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listening in can change a lot
Dialogue is a great tool to inject dynamism into a narrative, but even more complexity can be wrought from overheard dialogue, since a covert third party, the eavesdropper, is injected into the geometry of the scene. From Hamlet to Jane Eyre to The Woman in White to Intimacies by Katie Kitamura, what’s overheard is often transformative for literary characters. The eavesdropper may understand the overheard conversation differently than the original interlocutors. The eavesdropper may have intentions that are at cross purposes to those of the interlocutors. A secret may have been revealed. A new one has also been created (the fact that the eavesdropper now knows something) — unless, of course, the eavesdropper was discovered, in which case a different drama has opened up.
Add a secret listener to a scene of dialogue, and see how it changes things. Who’s the point of view close to, the speakers or the eavesdropper? Or try having someone read the private diary of another, in a written form of eavesdropping. Who’s in the right, or in the wrong here? Alternatively, become an eavesdropper yourself and poach some dialogue from reality. See if you can use the differences between characters’ takes on overheard material to create or magnify tension.
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