frog on toilet


“Write what you know.”

And something everyone knows is you have to go to the bathroom several times a day. When you gotta go, you gotta go. It’s non-negotiable.

So why do fictitious characters hardly ever need to do this?

Not that I’m keen to know every time someone in a novel needs to take a whiz, but considering how awkward it is to be “took short,” wouldn’t authors who want to make their characters suffer take advantage of physiological realities? Especially when you consider the amount of coffee imbibed by some characters and their creators. What about a detective hot on the trail of a suspect who has to stop and look for a washroom? Or a romantic scene short-circuited by a call of nature?

And what about villains? There may be other ways to foil their evil plans.


Seriously, I’ve read advice to the effect that readers relate better to characters with real human imperfections than to flawless types who never mess up or encounter any of the annoying little problems of life. Like running out of TP. Or making an entrance trailing some from one’s stiletto heel.

So what prompted these scatological speculations? The main character of my current work in progress is right now in a situation where the facilities are minimal and basic. No hot shower, no triple-ply TP, and maybe no toilet as such — awkward for a young American woman visiting a village on the west bank of the Nile in 1962. And things are going to get worse.

I suppose the reason for the absence of bodily functions in fiction is obvious: “Eww, who wants to read about that stuff?” Well, hardly anybody, including me. As a fictional device, this is one where “less is more” applies. Which is why my character will have to cope with the lack of facilities off-page. Besides, if I do my job right, she’ll have a lot more to worry about.


washroom sign

Images courtesy of Pixabay




  1. Audrey so many fictional characters don’t need to go to the bathroom because they rarely eat or drink anything except alcoholic drinks or coffee! ☕☕☕🍸🍸🍸🍺🍺🍺

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  2. I did read a short sci-fi story once, set on the Moon, where the astronaut was stranded after his moon-crawler broke and had to slog it, on foot, back to base – the fact that one cannot last 24 hours without ‘going’ entered the plot, integrally. But only as a side-mention. As you say, it’s something that authors usually elide, and for good reason…

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  3. I’m not sure, but I think any draft of my manuscripts if I mentioned anything “unmentionable” it ended being cut on the final draft. Maybe I won’t any longer.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There are always those conversations – and sometimes violent confrontations – in the washroom. Vomit seems to come up (no pun intended) quite often in modern fiction. And I’ve read books about the great arctic explorers and mountaineers who usually include a paragraph or two about the difficulty of doing what comes naturally in sub-zero temperatures.

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