C is for Conversations

I think in every writing guide I’ve seen dealing with writing realistic dialogue, the advice is to go to a bookstore or coffee shop and listen in on people’s conversations to see how people really talk. At least once I was able to turn somebody else’s conversations into a story (“It’s a Guy Thing“) but on the whole I’m not a fan of doing this. It’s not because I’m worried about invading someone’s privacy, I just find most conversations boring as hell. I’ve heard horrendous pick up lines, new mother’s talking about how many diapers their kids go through each day, teenagers who talk as if they have everything figured out, and countless business people yakking on their cell phones about meetings, inventories, and business travel. I’d be willing to bet that if you recorded a real conversation and put it into a story it wouldn’t sell, because nobody would care. So why listen in on conversations to get real dialogue?

Now, I wrote about teenagers talking like they have everything figured out. Is their error just something obvious to anyone over 25, or is that something I picked up from hearing so many teenage conversations? Is it not so much the words but the attitude? Such insight could be useful, depending on what type of stories you write.  I guess my problem is that few aliens frequent the places I go to.


This isn’t the direction I expected this blog to go. I had planned on writing about the time my college roommate called and counted how many words I said in a two minute conversation. (Not counting grunts, I believe the tally was six.) Or my coworker who walks up and out of the blue asks, “What do you think is smarter, a chimpanzee or a trained rhesus monkey?” (I’m not making that up.) So maybe given my conversational experiences, it isn’t such a bad idea for me to hear “real” conversations.


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