Writing Dialogue: The Voices In My Head

9th July 2015
3 min read
10th December 2020

Nick Jones on his process of putting words in the mouth of his cast of characters...

Kings Cross by Nick Jones

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.

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That's interesting. I often hear dialogue in my head too, sometimes when far from my notebook. I'm writing a piece, not so much with ghosts as with people who stray back into their past, into Victorian times. People would have spoken differently then, but today's readers might not relate to it, so a compromise is perhaps best. Good luck with the book.

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