January 23, 2019– I’ve never been a good listener. My husband, on the other hand, is a professional listener. Seriously, he’s the best listener and observer that I’ve ever met. He listens not with the intent to reply, but with the intent of learning something. He’s always said to me, “If you listen you might learn something instead of talking all of the time.” He’s right, and for years I struggled to listen, to really listen to what people were saying. Listening is only half of the battle. According to scientists, only 7% of what is said is verbally communicated, the other 93% is non-verbal.
So, how does becoming a better listener help us write better? Here’s how:
- It Inspires Us. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been out in public at a coffee shop or waiting in line and have overheard a juicy conversation. Some of these conversations have even made it onto the pages of some of my books. By listening and observing people in public, this allows us as authors, not only to come up with story/dialogue ideas, but it lets us correctly write and convey the body language of our characters.
- It reminds us that less is more. I’m a huge believer of why use eight words when four will do. When we listen instead of speak, we become acutely aware of people who talk too much. We observe the ramblers, the non-stop talkers, and the interrupters and they remind us not to blather on in our manuscripts. Our eyes glaze over while listening to them talk, and we like our readers, eventually tune out and our thoughts wander onto other more interesting things. As an author, the last thing we want is for our reader to lose interest in what we are saying.
- It gives us credibility. By listening to the way that conversations flow around us, we become better writers. Our dialogue is believable and fluid. We observe the way that people speak, and the terms used, and the pauses, and double entendres. When we write in the way that we talk, we reach a greater audience and our written character dialogue seems more natural and less forced.
The next time you feel like interrupting someone, don’t. Instead, observe everything about them, the words they use, their gestures, and of course their body language. I promise that doing this one thing will make you a better writer. X LLB