How To Write a Novel — Mystery

Day 28 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Fulvio Ciccolo 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 28 — Mystery

The last two scenes have been building towards this one. Charlie is entering Scents of Adventure on his own and will meet Miasmus.

First some thoughts on yesterday’s scene. I would like to see Charlie use his ability to read people’s emotions. Maybe when his dad is squaring off against the security guard, Charlie can see that in his smell.

Also, I suggested that the rest of them were going off to the bakery but I like the idea I had previously that Charlie would look out the window and see his dad arm-wrestling with Staghorn, so maybe they will stick around in the next revision. I’m going to write this scene as though I’d already made that change.

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

  • Miasmus offers Charlie a scent and asks, ‘Do you smell that? It is the promise of an adventure.’
  • Miasmus recognises March in Charlie and sees him outside, but doesn’t want to see him. He won’t remember me.
  • Dad and the security guard are arm wrestling outside.
  • Charlie wants to bake a cake for his birthday, but his dad denies him.
  • Boo and Kay are inside the shop. Charlie puts down his twenty dollars and Kay eats it.
  • Miasmus asks Charlie what he wants for his birthday. Gives him a free sample of scent and money to buy the ingredients for his cake.
  • Why is Miasmus being nice to Charlie?

And I want to make sure that I include the humorous bits.

  • When Charlie meets Boo and Kay, the pigs, he expects them to be smelly, but actually they are spotless. Not only that, but Miasmus has developed a perfume for them called Stoink for pigs.

This scene is setting up the antagonist, and I want Charlie to be uncertain of his motives, and place that doubt in the reader’s mind. There are questions being asked — who is Miasmus and what is his relationship to Charlie’s dad?

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.

The smells assaulted him like a slap in the face. Bright fluorescent yellow daggers, red jagged spikes and purple curling smoke underneath. Charlie steadied himself and tried to focus. After a moment he found control but still felt a little dizzy.

“Good morning young sir, how are we today?”

The man who Charlie assumed was Miasmus stood before him wearing a white suit. His thick mane of dark hair sprouted from his head but also from his ears and nose. A wave of purple scent twirled around him.

“Good thanks,” said Charlie, “I’d like some Juzz for Men.”

“Please come right in and take a seat.” Miasmus gestured to a padded chair near the back of the store. Still a little woozy-headed, Charlie sat down.

“You’re going au-naturelle today I smell,” said Miasmus, “But never fear, my nose will clothe you in the perfect match.”

He stood in front of Charlie for a moment and a puzzled look crossed his face.

“Have we met before?”

“I don’t think so,” said Charlie. The intense stare made his palms sweaty. He put the twenty down on the dazzling white counter next to him and wiped them on his jeans.

“You look really familiar to me. What’s your name?”

“Charlie,” said Charlie.

There was a grunt and a snort and Miasmus turned away. Charlie breathed a steadying breath.

“Boo, Kay, what ever is it? Can’t you see I’m dealing with a customer?”

Boo looked cute in her purple bow and came over to nuzzle at Charlie’s hand. He gave him an affectionate rub on the head. A lilac curl of smell drifted from her skin.

“They don’t smell bad,” Charlie said.

A brief look of annoyance crossed Miasmus’ face. “A common misconception. Pigs are very clean animals. Of course these two are wearing my special perfume for pigs. The only one of its kind in the world. I call it Stoink.”

Whilst Charlie had been rubbing Boo’s head, Kay had sneaked around to where Charlie had laid down his twenty dollar note. She sniffed at it and then wolfed it down in one bite. Charlie moved his hand towards her but she snapped her jaws at him and shook her studded collar.

“Now, now Kay, play nicely,” said Miasmus.

“She just ate my twenty,” said Charlie.

“Did she? Sorry, she hasn’t eaten her second breakfast yet today. Are you sure we haven’t met? Do you have a brother?”

“Only Sandy my sister. She’s waiting outside with my dad.”

Miasmus turned to look out the window. Charlie’s dad was engaged in a strenuous arm wrestling competition with Staghorn and didn’t seem to be winning.

“Ah. Now I remember,” said Miasmus, “March Quick.”

“Yeah. Do you want me to get him,” said Charlie.

“No. I doubt he would remember me,” said Miasmus, “It has been a very long time. Now, let’s see about that aftershave shall we.”

“Dad says I have to get Juzz for Men. But your pig just ate my money.”

“Sorry about that. I tell you what. As I know your dad, how about I give you a free sample of Juzz for Men. But I sense that isn’t really what you want?”

Charlie shrugged.

“What about this one.”

Miasmus took a fancy bottle from a shelf behind him. The bottle was horizontal and inside was a perfect replica of a sailing ship with a tiny mast and sails flying from it.

“What do you think of this?” He unstoppered the bottle and waved it under Charlie’s nose. A green smell like the flame of a candle licked at Charlie.

“Do you smell that? That’s the promise of adventure,” said Miasmus.

“It’s very nice,” said Charlie politely.

“But not really what you wanted.” Miasmus put the stopper back in the bottle and the green flame extinguished.

“To be honest, I don’t really want any scent. I’m not shaving yet, so I don’t see the point.”

“But your dad insisted?”

“He wants me to have some for my twelfth birthday, same as he did for his.”

“And what would you rather have?”

“I just want the ingredients to bake a cake.”

“Ah.” Miasmus looked sympathetic. “Baking is much like perfume making. Finding the perfect recipe.”

Charlie didn’t use a recipe. If the smells of the ingredients and the combined mixture created a beautiful pattern then he knew the cake would be great. But he couldn’t explain that to anyone, so he just said, “Yes.”

“I’ll tell you what. Seeing as how Kay ate your money, and you don’t want to disappoint your father’s wishes, how about I give you a sample of Juzz for Men for free, and I’ll give you fifty dollars to buy your cake ingredients. How does that sound?”

That sounded amazing. Too amazing. “What’s the catch?”

“Nothing, just doing a favour for the son of an old friend. Call it karma if you like. Here.”

Miasmus handed him a stocky square bottle with Juzz engraved on the side, just like the one his dad used. Then he produced a fifty dollar note from the till and handed that to Charlie.

“Are you sure you don’t want to say hi to dad,” said Charlie, pocketing the note.

“No, no. I think he’s having too much fun with my security,” said Miasmus.

As Charlie stepped outside again, he dad was clutching one wrist in the other and looking sorry for himself.


When I’m working with the main points I need to include and against the clock, then it is much easier to get into the flow of writing. Today’s 900 words I wrote in two fifteen minute bursts. There is more to do, particularly on making it flow better and fixing typos etc, but I like the guts of the scene.

Total words so far 2,425 after three days. A good start.

Tomorrow I’ll look at the scene where they go to buy bread at Mr Needem’s.

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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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