The curse of befriending a writer is that they may eventually be published if they’re lucky, good and persistent, or some combination of the three. And if they are published, you’re at risk. You know the saying: “Be nice to me or I’ll write you into my novel”? Well nice or not, it will probably happen anyway.

In my last blog I wrote briefly about what makes us individuals. To help me create more authentic characters, I’m always on the lookout for those qualities. If you’re my friend, I’ll ultimately write you piecemeal into one of my stories or poems if I haven’t already. Take it as a compliment. Maybe you won’t even notice it’s you. Yes, I might write in your nervous tics and your bad haircut, but only to capture what makes you…you.

When I was in high school, my boyfriend and I used to narrate other people’s conversations—a couple arguing across the parking lot or whispering sweet nothings down the hall. We entertained ourselves for hours with this game, and occasionally one of our phrases or words would match perfectly with a gesture. That was the big payoff. I find those payoff moments in my writing when my character does something that plays out perfectly like I planned it that way all along. Sometimes it takes my breath away.

When I was in college, one of the writing exercises suggested to me by my professor was to eavesdrop in a crowded room and write down as much of the conversation as I could. I wrote down bits of dialogue, and every once in a while I heard something I thought was brilliant. It helped me realize that not everyone speaks the way I do.  I tapped out the rhythm of their speech. I analyzed their word choice. I listened to the music to their sentences. And I try to recreate these details in my writing.

To those of you who are reading this blog—what are your pet peeves in a story, and what makes a story great for you?