None of us Chicks, dedicated writers that we are, would ever knowingly eavesdrop, of course. That would be unforgivably rude. But sometimes we just can’t help but overhear some very interesting conversations. Might we ever use any of these gleaned snippets in one of our mysteries? Well…

Lisa Q. Mathews

CotC Word balloons

When I worked part-time at Starbucks a few years back, I used to take my breaks out in the cafe area with a Trenta iced tea and a book. However, I rarely got many pages read because the convos around me were always so intriguing. One day on my early morning break, a group of men pulled a bunch of tables together. After a short prayer, they discussed a Bible verse and then headed to work. At my second break, a group of women came in. They settled in to a circle, shared a prayer, and then someone mentioned a member who had unfortunately been unable to make it to the meeting. One woman leaned forward and said, “Well, I don’t mean to be ugly, but…” I almost fell out of my fake-leather chair when she continued on with a spicy tale concerning that poor missing soul and her husband and her neighbor that would curdle the most resistant Frappuccino. I know, I know. I should have put my apron back on and hustled back behind the counter, pronto. Now the details have been stuck in my brain ever since…

 Ellen Byron


When I  lived in New York, I overheard great snippets of conversation all the time, and many ended up either in plays or workshop scenes. Sometimes a great line was actually directed at me. I.e., one day I was walking home down 83rd Street between Amsterdam and Columbus. I was wearing a fake leopard coat from the 1960s my great-aunt had given me. A woman sitting on a stoop smoking a cigarette yelled to me, “Hey, you! YOU! You are proof that you can look good without killin’ anything.” Needless to say, this went into a scene. And may eventually appear in a future mystery.

But the overhead comment that stands out is one I heard about twenty years ago when I was dining at a very casual restaurant on Melrose Boulevard with a friend. The woman next to us said to her friend, “A few million doesn’t cut it anymore.” She was right then. She’s right now.

Vickie Fee


So, I was coming out of a restaurant as a group of office types, I’m assuming co-workers, were walking in. With absolutely no context, I overheard one guy say, “If only he’d known that yesterday.” It was probably about something completely innocuous, but my mystery writer brain heard it as, “If only he’d known that yesterday, he’d still be alive.” Since I usually think of people getting knocked off because they know too much or saw/heard something they shouldn’t have, I was intrigued by the thought of a guy getting killed for what he didn’t know. By the time I got back to my computer I started trying to come up with scenarios for that. Most of what I came up with was pretty lame, but I did have one idea I thought was promising. It just might make it into a book one day.

Kellye Garrett


Like Ellen, I overhear random stuff while walking in Manhattan all the time. (We say so many ridiculous things that we have our own website: Overheard in New York.) Unfortunately, I have horrible short term memory. So although I may say “I need to steal that.” I never, ever, ever do. And since I’m a borderline Millennial, I also tend to read things online that I want to steal. Again, I don’t.  Because that is plagiarism. And plagiarism is bad!

Marla Cooper

CotC Marla Cooper

It’s hard to eavesdrop in the Bay Area because everyone is always staring at their phones, but one of my favorite overheard conversations was between a super-drunk theater patron and, well, everyone around her. She must have thought she was watching TV at home instead of seeing a live play, because she started saying whatever thoughts she had out loud at full volume. It started off with her saying/slurring, “This is stupid,” followed a bit later by, “I want another drink.” Several people hushed her, and one person said, “You’re being rude,” to which she replied, “You’re being rude!” This went on for ten or fifteen minutes, and she was so disruptive that they actually ended up stopping the play to kick her out, and the house manager got her own ovation. I actually did write the whole thing down for posterity — but if I put it into a book no one would believe it!

Readers, have you overheard any intriguing conversations — or witnessed a scene that belongs in a book? Do share in the comments below (we won’t tell)!

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14 thoughts on “Overheard

  1. I will shamelessly admit to stealing overheard lines for future fiction. I have a note in Evernote on my phone for the express purpose of writing them down.

    In fact, one line (“You better fix this”) is part of ROOT OF ALL EVIL this summer and another, “Holidays are when families get together to off one another,” made it into a short story (“A Family Affair” in THE KILLER WORE CRANBERRY last fall).

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My husband I were sitting in the dining room of a ship when I overheard the two women sitting at the next table quietly talking about murdering someone. My ears perked up and I tried to get a good look at them in case I had to pick them out of a line up. As I listened, I realized that one of them was a coming up with scenarios for a book she was writing.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Love these stories. Kellye, using overhead dialog doesn’t count as stealing, so you’re good to go. Lisa, I want to hear that story! Vickie, what a great line for inspiration. And M, bravo to that house manager!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I don’t know that I’ve ever overheard anything that intrigued me. But I’ve been in conversations where I have thought to myself “If anyone overheard this conversation right now, they’d think we were crazy.”

    Liked by 3 people

  5. My best is one I heard a couple of weeks ago.
    Picture this. I’m walking to work, my breakfast in my hand and my work computer slung over my back. There is a group of four older guys, either smoking or waiting for their work shuttle.
    One of them actually says “she felt guilty about lusting in her heart. We all lust, just get over it!”
    Now that’s a guy who I bet would justify an affair.
    Thern there was the woman who said she was going to sign the papers on Tuesday for a house she didn’t like. She said everyone involved in the transaction was out to get her. They lied about the hardwood floors, there was no brick on the outside, and the owner of the house was was not only refusing to clean the oven before the sale went through, but was seen getting out of the FRONT SEAT of a police car!
    Although I think the best are the ones who say things out loud, wanting everyone to hear. Like the guy at Union Station who is shouting “someone please call the police before I shoot the pervert who is taking pictures in the bathroom! I’m going to kill him!”
    Or the homeless person who is rambling that the President is stealing her Social Security checks.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, my! I want to go back and time and tell the woman buying the house to back out of the deal! These are priceless. Your eavesdropping skills are top-notch!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, Hestia, these are all GREAT. I’m particularly inspired by the sighting of the owner getting into the front seat of a police car! Which actually indicates that they’re not a criminal. I got a tour of an LAPD police car and the back seat is solid plastic so it can be easily hosed off in case of… gross stuff. No suspect would EVER be put in a front seat. Of ANY precinct!


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