Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Things go South...

Have you ever realized how rare it is for a character in a book to go to the bathroom?

Once in a great while, I stop during a particularly long scene that covers a large period of uninterrupted time and think, "Man, that character must REALLY have to pee!"

If you think it's weird that I notice these things, please realize it isn't often, and that I'm a mother of 4 children, 3 of them potty trained. It's my JOB to notice bathroom habits!

Then what is the reason we don't see characters go to the bathroom (besides the obvious gross factor?)

Because....

IT DOESN'T ADD TO THE STORY!

Unless your scene needs to have a portion take place IN the bathroom (which I actually have read before) there is no need to go there.

Now, this blog post isn't just about not taking your character to the bathroom. Because that would be kinda weird.

It's about the fine line between showing enough of our characters life to immerse the reader and make it realistic without boring them to tears.

It is realistic for our character to go to the bathroom.
It is realistic for our character to burp.
It is realistic for our character to far.... er, pass air through their digestive system.
It may be realistic for our character to file their nails, do their makeup, take a shower, get dressed, do laundry, clean the house, bake cookies, mow the lawn, surf the Internet, watch TV, get a pedicure, pick a piece of food out of their teeth, blow their nose and accidentally get a booger on their shirt.

There are a TON of realistic things our characters do, day in and day out.

But we can't show them all. Otherwise our story will be...

BORING! And gross.

Although we need to show SOME of them, otherwise our story will be...

FAKE!

The key is to show these realistic things in the course of a scene where it ADDS TO OUR STORY. Where it enhances instead of distracts.

If you're in the middle of a discussion between hero and heroine and the heroine suddenly stops and says, "Hold on, I have to go to the bathroom, be right back." Yeah, totally ruins the moment. Although when a girls gotta go, a girls gotta go!

But a scene where a villainous antagonist who is trying to seduce the hero away from the heroine escapes into the restaurant bathroom to collect herself and primps to make sure her dress is showing all the right curves and shoves past someone else coming into the restroom.... it potentially shows her intention, character, and motive through "action" verses telling dialogue.

Or a single heroine who drags out the lawnmower on a Saturday morning only to be accosted by her elderly neighbor who forces her to take custody of the woman's huge fat cat even when heroine HATES animals, then the cat becomes a constant figure throughout the book and shows the woman's loneliness when she resorts to telling her woes to the mammoth feline.

Discussion: What "realistic" scenes do you have in your novel, or have you read in a novel recently?

(Note: this is a repost from a few years ago. And considering I'm reposting because I've been dealing with a daughter who has C Diff... a spore that infests your digestive system and causes some not so pleasant, uh, symptoms... it seemed appropriate!)

4 comments:

Susan Anderson said...

This makes me chuckle. It reminds me of myself and how I see things. I don't know how many times I've watched a movie and something happens, like a bull in a china shop, or a fight scene, or a car crash, or a food fight, and I think, "Who is going to clean that up?"

Krista Phillips said...

Susan, ME TOO!!! Especially the police car chases. I just can't help but realizing how many people just died in all those other exploding cars! Yet that never gets a mention... most people who watch are just like, "Ohhhhhh, fire... pretty...." :-)

Susan Anne Mason said...

I read a book over the summer (can't remember which one) and it brought up the point of 'morning breath'. And I thought, "finally someone addresses this topic!" In soap operas, everyone wakes up with hair and make up done and obviously smelling terrific!

LOL!

Hope your daughter is feeling better, Krista!

Cheers,
Sue

Krista Phillips said...

Susan, I KNOW!!!!

Morning breath... I LOVE IT! Well, not that... but that someone had the guts to put it in a book, LOL.