How To Write a Novel — Action

Day 32 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Corina Straub on Unsplash

I’ve started something scary here on Medium. It’s something I’ve done before, but never in public. I have a process that I’m going to follow, and I’d like to share it with you.

If you want to follow the journey from the start, go here.

If you missed yesterday’s, you can find it here.

Day 32 — Action

Yesterday, Charlie arrived at the farmer’s market. In the scene I am going to write today, a stink bomb is about to go off. This is the first big action scene in the book.

These are the story threads that interact in this scene.

  • A stink bomb goes off at the market, covering the theft of ripe cheese and a pile of rotten fish.
  • Charlie’s dad takes a picture of the stink capsule with MyPI — gives him the maker’s shop — Jest a Minute.
  • At the market, Staghorn is watching the entrance and knows nobody came in or out, but doesn’t suspect Miasmus.
  • Miasmus is at the market. Woofy growls at him. Charlie can see the stink of cheese and rotten fish on him and is suspicious. He says he tackled the thief.
  • Miasmus’ perfume formulas are precise and closely guarded secrets.

So there are a few moving parts to the scene. First, the stink bomb goes off, which will mean everyone moving away from the smell. I want Charlie to be active in trying to locate the source, so he will struggle against the crowd.

Next he gets to the source and finds the cheesemonger (with a peg on his nose?) and the fishmonger (who is used to the smell of fish) complaining that they have had something stolen. Charlie can find the capsule from the stink bomb.

Charlie’s dad offers to help the cheesemonger track down the thief. He feeds the capsule into the MyPI app and it traces it back to Jest a Minute.

Staghorn and Miasmus are loading Boo and Kay back into their luxury caravan. Miasmus has the smell of cheese and rotten fish clinging to him. Woofy growls at him. When challenged, he says he tackled the thief, but they got away.

Against the clock

In order to keep my fingers typing, access the creative part of the brain and not let the critical part stop me, I am writing against the clock. I want about 750 words for the scene, so I’ll write in three fifteen minute bursts.

Charlie’s dad returned, scoffing down the last of his toasted sandwich and the three of them started back towards the entrance. The going was tough as everyone else seemed to want to go in the other direction. In fact they seemed to want to go in the other direction fast. Everyone was running and many were holding their noses.

“What’s going on?” said Charlie.

A man with wild eyes and a green look barged his shoulder.

“Hey,” said Charlie.

“Run, run for your lives. It’s so bad,” he said as he stumbled onwards.

Charlie saw now that a yellow and green wave of smell was building around their ankles and rising rapidly. The further they moved towards the entrance, the thicker and more turbulent the wave became. Soon it lapped at their knees, then their waist. They were still a distance from leaving the park when it reached their faces.

“What is that smell?” said Sandy. “It’s pretty bad.”

Charlie’s dad looked at Woofy, but even he couldn’t blame this one on the dog. Charlie tried to peer closer at the smell. It had a spiky look, like chemicals, rather than a natural smell.

“I’m going to find out,” he said, pushing through the oncoming crowd.

A few metres on, the smell was dense like fog, but everyone had cleared the area so it was easier for Charlie to investigate. He followed the trail to where it was thickest, down near the ground.

He ran his hand over the grass and found a small capsule, about the size of his little finger, made of glass and cracked down one side. The yellow and green jagged smell clung to the inside.

“I think the smell came from this,” said Charlie to his dad as the others caught up with him.

His dad was holding his nose. “It dooks like a stink bum,” he said.

Charlie was thinking the same thing. But who would let a stink bomb off in the farmer’s market? And why?

A man dressed in a large apron covered in blood and fish guts walked over to them.

“Did you see anyone running away?” he said.

“Yes, everyone,” said Sandy.

“The smell’s bad?” he asked. “It must be working with fish all day. I can’t smell it.”

Woofy barked.

“It’s the worst,” said Sandy.

“In the confusion someone manage to steal a load of my fish. Not the good stuff, though, just the bloody guts. And Chester’s ripest rounds of cheese are gone too.”

Another man approached. He had a ruddy face and a peg on his nose.

“We found dis,” said Dad holding up the glass vial in his free hand. “Dooks like someone set off a stink bum to rob you.”

“Put it in your app,” said Sandy. Then to the others, “Dad’s a PI.”

Dad always liked a chance to use his MyPI app. He opened it on his phone and took a picture of the stink bomb. A spinning magnifying glass appeared on the screen for a few moments, then the words Jest a Minute came onto the screen.

“That must be where they bought it,” said Charlie.

The smell had mostly cleared away now. Chester the cheeseman took the peg off his nose. “That cheese they took was pretty pricey. I’ll give you a reward if you track it down,” he said.

“I’ll look into it,” said Dad. He fed Chester’s details into MyPI and then they headed back towards the entrance to the market.

The stink had sent most people further into the market, so the entrance was pretty clear. Staghorn sat working on her knitting which snaked round the ground at her ankles.

“Don’t suppose you saw anyone come this way with a load of cheese and fish guts?” asked Dad.

“No, I was helping Miasmus load up the van.” She nodded towards a pink camper van parked on the kerbside. On the side in flouro pink letters it said Boo and Kay. Miasmus was just herding his pet pigs up the ramp to the side door. They went over.

He smiled at Dad, who still seemed to have no idea who he was.

“Excuse me sir, did you see anyone come this way with a load of cheeses and fish guts?” said Dad.

Miasmus had two smells about him, one a deep orange and the other one grey and drippy. They looked suspiciously like cheese and rotten fish. Woofy went up, sniffed at him, then whined.

“You smell of cheese and stinky fish,” said Sandy.

Miasmus’ thick eyebrows raised for a moment, then his eyes narrowed. A moment later he smiled, “Yes, actually, there was a man came past here with cheeses and fish guts stuffed up his jumper. He was looking back over his shoulder, very suspiciously, so I tackled him to the ground, but he got away from me. The smell must have rubbed off on me.”

“For the app, could you describe this man,” said Dad, pointing his phone towards Miasmus.

“He was wearing a jumper. But it all happened so fast. I couldn’t really tell you any more. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get my prizewinning pigs home for a feed. They’ve had a very hard day.”

He climbed into the cab of the van and drove away.


I like the bit about Dad talking whilst holding his nose, though I might need to work on exactly what he says, which letters I alter. The key points are there in the scene, though it doesn’t flow well at the moment. That can come later.

Total words so far is 5,789.

Tomorrow I will write the scene where Charlie bakes his cupcakes at night.

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If you want to try the process with me and write your own novel, I’d love to have you join me on this journey. Put in the comments on how you went with this step.

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