How To Write a Novel — Dynamic Story Threads

Day 18 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Tim Kilby 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 18 — Dynamic Story Threads

When a relationship between two or more characters evolves, it has a dynamic effect on the narrative as a whole.

— Horwitz, Stuart. Finish Your Book in Three Drafts

Over the last four days, I have been exploring what I call story threads (Stuart Horwitz calls them Series). These are narrative elements that recur through the book with repetition and variation. The ones I’ve looked at so far are:

  • Day 14 Central Thread — the easiest to track and closest to the theme
  • Day 15 Character Threads — how a person becomes a character
  • Day 16 Symbol Threads — how an object becomes a symbol
  • Day 17 Setting Threads — how a place becomes a setting

Today I’m turning to Dynamic Story Threads, or how a relationship becomes a dynamic.

Guidebook Dynamic Threads

I’m using two books to guide my writing a novel journey. They are the parents of the books I’m writing, and I turn to them for inspiration and teaching each day. For this project, I’m using The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis and Gangsta Granny by David Walliams. I’ll look at some dynamic threads from these.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

There are many relationships that I could explore in this book, but two that I’ll focus on at the moment are with Edmund, first with Lucy, and then with the White Witch.

Edmund and Lucy (type: dynamic) — Edmund feels his older siblings and the adults have all the power, but with Lucy he is the elder — Will Edmund be nice to Lucy?

Iteration Number/Page/Iteration

1/4/ Edmund calls Lucy silly and dismisses her fear.

2/18/ Edmund calls Lucy batty and dismisses her insistence she has been away for hours.

3/20/ Edmund sneers and jeers at Lucy, spoiling the next few days for her.

4/22/ Edmund follows Lucy into Narnia. Alone and afraid, he calls out an apology to Lucy.

5/27/ Edmund betrays Lucy, telling the White Witch about her visit to the faun.

5/30/ Edmund tells Lucy he can see she was right and he will ‘say I’m sorry if you like’

5/33/ Edmund tells Peter and Susan that he and Lucy were just pretending about Narnia. She runs away.

6/35/ Edmund worries that Peter and Susan think Lucy is mad.

7/42/ Edmund gives himself away by knowing where the lamppost is. Peter and Susan know how awful he has been to Lucy.

8/104/ Edmund shakes hands with each of his siblings and says ‘I’m sorry.’

Edmund and the White Witch

Edmund and the White Witch (type: dynamic) — the White Witch initially seduces Edmund with offers of power and Turkish Delight, but eventually he realises his mistake — Will Edmund see the truth about the White Witch?

This thread has many iterations in common with the central story thread White Witch.

Iteration Number/Page/Iteration

1/25/ The White Witch decides Edmund might be useful and offers him warmth, a hot drink and Turkish Delight. He tells her everything she wants to know. In order to get more Turkish Delight and power over his siblings, he says he will bring his siblings to her and keep her a secret.

2/62/ Edmund sneaks away from the Beavers to visit the White Witch.

3/68/ Edmund justifies his behaviour to himself, even though deep down he knows the White Witch is bad and cruel.

4/73/ Edmund meets the White Witch at her house and she scolds him for coming alone. He tells the White Witch about Aslan coming.

5/84/ The White Witch gives Edmund dry bread and takes him coatless on her sledge. He witnesses her turning a party of animals into stone. When the snow melts and the sled stops, she orders the dwarf to tie Edmund’s hands and whip him if he stumbles.

6/104/ The White Witch prepares to sacrifice Edmund, but the animals rescue him and take him to Aslan.

7/133/ Edmund disarms the White Witch, so Aslan can kill her.

Gangsta Granny

The dynamic thread I’ll explore in Gangsta Granny is between Ben and Granny.

Ben and Granny (type: dynamic) — Ben’s opinion of his Granny changes from old and smelly to interesting and wonderful — Will Ben appreciate his Granny?

Iteration Number/Page/Iteration

1/11/ Ben thinks Granny is boring and smelly and doesn’t want to visit her. She talks to him like a baby.

2/26/ Ben wonders why his granny is so obsessed with gangstas.

3/37/ Raj gives Ben an alternative take on his granny and suggests she has a secret or two.

4/48/ Ben asks his dad to rescue him from Granny’s, but she overhears him.

5/54/ Ben worries Granny heard and about how she feels.

6/58/ Ben finds jewels in Granny’s biscuit tin.

7/64/ Ben asks to stay at Granny’s but she is going out.

8/66/ Ben follows Granny to a jewellers and stops her robbing it.

9/82/ Granny tells Ben stories of her jewellery thefts.

10/109/ Ben remembers loving his granny’s stories when he was younger.

11/138/ Ben says he will help Granny steal the crown jewels but she refuses.

12/160/ Ben visits Granny in the hospital and wants to stay longer.

13/174/ Ben outlines his plan to steal the crown jewels and gets his granny to say yes.

14/205/ Granny and Ben carry out their heist.

15/236/ Granny boosts Ben’s self-esteem.

16/243/ Granny admits she lied to Ben about being The Black Cat.

17/247/ Granny offers to sacrifice her freedom to secure Ben’s.

18/269/ Granny tells Ben she has cancer.

19/282/ Ben now likes Granny’s name for him — Benny.

20/290/ Ben reminisces about Granny with her cousin Edna, and how wonderful she was.

This series now seems more central than The Black Cat series that I identified on Day 14. It more closely tracks the progress of the book and the question is more central to the theme.

My dynamic story threads

Okay, time to apply this to my story. I’m going to look at the dynamic between Miasmus and Charlie’s dad.

Childhood friends (type: dynamic) — this thread looks at Miasmus’ motivation — What is the connection between Miasmus and Charlie’s dad?

  1. Charlie’s dad goes to buy some aftershave for Charlie for his birthday. Miasmus recognises Charlie’s dad, but his dad doesn’t recognise Miasmus. Charlie ‘sees’ the smell of Miasmus’ fear. He gives Charlie some free sample bottles, and some money for baking ingredients.
  2. Miasmus is at the scene of the theft of ripe cheese and rotten fish. Charlie’s dad thanks him for helping tackle the thief.
  3. When Charlie wins the cupcake competition, Miasmus is revealed as the sponsor of the competition. Mr Needem was at school with Miasmus and Charlie’s dad. He says Miasmus and Charlie’s dad did not get on.
  4. Miasmus comes to Charlie’s dad’s house and offers a job to Charlie. He says mates should help mates.
  5. Charlie finds a school photo of his dad and Miasmus’ class. His dad has been cut out.
  6. Charlie tries to tell his dad that Miasmus is creating a stink bomb, but his dad refuses to believe him.
  7. Miasmus tries to get Charie’s dad to eat a laced cupcake, but he refuses, simply because he never eats cakes.
  8. Miasmus has his own special cupcake that is safe, but when it is knocked out of his hand, Miasmus is forced to eat Charlie’s dad’s. His revenge scheme on those who laughed at him at school, particularly Charlie’s dad, is revealed.


I’m not completely sure how Miasmus’ plan will be revealed, but I’ve started to put it together with the dynamic between Miasmus and Charlie’s dad. Miasmus wants revenge on Charlie’s dad and there is a whole plan behind it.

Tomorrow I will look at how a phrase becomes a philosophy.

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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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