How To Write a Novel — Giggles

Day 29 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Jay Wennington 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 29 — Giggles

Charlie has met the mysterious Miasmus who gave him the money to buy his cake ingredients. The last scene was a key scene. It involved the interaction of many of the story threads I had created in weaving my story together.

Today’s scene is much quieter from a story point of view. Mr Needem’s bakery will feature again when Charlie enters the cupcake competition, and towards the end of the book when Charlie and Sandy open their cakery alongside it, but for the moment there are only a couple of story threads to consider.

Alongside that, however, I have the spice that I’m adding to the novel, which in this case is the humour. Mr Needem is a comic character who is experimenting with new breads. This is a technique that David Walliams has used across his books. In Gangsta Granny, one of the two guidebooks I’m using for my novel, the titular granny puts cabbage in everything.

Today’s scene has the following story threads to weave together.

  • Charlie’s dad visits Mr Needem’s shop daily-he eats a lot of bread. Charlie’s dad refuses to try any of Mr Needem’s experimental breads. He only buys white bread.
  • Mr Needem produces a new bread every week, but they are terrible and nobody likes them.

And I want to make sure that I include the funny parts.

  • What if Charlie’s dad can’t cook — contrasts with Charlie’s cooking ability? What if he can only make toast? He knows how to use a toaster. So everything is toast to him. For breakfast toast. For lunch toast. For dinner — cold baked beans. On toast.
  • What if Mr Needem the baker makes bread from all round the world? Every day he tries to tempt Charlie’s dad with a new type of bread — pizza, flatbread, ciabatta, bread sticks, baguette, Turkish bread, etc etc. Charlie’s dad always considers the bread, thinks about how it will fit in the toaster and then asks for his usual sliced white.
  • Mr Needem has a taste for the exotic in making his bread, and is always experimenting. He makes fisher’s loaf from maggots, bush bread from hairs found in the plughole, cheesy bread from toe cheese, flat bread from old tyres, bread sticks from glue, sourdough made with pickled fish.

At the moment, this scene doesn’t really have a reason to be here. I need a change from the start of the scene to the end. So, Charlie has his money from Miasmus and wants to bake a cake.

  • What if Charlie asks Needem for some flour, but he only has bread flour. He could also mention that he has always thought of branching into cakes but bread takes up all his time. This would set up the scene towards the end of the book when Charlie offers to expand his shop with a cakery.

Against the clock

To avoid procrastinating and overthinking, I’m writing against the clock. I’m aiming for about 750 words today, which I’ll aim to do within three fifteen minute bursts.

Charlie’s dad was a frequent visitor to Mr Needem’s bakery. With his love of toast, he needed to buy large quantities of bread. At the front of the shop was a hatch that sold coffees and the various loaves. Inside was a large warehouse space with a café and a few people sat around eating sandwiches and chatting.

Charlie loved the sight of the baking bread. Warm caramel clouds swirled like mist around them. As they entered, Mr Needem noticed dad, one of his best customers, and hurried over to greet him.

“March. So lovely to see you again. And so soon.” He smiled and rested his arm on dad’s shoulder. Mr Needem’s arms were like pythons thick with muscle from pounding dough all day.

“It’s my boy’s birthday,” said Dad.

Mr Needem’s eyes lit up.

“Indeed. Then you’ll want to be trying one of my specials I have on today.”

Mr Needem was always trying new recipes. Charlie admired his attempts to get his dad to buy something different. But his dad stuck to what he knew. White bread. Toast.

From under the counter Mr Needem produced a fish-shaped loaf and tore off a piece for each of them.

“Here, try this, my fisherman’s loaf.”

Charlie’s piece had a yellow, wriggly smell that didn’t seem right for bread. He sneaked his piece into his pocket. His dad was chewing on his slowly, but his face looked like he’d rather not. Woofy sniffed at his piece and turned away.

“Ergh, what’s that,” Sandy spat hers straight out again.

“It’s very special. I’ve made it from what I call fisherman’s flour,” said Mr Needem.

Dad finally swallowed his piece. “And what exactly is fisherman’s flour?”

“Made from ground up maggots,” said Mr Needem with a grin.

“I just need to use the bathroom,” said Dad, turning green as he rushing towards the back of the store.

Charlie was glad his dad was out the way. There was something he wanted to ask Mr Needem, and he needed Sandy elsewhere too.

“I think Woofy needs to go to as well,” said Charlie.

Sandy frowned. “He went on the way here, he says he’s fine.”

“Why don’t you take him outside, just in case?”

“He is a bit thirsty. Do you have a dog bowl?” she asked Mr Needem.

“Round the side.”

“Come on Woofy.” She walked ahead, confident he would follow.

When she was out of earshot, Charlie asked Mr Needem, “I want to buy some flour if you have some.”

“My fisherman’s flour?”

“No, not that,” said Charlie quickly, “I’m wanting to bake a cake. But it’s a surprise.”

“Baking your own birthday cake? That doesn’t seem right. And how you going to surprise yourself? Unless you’ve got the worst memory in the world, you’ll know you baked it.”

“It’s a surprise for my dad,” said Charlie.

“I’m not sure your dad is a surprise sort of person.”

“No,” said Charlie, “But I love baking.”

“There’s nothing like it,” said Mr Needem, “But I’m afraid I’m not sure I can help you.”

“You don’t have flour?”

“Oh yes, I’ve got flour. Mountains of it. But it isn’t any use to you.”

“Why not?”

“Because it is all bread flour. You need cake flour. Totally different thing.”

Charlie smacked himself on the forehead. Of course. Mr Needem only made bread. That was his thing. If you wanted a cake then you needed to go somewhere else.

“Haven’t you ever thought of making cakes?” asked Charlie.

“I’ve thought about it. But there’s so many bread recipes I want to try that there’s no time to branch out into cakes. Here, try this one.”

He pulled out a long thin stick of bread and handed it to Charlie. It seemed normal enough. Charlie sniffed at it. The smell was white and oozy and familiar, but Charlie couldn’t quite place it.

“Go on, try it,” said Mr Needem.

Charlie took a bite off the end. It tasted good, like bread, crunchy at first, then soft. He chewed some more. And then some more. And more. The more he chewed the harder it became to chew. It was like toffee sticking his teeth together.

“Do you like my breadstick?”

Charlie mumbled, it was all he could manage.

“It’s made from real glue.”

Charlie was still unsticking his teeth when his dad came back from the bathroom.

“Charlie here was just trying my breadstick. Do you want to try?” said Mr Needem turning to Dad.

Behind his back, Charlie shook his head so his dad could see.

“I’ll pass thanks,” said Dad. “Just a white loaf for toast.”


I like the humour in the scene, and it shows that Charlie now has his dream of making a cake, but I would like to develop the character of Mr Needem more. When I have the further scenes with him in, it will develop.

Total words so far 3,196.

Tomorrow I’ll look at Charlie’s birthday party scene.

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