How To Write a Novel — Phone Call

Day 45 of writing my novel in public

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions 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 45 — Phone Call

Yesterday was a difficult writing day for me. I struggled to write the scene, even though it was one that had originally been something I was looking forward to. So today I’m going to focus back on one of the most important reasons to write — because it is fun.

Today’s scene is Charlie’s phone call to his dad. After discovering the dead body smell on Miasmus, Charlie is worried about his sister. I think that maybe this is an element that I can explore more in revision of yesterday’s scene. Charlie warned his sister previously to stay away from Miasmus, and yet he said nothing when she wanted to go play hide and seek all over The Smell Tower. There is definitely room to develop that, and maybe something happens with Sandy that prompts Charlie to make this call?

These are the story threads that I have for today’s scene.

  • Dad asks if the security guard has been treating them right.
  • Charlie tells his dad about the dead body, but he says it’s probably something he ate.
  • Charlie’s dad remembers Miasmus now — his mum packed him the stinkiest sandwiches and then Miasmus smelt of them all day.
  • Dad has been eating nothing but toast.
  • Charlie asks his dad if he’s heard about any murders, but he hasn’t. He has moved no further with the thefts, either. But they seem to have stopped.
  • March says the house is so quiet without them. But maybe Mum will be home soon.

Against the clock

In order to get the words down faster and stop me overthinking every detail, I will write against the clock in fifteen minute bursts. Today’s goal is 750 words in three bursts.

Charlie slept well that night. The next morning the sun rose hot and orange, and he joined Sandy at breakfast. She ordered pancakes with berries and ice cream whilst Charlie had egg and bacon.

“You should have come with us yesterday,” she said, “Staghorn wasn’t around so we explored all the other lifts.”

“I told you not to cause trouble,” said Charlie.

“You said to stay away from Miasmus, and we didn’t see him. But we did find lifts that go to all the other floors. My key card didn’t work on them though, so we decided it wasn’t fair to hide there.”

Charlie didn’t like his sister wandering all over The Smell Tower. He still had a bad feeling about the dead body smell on Miasmus, and it was better if his sister stayed out of it.

“I have something for you to do today,” said Charlie.

“You mean I can help you?” said Sandy, sitting up.

“Staghorn made a contraption that means I can make cupcakes in big batches, but we need people to put them into cases and into the ovens. You can help do that.”

Charlie wanted his sister with him where he could see what she was up to and that seemed like the easiest way.

After breakfast, Charlie decided it was about time he checked up on his dad. If he’d made some progress with the thefts then maybe he’d be able to come collect Sandy and take her home. It would be easier for him if he knew she was safe. Also there was the dead body. His dad might know if someone had gone missing.

Back in his room, Charlie called home. His dad answered on the second ring.

“Charlie, great to hear from you. Is that security guard looking after you?”

“She’s keeping an eye,” said Charlie, “Are you eating?”

“This case has me baffled, but I have munched through a loaf.”

Charlie expected that his dad had eaten nothing but toast, but there wasn’t much he could do from here.

“How’s the case going?”

“It isn’t. I haven’t moved any further with the robberies. Though there hasn’t been any more, so that’s something.”

“Listen dad, have you heard about anyone going missing?” said Charlie.

“Why, what’s happened?”

Charlie hesitated. He didn’t want to worry his dad, but he also wanted him to take Sandy away as early as possible. By telling some of the truth, he hoped to get his dad to understand without alarming him.

“I heard a cleaner saying they’d smelt a dead body in Miasmus’ room.”

His dad laughed.

“What’s so funny?”

“You know you asked me if I remembered who he was? Well it came back to me. We called him Stink Kerr. He always smelt so bad.”

So Dad did remember Miasmus. Charlie ticked off another box on his list of questions.

Dad continued, “It was his mum’s fault. She always packed him the stinkiest sandwiches. He stank of them all day.”

“Like dead bodies?” said Charlie.

“No. Not that bad. More like cheese and pickled onion, or curried egg. Poor Eric didn’t stand a chance.” His dad chuckled more.

“Dad, has anyone gone missing?” said Charlie.


“You haven’t heard about anyone just disappearing recently?”

His dad stopped laughing. “Not since your mum.”

“We know where she is,” said Charlie.

“Yeah, but not when she’s back. It has been so quiet here without the three of you. I’ve started to think maybe she’s never coming home.”

Charlie didn’t think so either, but his dad didn’t need to hear that.

“Could you try the MyPI app please?” he said.

“That’s not going to know when your mum’s coming home.”

“To see if anyone’s been reported missing recently.”

Charlie waited whilst he heard his dad tip-tapping on the phone.

“Nothing reported so far,” said Dad, “And I wouldn’t worry about the smell, it’s probably just something Eric ate.”

“Could you come get Sandy? Just in case.”

“She texted me to say she’s having a great time. Like a pig in muck she said.”

“Yeah, but there’s something about Miasmus that smells fishy, and I’m worried about her.”

“Look Charlie, Eric’s harmless. He’s certainly not a murderer. You get those cupcakes done and I’ll see you both next week.”

Charlie sat for a while after he finished the call, looking out over the city as a cloud crossed the sun and shrouded it in darkness. Something was not right, and the answer was in the penthouse. Somehow he had to find the combination.


The dialogue today feels stilted, and I struggled to make the scene flow, but I have the main reactions I wanted for the characters. Charlie is worried about his sister. Dad dismisses his fears and tells him a little more about Miasmus.

Total words so far 17,758.

Tomorrow I write the scene where Charlie trails Miasmus.

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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *