Monday, July 26, 2010

Let's Have Dialogue

 
Shall We Chat?

Have you ever gotten a story or article idea from a conversation you've had? Or from an exchange that you overheard? Real life chatter offers oodles of creative potential for our writing. When you are running dry on ideas, this might be the place to look, with a healthy dose of kindness and discretion, of course.

Not only do I keep my imagination on high alert when conversing, I listen to accents. Born in Lancaster, PA, I am familiar with the dialect and sound of that area, which reflects a Pennsylvania Dutch flavor. Raised in southern New Jersey, my ears are used to the Philadelphia/New York City combo that influences many South Jersey residents' speech. I can often pinpoint a Delaware and Baltimore area resident, and of course, those from the southern regions of the U.S. Sprinkle in my husband's background - from the Chicago area, and friends from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Boston, and Ohio, to name a few, and there's a pretty good sampling of accents that I hear regularly.

I think my sensitivity to this was heightened when we moved from New Jersey to Kentucky. There's a mix of accents here, and I listen to try and determine if people are native to the area. Accent detective? Maybe. Or maybe it's just that I like considering where people come from and what shaped their patterns of speech. This dovetails with my curiosity about what their lives and past are like and what kinds of stories they have to tell.

What can this do for my writing? The results are not all in. :) But I do know that it helps shape characters, story lines, and deepen creativity. It provides book, article, and blog post ideas. It is an endless treasure chest of potential.

What about you? Do interesting conversations give you writing ideas? Have you ever considered what an accent can tell you about a person? Please share!

Happy writing!

Blessings,
Karen

35 comments :

  1. I definitely need to listen more--all those great convos to overhear & be inspired by. :) I guess I always feel like I'd be evesdropping, lol

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  2. Hello Karen...Yes, interesting conversations are always good inspiration for writing. Whenever I hear a person speaking with an interesting accent, if I'm unable to determine the country of origin, I'll ask the person where he/she is from. That's always good for more interesting conversation. This has happened from restaurant servers to people in high, professional positions. Sincerely, Susan

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  3. Angela,
    Yes, we need to be careful and above board at all times. With care, I think it can add interesting facets to our writing. :)

    Susan,
    That's a good point. Listening to conversations can be a good dialogue starter. A new character could be just around the corner! :)

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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  4. Absolutely, some of my best ideas start with people in passing.

    So you've done New England and KY too. We are in New England now and lived in both Lexington and Louisville (everyone knows there is a correct way to say that ;) )

    ~ Wendy

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  5. Some of the conversations I write are ones that I WISH I'd had.

    ~Britt Mitchell

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  6. I guess I didn't realize we were almost neighbors! I'm from northern PA and we would visit Lancaster so much:) I listen to conversations all the time and yes--tons of ideas from them.

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  7. My husband is much better at this than I. He's always saying to me, "Write that down, Carol. That was funny. You might use it some day."
    As for accents...that makes me think...when we finally meet (which I'm counting on someday) should I pull out my much buried southern drawl just for fun? It often comes out when I'm talking with old timers in our area. But for the most part, I just speak what I ended up with after living in Florida for 19 years.

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  8. Wendy,
    Yes, still don't know if I say Louisville correctly! We are not far from there. Love the New England area:)

    Britt,
    Ha, you said it! Maybe if we keep working on writing them, they'll come out at the right time! :)

    Terri,
    It is a small world, isn't it? Where in PA did you live?

    Carol,
    Good to have someone to support you and keep you on your toes! Sure, pull out that drawl. I think I have a twang once in a while after living here for 6 years. :)

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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  9. I often think with books or movies, ugh, that line was too perfect, there is no way the average person could have spouted that off the top of their heads. Good thoughts. :O)

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  10. I completely agree! Listening to the way other people talk is an excellent help when it comes to writing. After all, if every character talked the same the story would feel very stiff. :) Personally, I love some of the phrases that come up often in Southern "termonology." ;)
    Plus several of the posts I have on my blog started as discussions I've had with people.
    ...After all, blogs are often just another form of conversation. ;)
    Love yours, btw! :)

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  11. Yes, sometimes conversations just percolate in my brain for awhile before coming out unplanned in stories, devotions, and poems, but sometimes when I hear a "snatch" of a conversation I start spinning a story in my head right away.

    I love accents, although I'm not sure I can write them. The other day, I met a few people who grew up in the same town I did, and their speech patterns were so comfortable to me that it surprised me. Having lived in the same state all my life, I hadn't realized just how the way that I speak is based on the specific town I grew up in.

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  12. And . . . I hope you have a wonderful, blessing filled day!!!

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  13. I listen in on teen conversations. It's a good thing I have teens in the house. I always have my ear tuned in. I have gotten lots of great turns of phrase by doing this. Great post, Karen. I love ya and hope your week is super wonderful. =)

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  14. Yes, ALWAYS!!!
    And license plates and torn notes...

    I am definitely a snoop. Being a writer's one of the few professions that makes it, if not legal, kinda shrug-your-shoulders okay.

    Blessings,
    Patti

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  15. Diane,
    There are great lines there too! Inspiration is everywhere, isn't it?

    Emily,
    Good point. Blogs are such good places to get creative ideas. Love yours too:)

    Tyrean,
    Blessings to you too:) Percolate is a good way to put it; I like that word!

    Robyn,
    What great research for your books! I remember doing that when my kids were younger. Good way to keep up with your own and then some. Love you too!

    Patti,
    Yes, those too! I've got torn notes all over the place. Ideas are everywhere...:)

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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  16. I do try to incorporate conversations I've heard into my work. Sometimes people say the most interesting things! And I love accents.

    BTW Karen, Ive been having trouble with my blog posts showing up in my followers reading list updates. Do you see mine in your list? I post about every three days. Thanks.

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  17. I do find myself listening in (discreetly, of course--well, at least I hope it's discreetly :-) to conversations when out and about. Lots of inspiration there, and expressions to pick up for future characters... Great post, Karen!

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  18. Hi Karen - Yes and yes! I do use conversations as fodder for story ideas and essay topics, whether it is a conversation I've had or one overheard at the check-out line at the market. As for accents, I do listen and try to determine origin. When I'm writing I hear the character's voice/accent in my mind, but I'm not always terrific at carrying that over to the page. Still working on that. :P

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  19. Hi Karen -

    Definitely. Conversations will often spur a seed thought that grows into a veritable garden of ideas. (With my little garden comes many garden metaphors.)

    Great post. Thanks for reminding me to listen for accents. I'll be going south for vacation. :)

    Blessings,
    Susan

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  20. Jan,
    Will take a peek at the follower thing and see. Accents are fun! I only dislike it when I have difficulty understanding them.

    Kenda,
    Good point about the expressions! You never know when you will trip over something great:)

    Lisa,
    Translating it to our writing is more easily said than done, I agree. We can be works in progress together!

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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  21. Susan,
    The garden has so many good lessons:) Have fun on your trip! Take lots of notes:)
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  22. I used to listen in on kids convos all the time when I was teaching. But now, in every day life, I tend to tune people out. For example, if I'm at the coffee shop, I'll just focus on work, not on listening in. But I *do* need to eavesdrop a bit more and get some good dialog going!

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  23. Karen,

    I thought all writers did this. I think it's an "occupational hazard." :-)

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  24. Accents are very difficult to write. I think of Mark Twain as the model for this. I generally avoid them!

    Listening to people interact is a good way to learn about dialog. Even so, we often can't write it exactly that way. It's boring on the page and moves too slowly for the reader.

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  25. Sure! Or it might even just lead to one thing, which leads to another, and all at once a column is shaping up. I've gotten some good blog posts out of listening to coffee shop conversation around me. At the least, it gives me an appreciation for the small community of which I'm a part.

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  26. Karen:
    I am a strange bird, I live in the city and state where I was born. However, I do notice accents. When our church merged with another back in 2006, a lady from the other church had the neatest accent. None of the people from our half of the merger could place the accent. To me, it sounded like a thick eastern accent. Someone finally,very nicely asked her where she was from. She was from England. We have another lady,also from England, whose accent is different. I find that interesting.

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  27. Nothing has sparked from conversations but I have had ideas form hearing people talk that help to give a little more life into my characters.
    You have heard quite a varied amount of dialect in your travels. That's great!

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  28. If you have time today, stop by and wave at my FIRST AUTHOR GUEST! I'm thrilled to have Cynthia Ruchti!

    Blessings, dear Karen!
    Patti

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  29. Oh, definitely! I love listening to people. And they talk so loud--lucky me!

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  30. just stopped by to say hi..."Hi"

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  31. For a non-fiction writer, subject matters are of more interest to me (I don't intentionally eavesdrop, really!!). Here in the south, though, there are some pretty interesting accents and expressions that are unique to this area. Having grown up in MI, I wasn't familiar with the expression "covered up" when describing a parking lot being full. Or having someone offer to 'carry' me to lunch (I knew they'd have to be pretty strong!!) when referring to taking me to lunch. Accents and conversations, definitely great tools to stimulate writing ideas! God bless!

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  32. Great advice! I don't normally pay attention to my conversations for potential writing material! I need to start!

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  33. I would like to invite you to visit my blog. I would love to get your comments on some of my recent posts.

    http://alonganarrowway.blogspot.com

    God Bless!

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  34. Beth,
    I wouldn't stress over it; there's a time for each one. I know I need to tune almost everything out and focus when I write. Enjoy your transitional time!

    Jennifer B.,
    Good way to put it! I enjoy most writing 'occupational hazards', with the exception of a few.

    Cassandra,
    Yes, accents do transition differently on the page. It's a tricky balance to convey speech patterns and such. I think with balance and practice it comes out well in the end.

    Rhonda,
    You just never know when a sliver of something will hit you, do you? I've even been in church and had stuff pop up, hastily scribble the thought in the back of my notebook, and continue listening to the sermon...:)

    Cecelia,
    It is interesting to find out where people come from. Again, you just never know when something will strike you to write about. It can be a lot of fun:)

    Jennifer S.,
    I think that's a great way to gather inspiration and input for characters. We seem to find it everywhere we go, don't we?

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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  35. Patti,
    Thanks, I'll hop on over. Sounds exciting! :)

    Jill,
    It is a great source of all kinds of things, isn't it? Loud does seem to be the thing lately, doesn't it?

    Covnitkpr1,
    Hello to you as well!

    Maria,
    I've never heard those two expressions. Glad you shared them; ideas are percolating as we speak:)

    Alisa,
    It can be so helpful, even just for blog topic ideas or whatever. Hope you get inspired!

    A Peculiar Person,
    Thank you for the invitation. I will check it out.

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!