As some of you may be aware, I am not a full time writer/editor. I do, in fact, have a day job as a restaurant manager. Yet I’ve found, when a person has such a love of literature, they cannot escape the need to write, even at inopportune moments. Now there are way around this, usually. Carrying a notepad and pencil everywhere is helpful, but sometimes you just don’t have the extra moment to jot down the entire idea. This is often the case with me. I may have hours available, or split seconds. Thus, I have established tiny methods of keeping myself focused. While working, while waiting for an appointment, while doing anything during which I cannot write, I watch and listen instead.
It seems obvious, yes. However, I ask you to consider it for a moment. Your interactions are limited. People surround themselves with people that agree with their own perception of things. By this, I mean that every friend you have, every confidante, they are near you because you share some opinion or view. This can be anything, a perception of themselves, a perception of you, or of aspects of the world you live in. This why we surround ourselves with individuals, it is because they are like minded. There is nothing wrong with this, it is natural and expected. Still, it does cause an issue. You lack perspective. I am not a fan of public places, nor of the public generally, but I know that in order to properly write them, I must observe them. I have discovered fantastic bits of dialogue, wonderful reactions, etc, and I steal every one of them. From the two women gossiping in the corner, I take the fervor in their eyes, the heated whispers and overly dramatic facial responses. I don’t really keep people, nor do I usually find them fascinating enough to gossip about, However, other people do, and since I expect others to be able to associate with my characters, I like to make them as real as possible.
The dialogue we write is always imperfect, and how could it be anything but, it’s all decided by a singular mind. Only by observing others, minds that are not our own, and that we do not necessarily agree with, can we properly document and then display those behaviors in our writing. It can be as simple as a single line of dialogue that strikes you. Write it down. Use it later. I’m not suggesting that you quote people directly, but I see no issue with taking an interaction you observe and making it serve your needs as a writer.
There are other details as well, one can observe a facial expression, or a mannerism, the way a person moves, and attempt to describe it as if to someone who isn’t present. These exercises are simple, but they will keep you in the mindset of creating content, looking for material, always.