Weekend Assignment: Heard Any Good Characters Lately?

Some writers talk about being “people watchers”. I’m more of a “people listener”. Eavesdropping is almost a compulsion with me. I think it is because I find some of my most interesting characters just by listening to out-of-context comments from strangers.

Or maybe I’m just incurably nosy.


For this weekend’s assignment, be an eavesdropper. Listen to the people around you at the gas pump, in parking lots, while waiting in line at the check-out. (Be discreet, please. No staring or stalking.)

Then take those snippets that you overhear and write them down. They don’t have to be verbatim. Write them the way you remember them. Then, describe a character who could have said each one. Who is the person? Why did they say what they said? What kind of personality do they have?

If you can’t get out this weekend, or just can’t force yourself to eavesdrop on others, check out random quotes at Overheard in New York (DISCLAIMER: Be advised, the quotes are from real people, from all walks of life, in all types of situations; some can be offensive.)


5 comments on “Weekend Assignment: Heard Any Good Characters Lately?

  1. A tall, thin man, conservatively dressed in a light blue, button down shirt and gray slacks, walked into the crowded office. One hand held his little boy’s, while the other pushed the door closed behind him. He let go of the child’s hand to sign in, and then took a seat, slid a magazine from the stack, pushed the nose-piece of his wire-rimmed glasses and began to pick through the pages.

    The child, dark complexioned as his father, with the same face in a smaller size, climbed up into the seat beside him. His seven-year-old legs were just able to fold over the edge and swing freely.

    The boy looked up at the television screen bolted to a corner near the ceiling. In minutes, he was completely absorbed in the images as they flashed on the screen; faded pictures of black women and children with morose expressions staring blankly at the camera, rag-covered heads crouched in cotton fields, and a bizarre photograph of a man with an iron wheel around his neck. Four long prongs poked outward and upward. The terror in the man’s eyes made him shudder.

    He heard the narrator say something about slaves and immediately made the connection between the pictures and the dark-skinned people and him.

    Black kid to father: Dad, were you ever a slave?
    Father: No, son.
    Black kid: Was I ever a slave?
    Father: No.
    Black kid, sighing: Good.

  2. Hope this is what you wanted. “Midgdear”

  3. […] own spy journal. Take it with you and use it to capture little snippets of life.  Revisit this Weekend Assignment and eavesdrop. Seek out gestures and expressions to bring your characters to life. Or go people […]

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