by Kirk Melson
I grew up with certain expectations of behavior. They were the normal sorts of things we all learned as children. Near the top of the list was a warning not to be nosy. I took this aversion to those who exhibited this trait with me into adulthood.
That is, until I discovered this tendency in my darling wife.
I came upon the surprising compunction to overhear every conversation nearby, ask prying questions of total strangers, and worst of all, take photographs of everything and every one she wanted—without asking permission.
When I finally asked what she found so fascinating, she sat me down and explained.
- The overheard conversations helped her learn how to write believable dialogue, as well as get great ideas for what people actually talk about. I have to admit I found it pretty compelling as well. I discovered that conversations aren’t made up entirely of complete sentences, but also fragments. I never thought there was a legitimate place for sentence fragments.
- The prying questions for total strangers were asked looking for fodder for possible interview articles, and became a part of her list of experts she could call on for specific information when doing research.
- The pictures provided her with a lot of things, from inspiration for characters to models of characters to illustrations for her blog. I’ve actually found myself pointing out possible photo opportunities.
I had absolutely no idea being nosy was such an important piece in a writer’s tool box.
When I expressed that thought, she patiently explained that writers don’t consider being nosy…uh…being nosy. They refer to this particular character trait as professional curiosity or research.
Since it appeared to be such a highly thought of practice, I decided I’d give it a try. And you’d be amazed at the things I discovered! But please don’t tell my engineering friends.
So now that I’m slowly drifting toward the mindset of a writer, I have a question for you. What fun…er…important things do you discover when you’re out and about? Have you ever eavesdropped on an interesting conversation or snuck a picture somewhere for research’s sake?