Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How Writing Ruined My Wife—Curious and Research are Synonyms for Nosy

by Kirk Melson

I grew up with certain expectations of behavior. They were the normal sorts of things we all learned as children. Near the top of the list was a warning not to be nosy. I took this aversion to those who exhibited this trait with me into adulthood.

That is, until I discovered this tendency in my darling wife.

I came upon the surprising compunction to overhear every conversation nearby, ask prying questions of total strangers, and worst of all, take photographs of everything and every one she wanted—without asking permission.

When I finally asked what she found so fascinating, she sat me down and explained.
  • The overheard conversations helped her learn how to write believable dialogue, as well as get great ideas for what people actually talk about. I have to admit I found it pretty compelling as well. I discovered that conversations aren’t made up entirely of complete sentences, but also fragments. I never thought there was a legitimate place for sentence fragments.
  • The prying questions for total strangers were asked looking for fodder for possible interview articles, and became a part of her list of experts she could call on for specific information when doing research.
  • The pictures provided her with a lot of things, from inspiration for characters to models of characters to illustrations for her blog. I’ve actually found myself pointing out possible photo opportunities.

I had absolutely no idea being nosy was such an important piece in a writer’s tool box.

When I expressed that thought, she patiently explained that writers don’t consider being nosy…uh…being nosy. They refer to this particular character trait as professional curiosity or research.

Who knew?

Since it appeared to be such a highly thought of practice, I decided I’d give it a try. And you’d be amazed at the things I discovered! But please don’t tell my engineering friends.

So now that I’m slowly drifting toward the mindset of a writer, I have a question for you. What fun…er…important things do you discover when you’re out and about? Have you ever eavesdropped on an interesting conversation or snuck a picture somewhere for research’s sake?

Now’s the time to fess up!


  1. Another great post with another great picture. I've known you for quite a while, Kirk, and I must say, this writing thing has definitely changed you!

    For the better, of course. :-) Love to both of you!

    1. Vonda, I think he's just letting the rest of you in on the real Kirk!

  2. Sure, I eavesdrop and sneak photos ... and sometimes I ask my husband to do those things for me.

    1. Beth, don't you love having a husband who will participate! Blessings, E

  3. I always enjoy Kirk's posts!
    Just ask my husband how many times I've asked him to slow the car down so I can roll down the window and snap a photo of something.
    I'd much rather take my own photos than spend time on-line looking for just the right one (and one that is free!) :)
    I also send my brave husband to ask questions of people if he knows them better than I do (which is usually the case because he is the extrovert!)
    Edie--we have so much to be thankful for, don't we?

  4. I loved this. :) Just Monday, I confess, I sat in a McDonalds, working on my Bible study when four teenage girls walked in and sat at a nearby table. I just "happened" to have my iPod handy, so I took it out and tried to record their conversation. Because one of the main characters in my my current WIP is a teenage girl. It was enlightening to listen in on their conversation. :)

    I like the idea of "professional curiosity." I'm still developing this trait. And I like hearing how you're finding advantages in exploring it. :)

    1. Jeanne, I've recorded several conversations on the sly with my digital recorder. So you're not the only one! Thanks for sharing, Blessings, E

  5. Snuck a picture somewhere??? ABSOLUTELY!

    I'll even walk up to strangers and ask if I can take their picture! When the opportunity presents itself......

    But you can't convince me engineers don't eavesdrop, I mean overhear conversations. When corporations house their engineers in little cubicles, back to back, well, you get the idea. ;)

    1. Mary, I totally agree with you. Cubicles are a great area for eavesdropping, whether you mean to or not! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

  6. I love to people watch. There is much for writers to learn from watching others. Sometimes the watching includes over-hearing. I've gotten some great blog posts from this kind of "research." Love your blog and your lovely wife.

  7. Writers provide others with a "you made my day" encounter. A writer friend and I were brainstorming her book at a restaurant one day and as we ate desert and finally got her to the altar, a customer stopped by our table and said, "I just figured it out--you two are writers cause what you've been talking about would never happen in this town."