Maybe it’s my age, but I find myself being critical of stories where the characters can seemingly go for days without going to the loo. I mean, really. How many of us, get up, get dressed, and rush out of the house without stopping to pee? Let alone any other morning rituals – shower, teeth brushing, coffee, food.
I remember reading The Da Vinci Code and thinking half way through – hang on, this guy hasn’t been to the bathroom in days. Perhaps, in an adventure story, it’s not advisable to break the tension by having the characters shoot off to the toilet now and then. They certainly won’t have time for sex either (I think they did at some point in TDVC – but they must have been very smelly and dirty – not having had time to wash or go to the bathroom). And even writing a romance, where the action’s not taking place at breakneck speed, you don’t want to spoil the moment with the love interest saying, ‘Um, excuse me, I really have to go. Where’s the bathroom?” (And, of course, they never fart at inappropriate times.)
Do readers either want, or expect, realism? In writing stories, there has to be a balance, I think, between describing a character’s movements (not bowel ones) in enough detail to make them seem realistic, and boring the reader to death with too much information.
I was given a diary when I was young, eight in fact. It was a small book and there wasn’t much space for each day’s entry. I still have this diary and the entries are very succinct: ‘I played’. ‘I went to school’ (only I spelled school backwards – did I think my parents couldn’t decipher this?). The most descriptive one – ‘We had a horrible lunch’ – I wonder what that was (and maybe I hoped my parents would read that one!).
The diary did have some useful information in it though, which may be why I’ve kept it.
And my point is? Well, I didn’t write in the diary that I got up, went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, ate breakfast…although I would have done all these things before ‘I played’ or ‘went to school’ or ‘had a horrible lunch’.
At the tender age of eight I realised that this was a given, so maybe I should just accept that it isn’t necessary for the writer to tell us that the character went to the bathroom before she set off to save the world, or whatever. I mean, it’s obvious. She would have had to. She might be able to leave the house without having a shower, coffee or food, maybe even forgetting to brush her teeth, but she would have had to pee. Or, is this just my age showing? There’s no way I leave the house without having visited the bathroom.
But, maybe not this one – it’s a bit too ‘outdoor’ for me.
(Note: the animal tracks stayed with me. When I got my first camera, some of my earliest photos were of animal tracks in the snow.)
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