How Eavesdropping Can Help Your Novel

I had an assignment in my Creative Writing class last year to write an entire conversation by eavesdropping. The assignment wasn’t meant to be creepy or stockish. It was meant to learn how people talk to transfer it to how we write dialogue and character movements.

The first thing I learned was that people repeat what they say.

People may do this because they don’t know what to say next, a stuttering thing, or because they feel like the other person didn’t hear them or think they understood what they said. I also realized during the my eavesdropping that people repeat the words ‘what’ and ‘huh’ a lot.

Keep in mind, you do not want to add every word a person is most likely to say in a conversation because people don’t usually get to the point right away.

The point of the exercise was to get the class learning about how people talk and transferring that knowledge to our fiction characters.

If you listen to people talk you’ll learn how to create better dialogue.  Listen where people pause in their sentences and how their facial expression change when they say certain words (if you can see their face).  Include this knowledge for your characters in your book.

You can gain a lot of useful information by listening to how other people talk. For example, if you want to be a better humor writer eavesdrop on a funny person’s conversation. Think more than what he says but how he says it.

Did he make this company laugh? You can learn a lot by from other people even if those other people don’t know they’re giving a lesson.  😉

Give it try when you get the chance. Good luck and keep writing.


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About the Author

Shaquanda Dalton

Hello, my name is Shaquanda Dalton and welcome to! I'm from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and graudated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in Creative Writing. I fell in love with writing at the age nine and love it till this day. :)


  1. Shaquanda Dalton

    Yea you make a good point with feeling guilty at first, Yoneco. Once anyeone gets past that it becomes a lot easier.

    I also recommend not eavesdropping when you know it’s a very personal conversation but try emotional conversations like when someone is mad just to see how humans voice sounds without hollywood fluff.

    Thanks for the comment, Yoneco.

  2. Hi. I found you through the Creative Penn.

    I’m always eavesdropping on conversations! Usually I’m focused on how someone is saying something more than what they say. But I keep a notebook on me at all times and document good bits of dialogue, too.

    I used to feel guilty. Now I think of it as anonymously using someone else’s stuff (drama, baggage, good news, whatever) to touch whomever reads my writing. There has to be good karma in that.