I loved Michelle’s last post about listening in to people on the bus. I have done this!]
Sometimes, I’ve listened to just get a certain dialect down in my head. The last time I visited the East Coast, I tried to pick out all the people from Philly. It didn’t matter that I was in Washington, or Florida. I was listening for a South Philly accent, and I found it as I traveled through. So it was easier to write the then work in progress, set at the Jersey shore. I had grown up on the East coast, but years out West made me lose the accent, unless, as my kids tell me, I am talking to my sisters. So I tried to isolate what I was hearing.
I have listened to people who sat at nearby tables at restaurants. (Admit it! You’ve done this!) and made up whole stories about them in my head. “Poor Janice, she put up with him for years! She deserved better!” I’ve used this stuff as writing prompts sometimes. You have to try that one. It can really get you going on those days when you just don’t know what to write.