Friday, October 2, 2009

Jessica Nelson, Super Spy

I'm guilty.

Guilty of reading my sisters' diaries. Guilty of listening to strangers' conversations. Guilting of putting my ear to a wall and trying to hear what's happening in the next room.

My heart galloped in my chest when, in my high school years, I discovered I could listen in on my mom's phone conversations via the radio. Yep. Turned it to the right channel with the antenna pointed just so, and I could hear every word.

But my curiosity always battled my conscience. Now, instead of eavesdropping on others, I write characters who do it.

Have you ever eavesdropped? Heard something you shouldn't have? Did you regret it or enjoy it?

66 comments:

Jody Hedlund said...

Your confessions just cracked me up! I can't picture you doing those things! You're way too sweet! :) But yes, what writer hasn't listened in on conversations for the sake of "research" :)

Tabitha Bird said...

Um, yes. I admit. I cam guilty :) LOL

Hey Jess, can you drop by my blog pretty please and tell me if I am appearing in your dashboard reader thingy. Blogger ate my post yesterday and didn't actually appear in my dashboard reader until some 6hrs after I posted. Grrr!

Robyn Campbell said...

Oh so I'm not nosy? It's all for the sake of gathering info? Whew *she wipes her brow*

I love it don't you? How cool was the radio thing. I bet you had a smile on your face every time the phone rang.:)

Jessica said...

Jody, LOL! I don't know if I'm as sweet as you think, but yes, I did those things. All undercover, of course. *snicker*
Research is a wonderful thing. :-)

Jessica said...

Tabitha, you're right, I didn't see your post until late last night. I was so bored in the morning and I couldn't believe I didn't have any posts to read. Heh. Now I know why!

Jessica said...

Hi Robyn,
LOL! I did have a smile, but I was also hyper-paranoid I'd be caught.

Katie Ganshert said...

Oh yes. I'm a very nosy person by nature. I have to work hard to deny this part of my nature. My husband will often nudge me in public and say, "Stop staring."

Marybeth Poppins said...

I have a horribly guilty conscience, I just can't do those things without feeling awful about it. So it's a rarity with me. But I WISH I didn't, cuz I am also incredibly curious.

Tamika: said...

I am so nosy, but for the sake of writing now I have an excuse!

The best material comes from being in public places. People say the strangest things in public.

Blessings to you...

Jessica said...

Katie!!! That's too funny!

Hi MaryBeth, I hear you on that. The only difference with me is that my curiosity won out. :-)

Tamika, you're so right. People don't pay attention to themselves, or maybe they think no one is spying on them? LOL

Janna Qualman said...

You are hilarious! And so brave to confess. ;)

I always want to know as much as possible, but guilt always wins over if there's an opportunity to eavesdrop. I don't want to get caught, either!

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I was being interviewed by the local paper and I was listening in on the conversation two girls were having next to our table and of course, me, who cannot bluff for anything...TOLD the interviewer! She worked it into the piece.
~ Wendy

Jessica said...

Heeheee Janna! It's true. I'll eavesdrop, but every single sound makes me jump. Guilt or just not wanting a confrontation? Hmmm. I'm not sure.

You're a good woman for not giving in to your baser desires. LOL

Jessica said...

That's funny Wendy! And sounds fun. :-) Congrats on the interview, btw. Did you post about that?

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh dear, do I have to tell?

I once read an email my then teenage son got from a friend, in which he criticized a girl their age for wearing the same skirt I had. The friend was dissing the girl, but I felt responsible, since I had purchased that same skirt when I saw it on her and admired it!

I never read another one of his emails.

Whew, got that off my chest after 13 years. Thanks, Jess!

Julie Dao said...

I don't think a girl can grow up without ever once eavesdropping ;) I learned the best tricks in college when all of us girls are living on the same floor and in close quarters (recipe for cattiness, anyone?). I heard a lot of conversations and discovered that it's not too pleasant when it has to do with you! It would be a fun story to write (with the names changed of course!)

Diane said...

Not you.......so sweet..... I think we all enjoy the vouyer or earr-or of it all at times. :O)

Kristen Painter said...

Eavesdropping is a writer's friend.

Jennifer Shirk said...

LOL! Well, in public places I do eavesdrop on conversations.
Um--COUGH COUGH--for research, of course. :)

Linda Kage said...

Eavesdrop? Me? Oh, yeah. I think that's a must when you have older sisters who throw sleepovers where their friends talk way into the night and don't discuss the good stuff until they think you're asleep.

But, hey, being such a good overlistening--I mean, listener--can only make a writer better at creating good dialogue, right?!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Oh man, you reminded me of one awful night during university years. I surprised my parents by travelling home one weekend only to discover they'd shipped off my little sister (the only one still living at home) to one of my other sister's for the night. I think my dad hated me for my surprise arrival on what should have been his night with mom. Honestly I did everything to not eavesdrop, but hearing those two having sex in the room next to mine still makes me cringe to this day. I so screwed all our weekend up by being there!!!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Oh, I need to clarify, that is one session I did not listen to for research!!!! Promise!!! But, yes, I do listen at malls and coffee shops to hear the cadence, and see mannerisms, etc.

quixotic said...

I'm glad I wasn't the only one to use the radio trick. It worked a little too well. LoL.

Cindy said...

:D Your post made me laugh! I TOTALLY eavesdrop on other people's conversations. One time my friend and I were listening to this odd conversation at a baseball game and went on to write a short story about it. Years later I turned it into a novel.

T. Anne said...

Funny! I suppose it was all research in the end. ANd yes, that is indeed what makes you a writer. A better one for it. ;)

Nancy J. Parra said...

Oh- ha! great confession... I sat down to lunch one time with a person I just met (we were both on jury duty) and she looks at me and says-"You're one of those people." "Huh?" "A people watcher/listener," she bites into her hamburger. "I just cuaght you leaning closer to the booth behind you. Was the conversation interesting?" LOL

Genny said...

Too funny, Jessica. I love that you have your characters do that now. It's great that we can take our talents and/or flaws and use them to make our characters more interesting. I think it sounds fun to have a character who eavesdrops!

Have fun at the t-ball game!

Dara said...

I'm guilty too. I still do it on occassion....

I remember one time when I was really little, my dad picked up on a neighbor's phone convo. No idea who it was. But it was horrible! I remember it was an argument of some sort about disciplining their children.

Have you ever had an instance where it was hard not to eavesdrop? For example, on the bus to one of the Disney parks last week, this younger guy and older man were getting into an argument about how the younger guy was irresponsible and owed money for cigarettes. Younger guy didn't think he should pay and said he could make it on his own. It just went from there and was pretty comical some of the stuff the younger kid was saying. Pretty certain everyone on the bus heard it :P

Jill Kemerer said...

Jessica, I can't help listening to other people's conversations, but sometimes, I get so wrapped up in my thoughts, I completely miss someone speaking directly to me! How is this possible?

Have a fantastic weekend!

Candi said...

Hi Jessica!

I too can't imagine you doing this either! LOL. Ah, so now we know there is some you in your characters. I'm guilty of this too. Many of my chars are a portion of me, however mostly... I live vicariously through them.

I got caught eavedropping when I was eight and the relative tat cuaght me was SO mad, he yelled at me until I cried. I never did it again!

ElanaJ said...

There's something naught about listening in on others. I'm a huge eavesdropper, but I've never written a character who does it. What a great idea!

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Oh, I am totally guilty of reading my older sister's diary when we were kids. And yes I would feel guilty, but I would still do it anyway!

Angie Muresan said...

Hahaha... I am SUPER guilty, too! Oh, but it was a little fun, wasn't it?

Kathy said...

Well, I think writers normally do listen in on conversations. That's how we learn to write dialogue.

It's all good!

Robyn Campbell said...

ARGH! I don't know why you couldn't get my post on your dashboard but I'm wondering if that happened to others. I can't even pull up my facebook. When I go to it it's blank. UGH! And my email is out. Oh yeah, technology is cool, WHEN IT WORKS. Sheesh. Have a super weekend. :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Several years ago, I attended a program for the deaf. Since I was in a Sign Language class, watching them fascinated me. My friend tactfully pointed out I shouldn't do this because it was "eavesdropping" on their conversations.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jessica said...

LOL Susan! I never even thought of that! Too funny.

Robyn, I'm sorry. :-( Hopefully things will boot up soon.

Everyone else, thank you so much for sharing your guilty pleasure! LOL I wanted to respond to everyone but haven't been able to get on the computer until now.
:-( I really appreciate your comments and the way you all make me laugh. :-)

Jessica said...

Eileen! I just saw your comment! I totally commisserate as I heard that when I was a kid and it was really horrible. Just so embarrassing. Eeek! Thanks for sharing. LoL

Jessie Oliveros said...

Oooh, if I tuned my radio to the right station, it turned my phone into speaker phone. I guess those days are over now that we are so high tech. I enjoyed your confession. Does your sister know you read her diary?

Angie Ledbetter said...

Oh, the things that form a writer! :) Overheard conversations (much better term than eavesdropping) are available in cafes, restaurants, sporting events...everywhere, and all for free.

Patti said...

I've totally done that, sometimes to my detriment.

Keli Gwyn said...

I've been known to perform research when in public places. How else am I going to learn malespeak?

I've heard our dialogue isn't supposed to mimic real life because we ramble, repeat and can be downright boring. Yup! That's what my research has proven to be the case.

We writers work so hard to make our character's conversations sound natural, and I'm sure many readers have no idea how much of a challenge that can be at times. But it sure feels great when we get it right, doesn't it?

Amy De Trempe said...

I am guilty, I eavesdrop. But sometimes it can' be helped. If people are going to talk a bit loud, I tend to listen. In my stories, one hero eavesdrops and another readers her personal letters (shame on him).

Tabitha Bird said...

Jess, thanks for letting me know about my blog. It is showing up now. Blogger hates me sometimes :)
Your blog shows up beautifully every time :) And you post nice and early so I always catch you just before I go to bed (cause with the time difference it is about 10pm here on the night of the morning you guys are all posting :)

You have a wonderful blog, Jess. I always enjoy the visit.

Heather Sunseri said...

That's so funny. I do eavesdrop "for the sake of research." And when I read it here in writing, I realized maybe I shouldn't. But it's for the sake of research to entertain and write believable characters. They can't all sound like me, right?

Jessica said...

HI Jessie,
Yeah, they know. I couldn't resist bragging a little after I was older and those days were behind me. Hmmm, and I seem to think the one sister caught me in the act once??? LOL I have two sisters, both kept diaries. Lucky me. LOL I kept a diary too, and kept it verrrrryyyyy well hidden. LOL

Jessica said...

Angie, overheard conversations is a nice term. But what if you're listening through a door? LOL! That wicked little deed should have a wicked little name. *snicker*

True, Patti. Ignorance is bliss, and all that. LOL

Keli,
What a great point! We need to listen to the men and cut out all the fluff to figure out what and how they say it. Thanks for the reminder! And I saw you finaled AGAIN! LOL Congrats!

Jessica said...

Amy, I love an eavesdropping character!!!! I have one too. It's fun without the guilt, right? LOL

You're welcome Tabitha, and thank you for your sweet comments. I was wondering how you always comment on mine right away! LOL I actually schedule posts, I'm not really up that early. Blogger doesn't hate just you. I'm paranoid so sometimes I repost my stuff. :-) That always seems to help.

Exactly Heather! Way to justify! *wink*

Irritable Mother said...

Oh, Jessica, you are a stinker!!! *grin*
My sister and I used to get on the phone and listen in on my brother's conversations with his girlfriends. That made him so mad, but we loved every minute of it. *devilish grin*

Stephanie Faris said...

I think that curiosity is all part of being a writer. We are fascinated by other human beings.

anita said...

Super spy, huh? I knew there was something SUPER about you. :-) This post is great! Just picturing you eavesdropping on your mom's conversations...LOL

The majority of times throughout my life when I heard something I wasn't supposed to, it usually ended up being something I wished I hadn't heard to begin with. Heh...

But I agree, it's fun writing characters who do the things I'm either afraid to do, or held by ethical binds NOT to do. Heehee. That's what makes our characters human, and what makes writing so FUN.

Well, go back to spying, super sleuth. And have a great Saturday! ;-D

Jessica said...

Oh Karen, I'm smiling just thinking about your situation! LOL If only I'd had a brother....

That might be true Stephanie. I hadn't thought it had to do with me being a writer. Huh.

Anita, I agree! Our characters do stuff we don't. I'm sorry you heard stuff you wish you hadn't. That always stinks, but it's an unavoidable hazard. *snicker*

brenda minton said...

Jessica,
I'm horrible! I not only listen, I take part in conversations of perfect strangers! (only if they seem willing)

I'm notorious for sitting at a game or other function, hearing something interesting and jumping right in. And, can you believe it, some people give me pretty strange looks.
:)

Kathryn Magendie said...

I am the most unaware person - I don't know how I am a writer because I am so unaware. But somehow, I am aware of enough of something to write characters and places *laugh*

I try not to eavesdrop because I don't want to hear something I may regret hearing....

But sometimes I do listen to strangers on the street or in restaurants or plays or whatever...

Pen Pen said...

:) My mom always talked loud, and I could hear what she was talking to my dad about if I stood outside the door and stayed quiet. I didn't really listen to everything she said, I mostly liked to listen when she was talking about me.
I didn't know about the radio/phone thing! THat's pretty wild! It's weird how people used to be SO sensitive about who heard them on the phone(even had closed in phone booths)! Now-I HAVE to listen to everybody on their cells! Craziness!

Jessica said...

LOL Brenda! I do that too, and don't realize until later that I just butted in with my opinion. You're funny. :-)

Kathryn, you're so polite and sweet! Your comment really goes with how you look in your pics. :-)

Penny! You just completely cracked me up! Of course it's more fun when a conversation is about us. LOL
You listen in on cell phones? tsk, tsk *wink*

brenda minton said...

CELL PHONES.
Okay, some people FORCE us to listen in. Most especially when they have ear buds?
When you see a guy standing in front of the cough drops having a conversation, you naturally listen in because you wonder why he's a) talking to himself, or b)talking to cough drops.
And then you realize he's talking to his wife about what he needs to pick up at the store.

Belle said...

I like to call it people-watching (I figure, if they're loud enough for me to hear while I'm watching them, it's not really my fault, is it?) I love going to the zoo or the local amusement park on the weekends, just to watch all the people. Sometimes I think about going to the mall just to sit on one of those benches and watch everyone walking by!

Jessica said...

LOL Brenda! It always weirds me out a little. I don't know how people can talk on the phone and interact with others at the same time. More power to them, I guess. But yeah, it's fun to listen to conversations. :-)

Hi Belle,
People watching is fun. The way they dress, walk, who they're with, it all adds up to wondering what their story is. You should go people-watch. I bet you'd have fun. :-)
Thank you for commenting!

Billy Coffey said...

I'll admit that I do this all the time and usually rationalize it by calling it "research." People fascinate me, and the things they say and do fascinate me more.

Deb Shucka said...

I'm a chronic eavesdropper. What people say to each other is always so interesting, although I've never caught anything that mattered at all.

denise petrovich said...

Jessie, you are too funny. You make me laugh. I broke up many fights with you and your sisters about snooping in on each other. Jen just confessed she used to listen in on some of your phone conversations with one of your ex-male friends.lol. I do not tend to eavesdrop because I don't really care too much. You must get that habit from your father.lol :) love Mom

Victoria Dixon said...

I did it once and I think, considering that I don't normally read others' letters, that God actually put me there to read it and help the person. Much to my continual shame, I did nothing. I didn't know what I SHOULD do. In hindsight, it's obvious. That said, I think both I and the person I eavesdropped on continue to suffer for our mistakes. Great question, though. What sort of novel could I make with that regret? Hmmmm.

Jessica said...

Billy and Deb, I heartily agree that people are fascinating!

MOM!!! I can't believe you brought Dad into this. *snicker*

Victoria, I've been in that position before. It's a hard spot to be in.

yearofthericeball said...

I don't recall eavesdropping until I became an author. Every now and then, usually only when someone at a restaurant speaks so loudly you can't NOT hear them, I'll listen in for character and story ideas. (I'm very hard of hearing, so they have to be talking very loud for me to hear.)

Jessica said...

LOL! You're funny. It's always exciting when someone gets loud. Makes me glad I don't live with them. LOL