Playwriting

Observation: The conversation you can only hear

Written by Lindsay Price

Observation is my number one tool for finding play ideas. When you observe, you’re not just looking around, skimming the world around you. Observation is the specific looking at people, places and things. You’re looking at the world like a writer. And when you look at the world like a writer, everything becomes a play idea.

Be sure to check out all of our Observation activities:

Complete these exercises with your students. Have them collect their observations in their drama journals. Or you can click below to download the exercise and Observation sheet to print and hand out to your students to fill in.

At the end of the month, have students reflect on the process. How did it feel to observe a writer? Download the reflection sheet here.

The conversation you can only hear

You’re sitting on the bus or in a movie theatre and two people are in the middle of a conversation behind you. You can’t see them unless you turn around, but you can hear them loud and clear.

You can observe a lot in a conversation that you can can’t see but only hear.

  • Find a location with a lot of small group conversation – a mall food court, a school hallway, a cafeteria.
  • Sit down and start to listen. Find a conversation that you can hear easily.
  • Take notes on what you hear. Be subtle! Don’t laugh or look like you’re eavesdropping. What language is being used? A lot of slang and swear words? Do they cut each other off? Do they repeat a word or phrase (e.g. like, you know, so)
  • Based on what you hear, what can you deduce about the people in the conversation?
  • Write out a character description of one of the people in the conversation based solely on how they sound. How old are they? What do they look like? What is their home life like? What’s their dream job? Are they happy right now or miserable?
  • Alternative: Instead of looking for a complete conversation, look for someone talking on the phone. Observe one side of the conversation and then decide who that person is talking to. What are they talking about? What’s the relationship? How is the person on the other end of the phone responding?
Click here to download this exercise and observation sheet

 

ObservationExerciseAConversationYouCanOnlyHear-page-001

 

About the author

Lindsay Price