Day 30 of writing my novel in public
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 29 — False accusation
I’ve realised that by a strange coincidence I am going to be writing today about Charlie’s birthday party on the same day that I am having my fiftieth party. It should have taken place back when it was my birthday towards the end of last year but my husband had covid at the time, so we postponed until now.
This is an important scene because it illustrates Charlie’s current problems and his commitment to making a change. His dad is struggling with two children and meagre earnings, and is not helped by his resistance to change. He has no made no effort to learn to cook, and his attempt to make a special birthday meal for Charlie is laughable because it is so pathetic.
Charlie’s mum is away travelling the world and having a fantastic time. Charlie doesn’t believe that she will be back any time soon but his dad is clinging to that idea.
Charlie commits himself to pursuing his baking, as this is his way of expressing himself and not becoming stuck like his dad.
These are the story threads that I need to cover in this scene.
- Charlie is disappointed at his birthday surprises and decides he will bake his own cake and have his own party.
- Charlie tries to hide the postcard from his mum, but his dad insists on seeing it. He says she’ll be home soon.
- Charlie’s dad makes him a toasted toast sandwich — toast between two slices of toast — for his birthday.
- Charlie’s dad will only eat white bread toasted.
- There is a stench in the air. Charlie asks, “Do you smell that?” His dad says, “It’s the dog.” Charlie and Sandy agree it was Dad. (He ate the maggot bread)
- Sandy says that she knows it was their dad and not Woofy that parpled because she believes the dog. Charlie thinks her weird.
- Dad throws Woofy outside for parpling. Says he doesn’t need his MyPI app for that.
I also want to make sure that I cover the funny bits I’ve prepared.
- What if Charlie receives some presents that cost nothing, or have little value, as a list — a piece of toilet paper (nearly new), a broken piggy bank, a used stamp, a false tooth, one chopstick, a yellow toenail, one popcorn (unpopped), one party popper (already popped) that sort of thing.
- Charlie’s dad’s diet was extremely limited. For breakfast, he had toast. For lunch, he had toast. And for dinner, he had Wheatiebricks. On toast.
- Purple parple.
Against the clock
So that I don’t sit around staring at the page, I’m going to set a timer for fifteen minutes and write until it stops. I’m aiming for a total of 750 words today, which I’ll do in a maximum of three fifteen minute bursts.
When they arrived back at their house, Charlie was sat down in the living room and given a small pile of wrapped presents. He knew that his dad could not afford much as his private investigations had been meagre and paid little, so he wasn’t expecting much. Still, he tried to smile as he opened them. As he tore the paper off each of his presents, it became harder for him to maintain it.
When he’d finished opening them he looked at the small pile of items. He had a piece of toilet paper (nearly new), a broken piggy bank, a used stamp (torn from one of his mum’s postcards), a false tooth (he dad didn’t have false teeth, and he didn’t want to think where it had come from), one chopstick, a yellowed toenail (he hoped that had been wrapped by mistake), one popcorn (unpopped), and one party popper (already popped).
“That’s a pile of rubbish,” said Sandy.
“No, no it’s not, it’s great,” said Charlie, fixing the smile on his face, “I love them, thanks dad.”
“I better go make your special meal,” said dad.
Charlie wasn’t expecting anything special about the meal. His dad couldn’t afford a takeaway at the moment and he only knew how to make toast. But there was always the possibility that he’d come up with something new on toast. His regular diet was very predictable. For breakfast he had toast. For lunch, he had toast. And for dinner, he had cold baked beans. On toast.
When he came back in, he was carrying a large plate covered with a tea-towel. He placed it down on the table and shooed Woofy away to eat his meal of toast crumbs. Then with a flourish he swept the tea-towel away.
“Ta-da,” he said.
It looked like a pile of toast. It smelt like small reddy brown circles.
“Wow,” said Charlie with as much enthusiasm as he could manage.
“It’s toast,” said Sandy.
“Not just toast,” said Dad, “It’s my new invention. The toasted toast sandwich. A slice of toast between two slices of toast.”
Now Charlie looked closer he could see that the toast was divided into piles of three slices.
“It’s great dad,” said Charlie, picking up a pile and biting into it.
“Is there any Vegemite?” said Sandy.
“We finished it last week,” said Dad.
They ate in silence for a few minutes, munching on the toast before Dad asked, “Did you get a postcard from mum?”
Charlie shook his head. His dad always wanted to see the postcards from mum but Charlie knew that they upset him. He was still trying to understand why she went away.
“She’s in India. I saw him reading it earlier,” said Sandy.
Charlie tried to kick his sister under the table, but she moved her leg just in time.
“You said you’d show it to me,” she said.
“Oh yeah, I forgot,” said Charlie lamely.
He took the slightly crumpled postcard out of his pocket and passed it over to his dad.
Dad spent a long time looking at it. Longer than he needed to read the few words scribbled on the back. When he handed it back, there was a tremor in his voice, “She’ll be back soon.”
Charlie chewed down on his toasted toast sandwich. He didn’t want to tell his dad that he didn’t think mum was ever coming back. He tried to think of something to say.
“I’m going to bake a cake,” he said.
His dad looked sharply up. “We already discussed this, I can’t afford it.”
“I’ve been saving,” said Charlie.
“But I don’t give you any pocket money.”
“I found a few coins,” said Charlie.
“I don’t want you messing this place up with your baking. Your mum could be back any day now, and she won’t want to come back to a mess. If it’s a birthday cake you want, I’ll give you cake.”
Dad went into the kitchen and hunted in a draw. A moment later he came back with a stub of a candle and a match. He stuck the candle in the middle of one of the toasted toast sandwiches, struck the match and lit a flame.
“There. That’s your cake. Now make a wish.”
Charlie could tell his dad was getting stressed. A purple cloud of heaving smell rose up from under the table. He pushed his chair back to avoid it.
“That stinks. Who parpled?” said Sandy.
“It’s the dog,” said Dad quickly.
Charlie leaned back a little and could see that the purple parple was strongest near his dad’s bottom, a real deep purple that spread out in a pulsing circle from there.
“Maybe it was Mr Needem’s maggoty bread you ate,” said Sandy.
“Come on Woofy, outside.” Dad moved towards the door.
“That’s not fair,” said Sandy.
“Outside,” said Dad, standing up and giving Woofy a tap on the bottom.
Being a wolfhound, Woofy was not easy to manoeuvre when he didn’t want to go. And he was enjoying his toast crumbs. He sat down.
“Woofy said it wasn’t him,” said Sandy.
“He’s going out,” said Dad. He leant down and put his weight against Woofy. The dog’s bottom slid along the wooden floor and out the door into the garden. Sandy ran after them both.
Left alone with his toasted toast cake, Charlie blew out the candle and made a wish.
Today I wrote 901 words, above the target 750. The scene is starting to come together but is a little bit choppy. When I come to revise it later I’ll look at how to make the various pieces fit together better. For the moment, I’m going to move on tomorrow to the next scene.
Total words so far is 4,097.
Tomorrow I’ll write the scene where Charlie buys the ingredients for his cake.
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.