Coffee Shop Wit   9 comments

How often do you overhear an awesome one-liner or witty comeback, and tell yourself you need to write that down to use for one of your characters?

Overhearing HD Stock Images | Shutterstock

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I love to sit in a coffee shop or, (better yet) a diner or cafe listening to the chatter of my fellow diners. You hear all sorts of witticisms and observations about life eavesdropping. In Alaska, coffee shops have a slightly younger crowd than diner/cafes and so you’ll hear more wisdom in them, generally, because the people chatting have lived longer lives and have more experience.

The title for Book 2 of Transformation Project (Objects in View) comes from a conversation I heard at The Diner (a local eatery that closed last year for the two-month “hunker down” and has yet to reopen. The owners say 50% revenue produces numbers that don’t add up. They need at least 80% revenue to remain in business. Odds are not good for them ever reopening). Anyway, there was a conversation behind me one day when this old man (a retired colonel, I learned later) kept saying to his companions that “You gotta keep the important objects in view.” I jotted down because I liked it. A few years later, I needed a book title and, viola! It became a long-time Delaney family saying that echoes through the series.

I was waiting at a grocery to be the next one to scan my items when a couple behind me were talking with a third individual. The male friend said something to the wife — it was meant to be funny, but my husband might have gotten irritated by it. Instead, the husband said “I’m standing right here.” There was laughter and they moved on, so I guess no hard feelings. I jotted it down and it’s appeared once each in Transformation Project and What If Wasn’t.

Mary McHenry was an older black woman in our home church who was given to all sorts of witticisms. One time we were in a Bible study and we were studying John 15 – “If the world hates you don’t be surprised because it hated Me (Jesus) first and I promised you the world wouldn’t treat you any better than it did Me.” Someone in the group brought up that God never gives you more than you can handle and Mary, who’d had her share of heartache in life, said “God must think very highly of me.”

I’ve used that because it just encapsulates some people’s life difficulties.

In Objects in View, Shane and Jazz share a joke about Children of the Corn, and Shane’s response is a one-liner found on the Facebook page of one of my daughter’s band members. They stopped somewhere in Iowa in a place where they couldn’t see anything but corn fields and his answer was a photo of a character from Children of the Corn bellowing “Outlander!” I loved it, so I sucked it into my book.

Taking Your Time

I highly recommend sitting down with a cup of coffee and listening to people. I’ve spent time hanging out in front of the local high school and in a mall near the high school just to listen to their conversations for What If Wasn’t. A friend of mine has escorted me several times to the gym on the military base to listen to conversations there. Whenever I get a chance to go to a big city and hang out in a real mall, I always hear some phrase I know will be useful for my books or I observe some behavior I know I’ll use. A lot of writing is observation and stealing fragments of other people’s lives. Find your perch today and get started jotting.

Posted March 8, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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9 responses to “Coffee Shop Wit

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  1. I hang out (or used to) at the wrong restaurants. Although I can find character inspiration in the story of someone’s divorce.

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  2. I started listening years ago. I must’ve been six? I would go out with my dad the lumber salesman in summer. We were in some dusty small town lumber yard and I remember this big, sloppy old guy in overalls, gray stubble, tobacco rings on his lips… He put a can of paint in an old school shaker (no timer) and walked off. The paint shaker must have run about 15 minutes. Overalls man came back, got all agitated and shut off the paint shaker. Might need to let that settle some, like overnight the store man said and laughed. Overalls man said “Wall hail,” and spit tobacco in a Folgers coffee can. “I thought this thing knowed when it was did.”
    My dad and I adopted that phrase into conversation as the go to for anything overdone, over filled, or questionable until he died.

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    • I grew up in and out of hardware stores and bars. It was legal to bring your kid to the bar in Alaska, so there were usually a bunch of us playing at a table while our parents had a cold one. And so I have lots of images and phrases from those days.


  3. It’s the thing I miss the most, the chance to go out for a cup of coffee and hear that one unexpected nugget.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fairbanks has been reopened since May (without a huge spike in Covid deaths). My favorite cafe appears to be permanently closed, but my favorite foo-foo coffee place has been reopened since July. I miss hear the old-timers talking, but the espresso people still has a lot of chatter.


  4. We authors are very good at listening, lol. Listening and marking for future use…

    Liked by 1 person

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