook, but since it’s a presidential election year, Facebook is a dangerous place to be unless you have a dog or a cat, which I don’t. I have come to rely on non-political posts using photos of the beach, flowers, food, or photos of my books.

There is also the phone. Not for texting, but for talking. It takes time to listen but it is worth it in my opinion because some small detail may be useful in a book somewhere. For instance, a friend of mine texted me to ask for the name of our plumber. I gave it to her. I phoned her a few days later and discovered her plumbing problem was caused by work being done in the apartment above hers. She recounted the entire series of events, which took a while. It wasn't a particularly happy situation. However, I thought  it would be a rather interesting way for a young woman and a young man to meet. 

So, I have a new story idea in my file. 

Yes, listening is very useful for a writer. Keep your ears open. 👂

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