Characters on the Bench

October’s Question

What’s the best place to eavesdrop on conversations, and have you used this in one of your books?

Cheryl Hollon: When I was working on a long-term contract in England, my husband and I frequently took the train for a weekend getaway. The conversations were fascinating, especially if they were on a cell phone. The phenomenon of thinking your conversation is private works to an author’s advantage. I found myself frantically scribbling snippets of authentic dialogue in my notebook. I haven’t used these conversations yet, but I still have them at the ready.

Diane A.S. Stuckart: Of course, public restrooms rank in the top three places to overhear juicy gossip (restaurants and elevators are the other two spots). Sometimes, it’s people eagerly chatting by the sinks and not stopping to think that someone might be listening from one of the stalls. I used that scenario for Peaches and Schemes, where my protagonist unwillingly overhears an argument that could be a motive for murder. More often, however, one overhears a cellphone conversation being conducted by the occupant of the next stall. As someone who disapproves of people taking phone calls while taking care of “business”, I must confess that I do lots of unnecessary flushing when I find myself the accidental eavesdropper. 

Maggie Toussaint: The golf course bar wins my vote for this question. As my husband waited for the final scores in a golf tournament he learned someone named Bubba hadn’t turned in his score. So he went to the door and said “Hey, Bubba!” and at least ten men turned around and said “What?” I took that situation as the premise for my cozy Bubba Done It. In the book, the victim reveals with his last breath that Bubba done it, only the whole town is full of Bubbas. 

Lois Winston: Restrooms, hands down! News flash, people, those stalls are NOT soundproof. In Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, Anastasia finds herself in a restroom where someone in a neighboring stall is chatting away on her cell phone. We’ve all been there, right?

Terry Ambrose: Not only are coffee shops great places to do some snooping, but I’ve also found libraries to be an excellent spot. The days of librarians shushing patrons for whispering to each other are long gone. These days, those patrons talk to each other or on their phones as if they were in a soundproof room.

Nancy J. Cohen: I always keep my ears open in restaurants. However, the juiciest tidbit I heard was in the middle of the night outside our room in a hotel corridor when I was attending a beauty trade show. That conversation inspired me to write Perish By Pedicure. You never know when inspiration will strike or from what source.

Debra H. Goldstein: I love to quietly sit in a chair or on a couch in a Starbucks and eavesdrop. Invariably, people talk without realizing that everything they say can be overheard. Although I didn’t use the exact words, I incorporated the feel of such a scene in my recently released Sarah Blair mystery, Four Cuts Too Many.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN: WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE TO EAVESDROP?

Comments

  1. In my opinion, the best place to eavesdrop is a Hotel/Motel with really thin walls. You can hear so much including the stuff you don’t want to hear LOL.

  2. Bathrooms, for sure. Second would be restaurants. I worked in the kitchen at a nursing home for 15v years and heard all kinds of stuff from residents and staff while out pouring coffee or setting tables. Some of Joanne Fluke’s books talk about the “invisible waiter trick” and it’s soooo true. Nobody pays attention or sensors their conversation.

  3. I’ve heard some great one-sided conversations on the bus – from the person editing somebody’s paper/speech and telling the person they left out a letter in “public” to the young woman breaking up with her boyfriend because she’d decided she was a lesbian to the person who was glad to be out of prison.

  4. debbiejpruss says

    I find that when I am in a grocery store, there are a lot of people on their cell phones or talking to friends while in the aisles. They do not pay any attention to who is around them. It can be quite enlightening.