How To Write a Novel — Character Story Threads

Day 15 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Антон Воробьев 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 15 — Character Story Threads

Okay, so yesterday I came up with the central story thread for my novel. Overnight, my subconscious has been working on it. I had a series of thefts in the central thread and I was thinking about how to include them. I could report on them — on the TV news, in a newspaper — but if I want to show them, then I need a reason for Charlie to be on the scene. What if Charlie’s dad is in the police? That would mean he has to investigate the crimes and, as Charlie’s mum is not there, he could take the family with him.

This would also mean that Miasmus can get Charlie’s dad to attend the launch of his scent at the end, because there has been a bomb threat. I see a conflict here between Charlie’s dad and Miasmus’ elderly female security guard. One more thing, Charlie’s dad wears one of Miasmus’ scents — JUZZ for MEN. It fits in with his dad’s traditional attitudes, as it is a very manly scent.

Now, back to today’s work.

Yesterday I looked at the idea of story threads, narrative elements that iterate through repetition and variation. I focussed on the central story thread that is easiest to track.

Today I’m going to look at character story threads.

Guidebook character threads

The two guidebooks that I’m using to navigate writing my novel are The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis and Gangsta Granny by David Walliams. I’ll look at some character threads from these two first, then work on the character threads for my book.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

One character thread that I identified yesterday was Mr Tumnus. This thread looks at what happens to Mr Tumnus when he cannot turn Lucy over to the White Witch. The question it asks and answers is — What will happen to Mr Tumnus?

I’ll look at the iterations of this thread.

Iteration Number/Page/Iteration

1/9/ Lucy meets Tumnus, and he takes her to his house.

2/12/ Tumnus kidnaps Lucy for the Queen but can’t go through with it.

3/16/ Tumnus guides Lucy back to the lamppost.

4/30/ On her second trip into Narnia, Lucy has lunch with Mr Tumnus and the White Witch has done nothing to him.

5/43/ All the children follow Lucy to Mr Tumnus’ house, but find it ransacked and Tumnus gone.

6/51/ Mr Tumnus got wind of his arrest beforehand and gave Lucy’s handerchief to Mr Beaver and asked him to help her.

7/59/ Mr Beaver says Aslan will save Mr Tumnus.

7/129/ Lucy finds Mr Tumnus, who is no longer a statue.

Gangsta Granny

Yesterday I identified the Mr Parker character thread — Mr Parker tries to catch the jewel thieves. The question asked is Will Mr Parker get Granny and Ben arrested?

There are only three iterations to this thread.

Iteration number/Page/Iteration

1/124/ Mr Parker spies on Granny as she is telling Ben about the jewels she has stolen. She strips to her underwear in a yoga pose, and he goes away embarrassed.

2/179/ Mr Parker spies on Granny in the hospital when she is discussing stealing the Crown Jewels with Ben. They humiliate him in front of the Matron who throws him out.

3/258/ Mr Parker is waiting with a wall of police when Granny and Ben return home. But there is no evidence. They have an alibi and the Crown Jewels are still in the Tower. Mr Parker is further humiliated when he hat blows off into a puddle.

My character threads

I’ll look at creating story threads for the primary and secondary characters in my book: Charlie, Miasmus, Charlie’s sister Sandy, Charlie’s dad and the security guard.

Charlie (type: character) — Charlie’s attempts to pursue baking to support his family — Will Charlie make money from his baking?

  1. Charlie wants to bake his own birthday cake, but his dad thinks it is a waste of money and time.
  2. Charlie secretly bakes his cupcakes, using his ability to ‘see’ smells to bake at night in the dark.
  3. Charlie enters a cupcake competition and wins.
  4. Miasmus pays Charlie to make his cupcakes on a grand scale.
  5. Miasmus has laced Charlie’s cupcakes with a secret stink ingredient. Birds help him stop anyone from eating them.
  6. Charlie and Sandy open a cakery.

Miasmus (type: character) — adults like and trust Miasmus but the children have their suspicions — Can we trust Miasmus?

This is very similar to the central story thread I talked about yesterday. I’m going to base it on that and expand it.

  1. Miasmus is at his stall on the market when a thief creates a diversion with a stink bomb and steals ripe cheese and rotten fish. Woofy growls at him. Charlie can see the stink on him and is suspicious. He says he tackled the thief.
  2. Miasmus reveals himself as the sponsor behind the cake competition that Charlie wins. He offers to buy Charlie’s recipe, but Charlie doesn’t have one.
  3. Miasmus is in a photo taken at a launderette during the theft of sweaty clothes and used nappies.
  4. Miasmus visits Charlie and offers him a job in The Smell Tower. The money persuades Charlie.
  5. Charlie ‘sees’ the smell of a dead body (he recognises it from the graveyard?) on Miasmus.
  6. Miasmus helps Charlie to mass produce his cupcakes.
  7. Charlie sees on the news that the stinking corpse lily is blooming at the botanical gardens, an event that only takes place every ten years.
  8. Charlie follows Miasmus and sees him mucking out his pigs.
  9. Miasmus announces he is launching a fresh scent and will give away Charlie’s cupcakes at the event.
  10. Charlie discovers Miasmus has a skunk farm.
  11. Charlie overhears Miasmus planning a mega stink bomb — his Weapon of Mass Olfaction.
  12. Charlie tries to alert his dad, he persuades him to come to the launch.
  13. Charlie tries to diffuse the stink bomb but fails. It showers people with petals.
  14. Charlie realises that Miasmus’ actual plan was to lace his cupcakes with his stink that will make each person a personal stink bomb.
  15. Miasmus’ plan is foiled. They make Miasmus eat one of his own cupcakes.

Sandy (type: character) — Sandy tells Charlie she can talk to animals but Charlie doesn’t take her seriously — Will Charlie listen to Sandy?

  1. Sandy says that she knows it was their dad and not Woofy that parpled because she believes the dog. Charlie thinks her weird.
  2. Sandy says that Woofy told her that Miasmus smells. Charlie dismisses her.
  3. Sandy says she has been having a chat with Boo and Kay, Miasmus’ pigs. Charlie tells her to stop being silly.
  4. Sandy talks the skunk out of attacking Charlie. He thanks her.
  5. Charlie asks Sandy for help and she calls the birds down to snatch the cupcakes.
  6. Behind the scenes at the cakery, Sandy employs a menagerie of animals.

Charlie’s dad (type: character) — Charlie’s dad is not interested in food — Will Charlie’s dad try something new?

  1. Charlie’s dad makes him a toast sandwich — toast between two slices of toast — for his birthday.
  2. Charlie’s dad refuses to try any of Mr Needem’s experimental breads.
  3. Charlie’s dad tells him off because he entered the baking competition without permission.
  4. Charlie’s dad objects to Miasmus taking Charlie to make cupcakes. Miasmus and Charlie persuade him.
  5. Charlie’s dad says he doesn’t want to come to the launch of the new scent, but Charlie persuades him that someone may set off a bomb.
  6. Miasmus tries to get Charlie’s dad to eat a cupcake, but he refuses.
  7. At Charlie’s bakery, his dad asks for a piece of toast.

Security Guard (type: character) — she is a member of Pensa (pensioners Mensa) and super smart, but her arrogance undoes her — Will she realise what is going on under her nose?

  1. At the market she is watching the door and knows nobody came in or out, but doesn’t suspect Miasmus.
  2. At the bakery, Charlie and Sandy trick her into letting them inside.
  3. Charlie evades her in The Smell Tower to follow Miasmus. When challenged, she says there is no way he left.
  4. Charlie presents her with the plans for the Weapon of Mass Olfaction, but she suspects he drew them.
  5. She has elaborate plans for the security of the launch event, and won’t believe that anyone could plant a bomb.
  6. When the bomb goes off with petal leaves, she says she knew all along it would.
  7. Finally she accepts Miasmus was planning to make everyone stink, but says she has been onto him from the start.


Day 15 and I have created character story threads for my primary and secondary characters. There is still work to do here. For example there should be another thread for Charlie around him revealing that he can see smells.

Tomorrow I will look at symbol story threads.

Please subscribe to get the full series as I write it.

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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *