In the very early stages of plotting my ghost story ‘King’s Cross’, I realised what an important part authentic dialogue would have to play. The novel features a diverse collection of characters: nuns, mini-cab drivers, firemen and a feisty Lolita-like teenager named Alice (who has some of the book’s best lines).
Would Alice say: ‘I don’t know.’ Or ‘Dunno.’? Almost certainly the latter. Would a mini-cab driver ask a fare (on being offered a £20 note): ‘Haven’t you got anything smaller?’ or ‘Ain’t yer got nothin’ smaller?’ Probably the latter. Drafting dialogue at one’s computer is all very well, but it can be time-consuming. And though most writers carry a notebook in order to scribble down their thoughts, trying to jot down a bon mot, when you’re driving the kids to school, can be dangerous!
So I began to develop the technique of ‘rehearsing’ these exchanges in my head, usually when I was out and about doing something mundane like supermarket shopping or walking the dog. I would know where I had arrived at in my story, so imagining I was overhearing the two characters chatting, or arguing - or even making love - soon developed into an enjoyable sort of escapism.
One of the set pieces in ‘King’s Cross’ is a surprise confrontation between the book’s two main characters (a timid individual named Mark, who is recovering from a nervous breakdown) and a dazzling beautiful young nun named Beatrice (who happens to be dead!). I arranged for them to ‘meet’ in the basement of that wonderfully-eccentric London building, The Sir John Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Naturally I paid it a visit to check out the layout and all the macabre furnishings (death masks, leg irons etc.) in its dank and gloomy cellars. No sooner had I got down there, than I ‘heard’ Mark and Beatrice talking to each other!
I hope when you read the words on the pages of ‘King’s Cross’ you’ll find them convincing. I certainly enjoyed creating them!
Nick Jones is a retired architectural journalist who now lives in Herefordshire. His debut novel, ‘King’s Cross’ (genre: supernatural), is due to be published by Book Guild Publishing in August. Nick is currently working on a (as yet untitled) psychological thriller.