On the weekend I used my five-year-old niece as a human shield…against a tickle attack. Now wait, before you judge I know what you’re thinking. “How much use could a tiny five-year-old child be as a human shield? Unless of course you are shielding another five-year-old, or a super tiny human like Lily Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman“. (That movie is a classic that withstands the test of time.) But child-as-shield was a surprisingly effective technique.
You see I had said something (I can’t remember what, but it was probably something witty and biting because I’m brilliant…and misunderstood…which just proves the brilliant thing). My witty statement resulted in a tickle attack from my brother-in-law (BIL), who just happens to be my niece’s father. At which point I shrieked and snatched up my niece for protection. (I will resort to just about anything to avoid being tickled…I ask you, who actually likes being tickled…no one.)
I expected to be able to hold her up like some sort of kicking-machine weapon (fail).
And, while she wasn’t much help in the weapon-of-self-defence category her mother’s desire to preserve her safety totally prevented my BIL from continuing his tickle assault. So basically I win and the whole plan was a success. Lesson learned: I should totally use defenseless children as tools more often.
What does any of this have to do with inappropriate office conversations? Well let’s just say “I used my niece as a human shield” can totally be taken the wrong way when you don’t hear the whole anecdote. So can “trail of prawn” but that’s a story for another day.
I bet people would have boring lives if I wasn’t around.
Eavesdropping is fun. Ok, and a bit of an invasion of privacy but we writers have to find our inspiration somewhere right? For this exercise you will need a public place full of people, a notepad and a writing implement.
Visit a public place; a coffee shop, a cafeteria or anywhere public where people might be having a conversation. Listen-in on a conversation for several minutes and record just one side. Then move on and listen in on a different conversation recording just one side.
Later that day, read your dialogue and invent the other half of each conversation. Don’t try to remember the topic, just let your imagination run wild. Will the resulting conversation be shocking, funny or dry?
Spend a half an hour creating your conversation and discovering real dialogue. What makes dialogue work, and what doesn’t? Did you overhear real sentences, or were they mostly fragments? What did you discover about dialogue, both real and written?