How to add personality to your characters

Eavesdrop like a pro.

I’ll admit I’m not very good at covertly listening in to other people conversations. Although there are times when it’s impossible not to hear. Sometimes it’s hard to talk to my dining companion because I’m transfixed by a loud couple at the next table. I want to whip out my tiny notebook and make notes. But, that would be a bit conspicuous. Don’t you think?

Why do I find eavesdropping awkward?

Because I grew up in a tiny house with lots of siblings and nosy parents. Privacy was a luxury. The only place to talk or read without others listening in was down by the creek. No mobile phones then so forget about a private conversation on the one kitchen phone. Even with a cord that reached all the way to the coat closet, someone was listening.


But if I want my characters to be real, to have different personalities I need to get away from my desk. Mingle, listen and yes, eavesdrop.

Today, I read a great article, published in The Writing Cooperative, about how to accidentally, on purpose, listen in on strangers.

How to Master Eavesdropping — You Know You Want To by Bryan Searing

What I learned from Bryan…

  1. There are two types of eavesdropping.
    • Sneaking around and spying, like my little sisters used to do.
    • Accidental-unintentional, as in overhearing conversations in a public place.
  2. Get away from the computer and mingle with people.
  3. Brian’s Rules to Master Intentional Accidental Eavesdropping

    • Be sensitive and respect privacy. Some people whisper in public, so don’t be rude.
    • Best places to eavesdrop is where there are lots of people.
    • Don’t stare! Act normal.
    • Where to sit or linger.

Be sure and read his entire article to get more details on how you can eavesdrop like a pro. I’m gonna work on my accidental eavesdropping skills and try not to blush or giggle. 

Tell me, do you eavesdrop in a crowd?

Have you gotten ideas for character by eavesdropping?

Did Bryan’s article give you any ideas?

Did the article change your mind about listening in to others conversations?

Write about your experiences in the comments. I can’t wait to read them.

And take a minute to follow me on social media, just click on the buttons below. I’ll leave a light on.



13 thoughts on “How to add personality to your characters

  1. I have a hard time eavesdropping too, although not because I didn’t have privacy while growing up. There were two extensions to the kitchen phone at our house so as long as I talked low enough, no one but the person on the other end heard me. I should pay more attention to what is going on around me when I’m out and about. It’s just a lack of concentration.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I once listened to a friend of my husband, he was speaking on the phone and complaining about his wife. He thought since I was a Bengali I won’t understand his language, which was Urdu, he had no idea, I was raised in an Urdu speaking city, where my father worked.
    I told my husband about it, he smiled and said he shouldn’t have spoken so loud. 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree. Wholeheartedly. If your readers can’t tell one of your characters frm another, you might as well try marketing your book as a sleep aid. That’s why good writers spend so much time developing diberging personalities for their characters. And physical appearance. And speech. Paticularly speech — it’s the easiest and most efficient way to separate your characters from each other, without having to resort to overusing dialog tags. Give each character in your book something in the way they speak that makes them different from the others. Maybe they stutter. Maybe they swear too much. Or have a different way of structuring a sentence. Or, maybe they mumble. Or grew up in Brooklyn. Or Waycross, Goergia. Give each character something unique in the way they speak and they’ll easily stand out from everyone else in your book. Which will make things a lot easier on your readers.

    Oh, and when you’re writing dialogue for your characters who grew up in Brooklyn, or are too shy to speak, write them for the ear, NOT for grammatical precision. That’s the way we all speak and think. In sentence fragements. One and two-word paragrahphs. And the like. The last person who spoke in precise, grammatically correct English was Rex Harrison, playing Professor Henry Higgins. The rest of us get by with speech patterns that could earn us nasty notes from our old college lit professors.

    Carefully re-read you dialog lines. Out loud, if you can. If they sound likesomething your high school English teacher would give an “A” to, tear it up.

    Then do it again.

    Your readers willl thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

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