Monday, July 25, 2011

Well, its that time again. Specifically the time where I realize its late in the day and I wanted to get a post out to all my loyal readers. I couldn’t keep a straight face while typing that, I have no readers! Haha!

Well, today will be some entertaining subject matter. Not really.

I have been having a discussion with one of my writing buddies lately as we critique each other’s novels. I won’t go into detail, but it has to do with characters and toilet usage.

Now, there are basically two schools of thought on this issue, and the one you follow depends a lot on the genre you are writing, personal preference, and what sort of story you’re creating.

The first school says to leave it all out. Why does the reader need to know that your characters have bodily functions? It’s just basically assumed. Did you know that on Star Trek, you never see a single toilet in the entire 7 season run of TNG. In one of the documentary specials, Jonathan Frakes even tells us where the bathroom on the Enterprise is. The designers added a single bathroom to the schematic in Main Engineering, indicating one toilet for a crew of 2,000. And, honestly, would the story be any richer if it was added?

Well, the second school of thought is that it humanizes the characters. Sticking with the sci-fi genre, in one of the first episodes of FireFly, we see Captain Reynolds peeing in a toilet that folds into the wall of his clearly very spacious quarters. He’s clearly got at least 130 square feet in there, but he has to have a fold-out toilet? Well, that’s neither here nor there; the point is the scene reminds us that this mighty space-man from the future still has basic human needs. It also adds a sense of gritty realism to the story.

What does this mean for you, the writer? I dunno, as I said, its something you have to go on personal preference for. I don’t bother including bodily functions unless its somehow important to the plot, such as a character getting snuck up on while he was relieving himself against a tree. Otherwise, its basically assumed. My writing buddy whom I was discussing this with? The character in the novel in question has to pee about every other chapter or so. Now, as someone with a bladder the size of a pingpong ball, I can relate, I’ve had to go twice while writing this article! But as a reader, well, it’s not really something I’m all that interested in reading about.

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