Monday, February 7, 2011

Did You Say Something?

As a writer (at least, that's the excuse I've been using), I listen to every conversation except the one I'm in. That includes the ones going on in my head.  As I said in I Collect People, I am always searching for those unique characters to spin into interesting tales.  I also do the same with snippets of conversations that I overhear in malls and small gatherings.  Okay, yes I eavesdrop, but people sometimes say the strangest things that would fit perfect into a story.  As the saying goes, “Writers are really spies.”  The key, however, is to not laugh at the conversation and alert them that you’re listening.  Furthermore, you can't let the people you're supposed to be listening to know that you've given up on their conversation, either.  That would be rude.

Sometimes, I'm really good at this.  Sometimes too good.  We were at the beach one blistering summer day and I was standing with a friend as his diatribe went on and on about I have absolutely no idea what.  We had been standing there baking in the sun, waves crashing on the ever-changing shore, deeply engaged in the sharing of thoughts – or at least his thoughts - when my mind checked out of the conversation and into a plot line I was working on.  Ten minutes, no exaggeration, went by when suddenly my brain said, "Hey, Stupid, you're supposed to be in this conversation.”  I was stuck.  I kept my composure but inside my head my eyes were wide with OMG as I had no clue what he was talking about.  He finally stopped flapping his lips about whatever it was he thought worth sharing and I was able to slink away without him being any wiser.

At least, that time I succeeded.  It doesn't always work out that I escape without being busted, especially at home.  I know, I know, it's rude, but I can't help it.  I have so many conversations going on inside my head screaming for attention that sometimes I just forget that I'm actually in one.  The human brain is only a couple of pounds and only so big.  Mine is overflowing with created worlds and people, essays and memoirs, plot lines and mysteries as well as the latest Lady Gaga video, so much so that I zone out with the myriads of what ifs.

It's something the girls have gotten used to and taken advantage of.

"Where did you get that bracelet?"

"The other day at the mall.  I asked you and you said it would look cute on.....You didn't check out while I was talking again did you?"

"Of course not.  Just wanted to make sure you bought the right one."

And, of course, I probably never said anything.  That's also why we get to eat out so much.  Apparently I say yes when I'm not listening.

Of course, with some people the conversation going on in my head is a lot more interesting than the one coming out of their mouth.  It's actually how I started writing.  I was in the middle of a conversation wishing I was anywhere else but there.  So, I started thinking of where else I'd like to be and what I'd rather be doing.  Soon, short story ideas developed in my head and eventually a novel.  Mystery plots formed as I wondered how to put the person talking out of my misery.  My path was chosen while ignoring what people were saying.

The first people I ignored were my ninth grade teachers.  They'd be lecturing me on things I'm sure I was supposed to know but of which I had absolutely no interest.  I mean, what was the big deal with Earth Science when my story took place on a land called Zymarilis?  I had no time for facts!  I was busy creating fiction.

My mind wanders and at times I have no idea where it's going.  If you don’t believe me read It Started with Squirrels.  It can truly be a dangerous thing.

"Why are you looking at me like that?”  One of the girls will say.

Staring at their cocktail, I'd say something along the lines of "That umbrella in your drink made me think of killing Mr. Rutherford with a straw and a poisoned toothpick."

Many drinks have been wasted, but some interesting plot twists have occurred.

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