Toilets In Fiction:
How come fictional characters
are never be allowed to use the bathroom?

/ /

"How come fictional characters can never be allowed to use the bathroom?

They can have sex and swear and steal and cheat and vomit and all manner of disgusting habits humans partake in but not once do they use the stupid toilet. Isnt that weird?

My character has a full bladder from the night before so she needs to pee. And then I thought, well, wait a second. With few rare exceptions, nobody in fiction ever uses the toilet. And if this comes up for you while working a story doesn't it strike you as somewhat odd that that's un unspoken rule? That's goofy.

Feel free to reveal some examples I may not have read but still...... at the moment I really can't think of any novel or short story (aside from a recent one where Stephen King had a guy wind up being trapped in a porta potty) where during the course of that story they stop what they are doing and take a dump or let go their water or however the writer chose to describe it.

It just feels unnatural to me to force myself to ignore the natural function of a full bladder for my character and finish the scene without the poor character being able to do what- in her world in the pages-- is a perfectly natural thing to do.

I make my characters go all the time, precisely because this admission annoys me.

Same with eating. Characters never eat. They are rarely sick. It's almost never raining. And characters have nothing in their pockets, practically ever.

Most characters seem not to have jobs or family. All they have is a plot that needs pushing forward. It's so cliche that it gets distracting.

And I don't mean being gratuitous about it or feature it once or twice each day we see this character during the course of the timeline of the story but once or twice in this novel I am working on it'd be nice to have a line or two where she waddles off stage to say.... "ahhhhhhhh."   And then return to the story and move forward.

I assume most people don't include toilets in their books because, they don't advance the plot.

Writers don't mention every detail of the grooming routine either, but it's my book, I should be able to do what I want, right? Will it effect my chances of getting published?

Or am I over thinking every little detail? How have YOU solved this? "

You know that children's book, the one that tells you, Everyone Poops? Well, yeah. It seems that not every body does, at least  not in fiction. Not in books. No on TV. Not in movies. Not in music videos.

Sure, real people and animals in you know everyday life pee and poop several times a day, but in fiction? Nah! In fiction people don't even have genitals unless it's a Romance novel, and in those you have wonder, what with all the rising mountains and flooding oceans if folks got anything hiding behind their landscaping! LOL! You're not likely to see a fictional character going to the bathroom, with the exception of Redneck Humor, where toilet talk, toilet use, and the glorification of poop is front and center and right in your face. You see it toilet scenes in a lot of self-published works.

But as for why? Well, in most stories a character taking a leak, making a dump, running behind a tree, looking for the little girl's room, or otherwise seeking to relieve themselves in generally considered to detract from the plot of the story.

"And besides", say publishers, editors, and agents, "nobody really wants to see that sort of thing, do they? If it's not crucial to the story, than don't include it. That's not only not crucial, it's vulgar. No body wants to see that! Cut. Cut. Cut. Trim. Trim. Trim. Polish it up nice and smooth and squeaky clean."

Toilet scenes are in more manuscripts than you could image. Every author writes them in thinking: I'm gonna be unique, the editor will just love how original I am for putting this toilet scene in, because NOBODY does this. Yay me!

Than they get the notes from the editor, scrawled in bleeding red ink all over their clean write print outs. Cut. Cut. Cut. Trim. Trim. Trim. Polish it up nice and smooth and squeaky clean. And low and behold what are the editors furiously stabbing their red slash marks all over? Why the your ingenuously unique inclusion of the toilet scenes of course!

There are some publishers which specifically state in their guidelines "no toilet scenes", Harlequin is one of them. So, yeah, it could effect your getting published, depending on what publisher you are dealing with, so always check with a publisher's guidelines.

I actually wrote a series called "Redneck Romances" which contained a story titled "The Port-A-Potty King" about the romance of a woman who fell in love with a professional Honey Dipper (a guy who makes his living cleaning port-a-potties at RV parks). Pretty much every page of that book has got toilets, port-a-potties, and/or talk of poo, with the discussions between characters often including complaints about how messy people are on the pot.

If you watch the music video below, and pay attention to the girls in the background, you'll see KidRock breaks the rule of no pooping on screen:

"How come fictional characters can never be allowed to use the bathroom?

I assume most people don't include toilets in their books because, they don't advance the plot.

Writers don't mention every detail of the grooming routine either, but it's my book, I should be able to do what I want, right?"

Well, actually, I DO mention every detail of what my characters do.  :P That's how the series got to span 200+ stories in 35 years, and still being written! LOL!

I hadn't thought about it until reading this question either. But yeah, I've always got characters walking off to the bathroom in the middle of a conversation, I mean people do that in real life, why wouldn't fictional characters do it?

I have one elderly character (Roderic) who in the later stories is more or less bedridden and also has no hands, so he's got a servant that does everything for him, and that has included scenes with the servant helping him at the toilet, as well as the servant cleaning the bed/bedding and his master after "accidents" in bed; these "accidents" being a frequent (and embarrassing for him) occurrence in his later years.

This partly came from experience taking care of my grandmother the last 6 years of her life, when she was hiding the fact that she had to wear diapers and they often leaked, and she needed someone to be there to wash her up and change her diapers. She was absolutely mortified by the loss of freedom and the having to depend on someone else to clean her. It was a horrendous blow for her to suddenly go from a active, independent lifestyle one day and suddenly be an invalid the next.

That level of emotion, was something that struck me, and was one of the reasons I started jumping ahead and writing stories where Roderic was really, really old and had lost control of his bodily functions. The deep sense of loss of freedom and dignity, and the thought of living in absolute mortification and embarrassment at simply not being able to control your bladder or bowel movements anymore, is a horrific experience for those who have to suffer through it, and for an elderly person, it's such a lose of self, to have to give up such an intimate part of your life to the care of someone else.

Roderic is the main character of the series which follows his life from childhood to extreme old age, spanning from the late 1500s until 2525 (obviously he's not human). The series (of just over 200 short stories mostly 7,000 to 15,000 words each) covers every detail of his life. And I do mean every detail. If this guy missed a meal, readers know it, whether they want to or not.  ;D

 I do a lot of odd, random (possibly boring for the reader, but heck, I'm one of those readers who WANTS to read every detail, and I am completely madly in love with this character whom I've written about daily for 35 years now, so it's not boring to me!) scenes. It has also included scenes literally detailing the action of the servant brushing the old man's long white hair, mostly because I like obsessing over old men with long white hair, for some reason that I can not explain. When get right down to it, there isn't really a plot moving this story/series forward, it's purely character driven and is more like a scientists looking at a bug under a microscope and just writing down everything he sees happening.

It's like I'm looking down at Roderic's life and just recording what I see, so the story really falls under the category of "family saga" where it's just every day slice-of-life things going on, including some stories that are just following Roderic around the house as he goes from one mundane thing to the next and that has at times included following him into the bathroom and recording that too, and none of any of these events advance the plot at all, because other than following Roderic around every day of hi life for well over 500 years, there is no plot to the series as at all. Things happen, sure, Roderic has a plenty eventful life, there's always something interesting going on, but it's a life not unlike real life where lose ends never get tied up, mysteries go unsolved, happily ever afters don't exist, and all those typical things stories have by the time they reach the end, simply do not exist and thus the story goes on endlessly forever.

For me writing is more about capturing the deep emotions of the character, and not about plot. Sure plot is great for more stories, but this story/series isn't about plot, it's about how this man (who has Autism and Schizophrenia [because I have Autism and Schizophrenia, and thus I know how such a character views the world]) sees the world around him.

I have a strong emotional attachment and connection to Roderic. He is a character whom I've written about daily over the course of 35 years now. I know him better that I know myself. I am able to write deeply emotional stories about him, because I have such string feelings towards him. If it was possible to say that you loved a fictional character with all your heart and sole, I would say such was the case with my feelings for Roderic.

Roderic is a very vulnerable character. He's small, frail, thin, underweight, sickly, and weak. He gets hurt easily, injured frequently, and sick often. Throughout most of his life he has to rely heavily on others because he is not mentally capable of fully taking care of himself properly.

Roderic is not very smart, he's easily confused, everything frightens him, he's quick to run and hide, and he's probably the most complete opposite of what one would normally expect in a hero. He's not a character you root for, but rather a character you hope someone will look after and take care of. The story relies heavily on reader emotion, rather than plot, to move the story forward. Roderic is in such a pitiful state most days that you just want to grab him and hug him and help him overcome the hurdles of just getting from one room to the next. There is a huge emphasis on Roderic's vulnerability to getting hurt and being taken advantage of by other characters.

I think that is where the use (or perhaps overuse?) of toilet, bathroom, bed-wetting, and diaper changing scenes come in. It plays on the extreme vulnerability of this character, it shows the reader just how utterly helpless and fully dependent on the care of others this man really is. On the one hand you have a man whom the entire planet is terrified of, a man whom people fear, and yet, behind the scenes is a man who can barely get from the bed to the toilet without an accident happening in between. The world fears him and yet the reader knows the truth, knows that this man is not what the world thinks him to be, knows that for Roderic every day is a struggle just to do the things everyone else does without thinking about.

But yeah, I mean until you asked this question I never really thought about it before, but no, not many stories every show characters using the toilet, and I didn't really think about partly because my own characters frequently use the toilet and I've no qualms about writing them doing so either. Weird how I just never even thought about it before.

I Love Roderic!
A List of Every Page on this Site
Where I Talk More About Roderic

It is no secret that Sir Roderic Lincandonia Swanzen, owner of The Twighlight Manor, is my favorite character, and you don't have to read very many blog posts, articles, site pages, etc to realize, I talk about him A LOT. While you see him mentioned in passing on just about every page on this site, there are some pages where I go into vast detail about his life. I am going to make a list of them all and tack it to the end of each of those pages, to make it easier for readers to find them all. And here they are:

Roderic Swanzen

Developing Character Backgrounds

Using a Character with a Mental Illness

But Is It Erotica?

Toilets in Fiction

Twighlight NOT Twilight!

Mental Illness in Fiction

Incest In Fiction

Mute Characters

Characters With Disabilities

NaNoWriMo: How Do You Pick Which Story to Write?

Enhance Your Creativity To Become a Better Writer

Fantasy World Building

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