How To Write a Novel — Minor Character

Day 34 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Thomas Park 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 34 — Minor Character

Today coming to my writing is difficult. Because of timezone differences I had a two hour meeting at 4 o’clock this morning and my brain is still struggling to wake up. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t be able to function, or that I can let myself off and not write my words. Typing Day 34 helps — I have been working on this book for thirty four days without missing one, and I’m not going to let this day be the first one I miss.

Maybe another reason that I’m struggling to sit down to write is that today’s scene is not one of the key ones. I only have a couple of story threads to work with. The scene is Charlie’s dad is investigating the origin of the stink bomb that was used as a cover for the theft at the market, and it has led him to the shop Jest a Minute.

  • They had an entire collection of stink bombs stolen about a month ago. The bombs are being used as a cover for crimes. Sweaty clothes from a sporting event. Used nappies from a playgroup.
  • Charlie’s dad feeds all the information into his MyPI app.

Whilst this isn’t a key scene, there is opportunity here to explore the characters more and to have some fun. I need to think about how the shop owner character responds to March coming in to ask about the stink bombs. Maybe they have already had the police coming in to investigate the other crimes.

Maybe I also need to explore why they are stocking such large stink bombs — what is the purpose of those? Why would someone buy one? Does the shop owner care?

I’m starting to get the idea that the comedy here is in the contrast between the joke shop and its owner. Is the shop owner of Jest a Minute dressed as a Jester but is really an Eeyore type character — comedy contrast. Maybe they are really not a joyous person at all.

The other characters in the scene are Dad, Charlie, Sandy and Woofy. Does dad need a cover for asking questions — does he pick up something in the joke shop to buy — maybe he asks what it is? What the cost is?

Against the clock

Today is one of those days where, if I allowed myself, I would sit for hours worrying over the content of the scene and never start writing it. It feels very nebulous to me, but I know that the best way to get past that is to just write. To make myself get the words down I’m going to write against the clock in fifteen minute bursts. I want to complete about 750 words, so I’m going to need about three of these bursts.

Dad, Charlie, Sandy and Woofy arrived at Jest a Minute late in the afternoon. The double store front displayed colourful packages of all kinds of jokes, but Charlie’s attention was immediately drawn to a life-sized mannequin of a Jester. The costume was big and bulky and the colours drab, but it was the expression on the face that drew him in. It was like something out of a horror movie, a long face with hollowed out cheeks and sad, droopy eyes.

A hand slapped against the glass of the window making Charlie jump. The mannequin walked out of the window display and into the shop. It moved over to the door and started to turn the OPEN sign that hung there around. Dad pushed on the other side of the door and walked in past the Jester.

“Excuse me, we’re closed,” the woman spoke in a drawl.

“I won’t be a minute,” said Dad, wandering over to a basket of fake body parts, dripping in red paint.

Charlie, Sandy and Woofy trailed in after him.

The woman looked like she was going to protest but then decided that it was all too much effort. She retreated to behind the counter.

Dad spent a short time sifting through arms, legs and a particularly disturbing eyeball before selecting something to take up to her. He placed a hairy foot with clawed toenails on the desk.

“Ninety nine,” said the Jester.



“No way,” said Dad.

“Do you want it or not?”


She sighed in a way that suggested this was the worst moment of her life, picked up the foot and lobbed it across the shop. It plopped back in the body part bin.

“Please come again,” she said, so that we were clear that was the last thing she wanted.

“Actually, there’s something I wanted to ask about,” said Dad.

She raised her eyebrows.

“I heard you sell stink bombs.”

“We did.”

“You don’t any more?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Are you police?”

“Not exactly.” Dad leant in and winked, “I’m a private investigator.”

“Only I’ve already been through this. Twice. I had nothing to do with them.”

“Stink bombs?”


Dad pulled out his phone and brought up his MyPI app. “Tell me more.”

“We used to sell stink bombs. Big ones. Enough to do some serious nose damage.”

“Why so big?” said Sandy.

“It’s the kids round here. They started with little ones, just enough to make you think someone had let one go, but then that wasn’t good enough for them. Wanted something bigger. Something that would raise a right stink. So I bought bigger ones, and they snapped them up. Couldn’t get enough of them. Then I got greedy. Bought the biggest size I could find. Large enough to clear a party. Fun stuff.”

“And they bought them all?” said Dad.

“No. Couldn’t sell any. I’d priced myself out of the market.”

“But you don’t have any now?”

“Funny thing. I was robbed a few weeks back. They jimmied the door open and took every one of my stock. Every last one. Nothing else missing, just the stink bombs.”

“Ah, so you called the police.”

“Course I didn’t. I don’t want to be the laughing stock. Can you imagine the headlines? ‘Oversized Stinkers Stolen’, ‘Robbed Right Under Their Nose’, ‘Jokers Smell An Easy Target’, ‘Police Pursue Purloined Pretend Parplers’.”

“But you said the police were here?”

“That’s the thing. About a week later they came round asking about my stinkiest bombs. It turns out that someone had used one to steal from Huffpuff United, the local footy team. They cleared the changing rooms with a stink bomb after the game, then took all the sweaty clothes.”

Dad had been entering all this info into his MyPI app. He scrolled back in his notes.

“You said the police had been twice?”

“Yeah. Same thing happened again, only this was even more bizarre. They targeted the local playgroup at the end of the day. All the stinky nappies from the day were in a big bag ready to be taken away. I’m quite amazed really, but one of my stink bombs was even stinkier than the pile of nappies. They had to evacuate, and in the confusion the big bag of nappies disappeared.”

“Why would anyone want sweaty clothes and stinky nappies?” said Charlie.

“What can I say? People are strange. Why would anyone want this?” She held up a plucked rubber chicken by its feet.

Woofy barked.

“It’s not real,” said Sandy.

“You’ve no idea what the thieves look like?” said Dad.

“No. We don’t have any security cameras and you might be surprised to know I’m not here after we’ve closed. Which is now. So if you don’t mind.”

She ushered us out of the shop and into the street again, then locked the door behind us.

“Do you trust her?” said Sandy.

“I think she’s telling the truth. Why would she tell us anything about the stink bombs if she was behind the robberies?” said Charlie.

“She supplied it but she didn’t deny it?” said Sandy.


Dad finished tapping the details into his app. The magnifying glass whirled on the screen for a few moments, then a verdict appeared.

Not Guilty.


For a scene that didn’t have much substance, I wrote 876 words. Not all great words, admittedly, but I do like some of the humour, and there is potential there.

Total words 7,438.

Tomorrow I write the scene where Charlie wins the cupcake competition.

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