We reblogged this article recently about excluding mundane things from novels. Poop was used as an example. (It’s always a good move to use poop as an example. It gets people interested.) The article suggested that books leave out things that people do every day because everybody does them. Why include the mundane in books?
ENTER O’S OPINION.
This is why blanket statements about writing never work (except, perhaps, the blanket statement asserting that blanket statements never work). There are great ways—brilliant ways—to write characters that pee, or characters that brush their teeth, or characters that, say, make grilled cheese sandwiches.
The word “exciting” is not a good requirement for deciding whether or not to include something in a story. A story does not need to have car chases and drug dealers and zombies to be exciting. Stories can be something aside from exciting. They can exhibit, as Flannery O’Connor called it, “the mystery of personality.”
And if you’re getting into the mystery of personality by describing your character hitting the john, then, doggone it, you do you.
Here’s an example:
By the time I get home from the late-late shift at Taco Bell I’ve probably downed like six 24 oz. Baja Blasts. I need a little something to keep me going, dealing with those red-eyed fourth-mealers, but all of that Baja really gets me Blasting, so by the time I waddle into my apartment I really gotta take a wiz.
But tonight when I get back I trip over my roommate’s skateboard, which was brilliantly lying there in front of the door like he wants me to come in all bleary-eyed, bladder-burstin’, and nearly lose my life in an accidental kickflip. And I’m lying there on the floor vowing vengeance against his sorry self.
I leave the door open to the pisser and pop his room open to maximize his listening experience. I rip down the pants and let the river flow. The piss thunders into the bottom of the bowl, it’s a Noah’s Flood of nitrates as I’m screwin’ up my face trying to pee as hard as I can. When I’m done I give an obnoxious sigh of relief and turn the water on full blast so I can wash my hands as loudly as possible.
Sure, I could have written a different scene about our humble narrator’s passive-aggressive roommate situation, but I didn’t. Why? Because this scene gives us a window into this character. A very specific kind of person tries to muster the force of his own urine to wake his roommate. This narrator is that kind of person, and I want you to know it.
An aside: Sensitivity to the volume of one’s urine is something that most humans have probably considered at least once in your life. Does it not make sense, then, to include such a thing in a story, if applicable?
Maybe your characters don’t pee. Maybe you don’t think it’s worthwhile for your characters to pee. For me, though, if they gotta take a leak, and I can write an important scene that characterizes and gives interesting details, you bet I’m going to write it. There is an exception to every rule, but this one had a few too many exceptions for me to keep quiet.
This is also a good time to point out that we do not agree with everything that we reblog, and not every admin agrees with everything that is posted. This is because of the subjective nature of writing; each person has different styles and different tastes and that is exactly as it should be.
Besides, poop is exciting. And it looks great in the title of an article.