Play Ideas Exercise: Eavesdrop. And a Cool Website!

Finding ideas for plays can sometimes be a big obstacle to overcome. Especially for that second or third play. The first was easy, the first just flew from your fingers, the first was inspired and fun and…. what next?

Eavesdropping is a great exercise to get the creative wheels turning. You may not find that next great idea right away, but the important thing is to get writing. Always Be Writing. Play number two won’t write itself if you stare at a blank page. And you never know what will spark your interest until you get that pen moving.

The act is simple. Sit somewhere inconspicuous. Please, don’t sit at a food court and stare at a table, making it clear you’re writing down every word. Do you want to get punched in the head?

Sit with your pen and paper. Listen to a conversation behind you, off to the side. It could be a fragment of conversation, it could be one side of a phone call, it could be something intense or funny. Write it down. Now come up with character names, a relationship between the two characters, and a location. Write what happens next in the conversation. Strive to write another page of dialogue. Each time you try the exercise, add more to your goal – work up to five pages.

If eavesdropping just doesn’t suit your fancy, I’ve found a website that’s already done it for you! Overheard Lines is a playwright documenting overheard lines of conversation. They’re awesome, and all great dialogue starters.

Go to the website, pick a set of overheard lines and try the exercise. Write what happens next. Create character, situation and location. Where are the characters having this conversation? What is their relationship. Get writing!

About the author

Lindsay Price


  • What an awesome way to collect material for a creative writing project. This has espionage written all over it, which I love :) I’m thinking you could also use a digital recorder (my phone has one) and actually record conversations – or use your mobile device and pretend like you’re just texting someone, heheh.

  • The exercise really solidifies how normal conversation sounds nothing like grammatically correct English. There are pauses, repeats, umms, complete tangent changes and so on. Dialogue represents how we really talk – to hear a conversation and use that as a base hopefully acts as a transition into great dialogue…