Bodily Functions in Writing

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Irish_Carbomb

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Bodily Functions in Writing
« on: July 25, 2017, 05:14:14 PM »
So I mostly ask this just as a lark, but also because I find it funny how entrenched people are on either end of this topic (no pun intended).

Do any of you include bodily functions in your writing?

I've run the gamut with the majority of them (urination, defecation, vomit, etc), mostly in passing mentions, though there was a chapter with a poopocalypse (plot relevant: thought to be plague, but later discovered to be the result of poisoning). I don't do it for shock factor, but because it feels weird to run through 600 pages of novel and nobody ever has to use the bathroom. It doesn't necessarily always add to the plot, either. It makes it feel more real in some cases, I guess. But it strikes me as I read so much...I may be the odd one here. In all of my vast reading, I'd say it's mostly gritty sci-fi and dark fantasy that even allude to it at all, and those instances are rare. And it's not even always the act OF going. Like...I mention latrine duty in a war camp, so it also lends itself to world-building or scene setting in that aspect...but for other authors it almost comes across like a dirty secret nobody can talk about even in a roundabout way. XD

Just curious where everyone else stands.

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Ahryantah

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2017, 08:58:51 PM »
I've never felt a particular need to include urination and defecation in my writing, though I've had copious vomiting as well as several references to menstruation (mostly because that almost never comes up in books, especially fantasy books). I'm not opposed to including bodily functions, and I can think of several scenarios where it would be appropriate, but for the most part I haven't bothered.
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Jedi Knight Muse

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2017, 09:17:51 PM »
In a word..

...no.

Not because I've made a conscious effort to avoid writing about gross stuff like that ('cause, like, if I can write torture-type-things, then I should be able to deal with writing about poop and pee and getting your period (when it applies) and all that good stuff, right?

I just...it's not something that I ever think about consciously adding in?

But I can see the world building purposes behind it. A good example would be the first episode of this current season of Game of Thrones. (I'll leave it at that, because I don't want to turn this into a Game of Thrones discussion, but needless to say the writers of the episode definitely made a point to show that things aren't always fun and games at a citadel and there's some really nasty stuff involved.)

I imagine that with Storms of Magic, it's something that I could definitely see needing to be added in, especially with Arris spending days and days on a boat with a bunch of other guys (and at least one or two women).

I did have Arris throw up in one of the early scenes, so that's something at least.

I've never had a reference to menstruation, but that's definitely probably something that I should make an effort to mention in some way. But I haven't really thought about bothering with that kind of thing until now.
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Sheepy-Pie

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2017, 08:35:41 AM »
My favourite author does in at least three series of hers. Both pee and poo, and then one character also was on her period.

As for me, I have period mention (and will have flailing character in crampy pain later) in chapter 1, and it's the reason why she can't go snoop on bad guy, cause he is a demon and they can smell blood really well :P

I might have some small mention of going toilet later on too, I'm not purposely avoiding it.

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ScribblerKat

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2017, 05:01:32 PM »
I only include bodily functions when I absolutely must. And although I'm a big animation fan, I have missed a lot of animated films because of bathroom humor. I've also missed a lot of comedies because of bathroom and locker room humor. I find it all childish and distasteful.

I similarly don't care for explicit sex scenes, but not out of distaste. It's just that they're boring.

(picturing everyone making mental notes that Scribblerkat is a prude... which I am not, just for the record!)
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True Neutral

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2017, 08:14:45 AM »
See...I find it weirder if it does get mentioned because it's just not a polite topic of conversation, at least in most western countries. If you have to go and there's company, you politely excuse yourself and don't further discuss it. (Unless you're 2 years old, in which case, you probably announce it to everyone and embarrass your parents. I only mention that because I have a friend with a kid who's just getting into that stage, and she was here the other day.) You just kind of pretend it didn't happen. If possible, you try to slip away and be discreet. There is definitely a taboo there.

In reading, if I see that it's getting constantly mentioned, that will put me off of a book. There's a difference between saying an outhouse is there and describing your character's bowel movements. I just find the latter rather tasteless. Much like ScribblerKat, bathroom humor in comedy really puts me off. I'm also really not a fan of modern art that celebrates bodily functions for this reason.

As a rule, I only mention it if it's plot-relevant. If a character spots some scouts because he went off to take a leak or something. Or if someone's throwing up because they've just witnessed something awful or disgusting. (Yeah...if you find a corpse that's been rotting in the summer sun for three days, you're probably going to gag, at the very least.) And I suppose if you know what tanning and fulling entail, you would probably guess what the area where that happens smells like. But I generally try to avoid bringing it up if possible.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2017, 08:17:17 AM by True Neutral »

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Sheepy-Pie

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2017, 09:39:01 AM »
it's just not a polite topic of conversation, at least in most western countries. If you have to go and there's company, you politely excuse yourself and don't further discuss it. You just kind of pretend it didn't happen. If possible, you try to slip away and be discreet. There is definitely a taboo there.

Are you in the US by any chance? Cause I would say it's less so in the UK. Of course it also depends on your company and where you are... but like I was out with my mum the other day and she commented that every conversation seemed to go back to about shit :P I can also have random/comfortable talks with at least one friend about it too in a detailed way and others a bit less so.

But then on the other hand, I don't see normal functions embarrassing (and yet also can't poo in public cause I don't want people to hear :P ) and often joke about some things to both normalise it and to have a laugh. At the end of the day everyone pisses and shits.

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Tyrannohotep

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2017, 01:55:45 PM »
Most mundane bodily functions sound like something I'd rather skip in writing. The reasons should be self-evident.  :-X
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True Neutral

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2017, 08:01:50 PM »
Are you in the US by any chance? Cause I would say it's less so in the UK.
Actually, I have a few friends who are either British expats themselves or the (dual-citizen) kids of British expats, and they're even more mortified by discussing it than the Americans and Canadians I know.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2017, 12:14:36 AM by True Neutral »

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Xanxa

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2017, 09:54:08 PM »
I prefer the "less is more" approach when it comes to writing about bodily functions.  I let the reader assume that my characters urinate, defecate, etc. 

In one of my prison dramas, I have the MC cleaning latrines as a punishment (and cheating by using sorcery on a few occasions). 

I have one rather gross character who can vomit at will and is proud of her ability to do so.  In the closed society where she was brought up, deliberate projectile vomiting is considered a skill and she is one of the best at doing it. 

In my desert culture, the hallucinogenics taken as part of a fertility ritual cause the user to feel extreme nausea, which often results in vomiting.  I wrote an amusing scene whereby the husband tries to avoid vomiting over his wife while they're in the midst of intercourse.  He's from a different culture but gamely goes along with the desert-dwellers' rituals. 

The only other gross scene I wrote was about a woman miscarrying.  I researched on medical sites to get the details accurate.  The scene had to have a strong impact because it was partly her fault that she miscarried.  She ignored the medical advice which she was given and didn't stick to the recommended diet, then blamed the healers and priests for not being able to carry the child full-term. 
« Last Edit: July 28, 2017, 09:55:51 PM by Xanxa »
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ScribblerKat

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2017, 03:03:50 PM »
Are you in the US by any chance? Cause I would say it's less so in the UK.

Yes, I'm in the USA. I've watched enough British comedies, however, to figure the UK was less, um, inhibited about those things.
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SecretRock

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2017, 08:12:36 AM »
Are you in the US by any chance? Cause I would say it's less so in the UK.
Actually, I have a few friends who are either British expats themselves or the (dual-citizen) kids of British expats, and they're even more mortified by discussing it than the Americans and Canadians I know.

It depends on the crowd you're with, I find. Friends and close family joke about it all the time, but anywhere that's semi formal (during class, work, posh parties, etc.) it's pretty taboo. It seems to depend on places and subcultures here, as I'm sure it does everywhere else.

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True Neutral

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2017, 09:07:40 AM »
Are you in the US by any chance? Cause I would say it's less so in the UK.
Actually, I have a few friends who are either British expats themselves or the (dual-citizen) kids of British expats, and they're even more mortified by discussing it than the Americans and Canadians I know.

It depends on the crowd you're with, I find. Friends and close family joke about it all the time, but anywhere that's semi formal (during class, work, posh parties, etc.) it's pretty taboo. It seems to depend on places and subcultures here, as I'm sure it does everywhere else.
I come from a very formal family that keeps nearly everything private and so do most of my friends, regardless of origin.

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Irish_Carbomb

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2017, 01:53:35 PM »
Most mundane bodily functions sound like something I'd rather skip in writing. The reasons should be self-evident.  :-X

I don't find it taboo in my group of friends or around family, so the reasoning there is personal rather than universal. As many others have stated, informal scenarios often do tend to lead to such things. I can understand if it never makes it into your writing for those reasons.

I only include bodily functions when I absolutely must. And although I'm a big animation fan, I have missed a lot of animated films because of bathroom humor. I've also missed a lot of comedies because of bathroom and locker room humor. I find it all childish and distasteful.

I similarly don't care for explicit sex scenes, but not out of distaste. It's just that they're boring.

(picturing everyone making mental notes that Scribblerkat is a prude... which I am not, just for the record!)

I would never call you a prude. It's different for everyone. I was just curious if or when it would crop up for others. What I do disagree with is bodily functions and laughing at them being childish. It may not be appropriate humor for every occasion, but that doesn't make it childish. I think normalizing it is actually a bit freeing.

Regardless, the use of it in books isn't always for laughs. As I mentioned in the OP, I do use it when plot relevant or in passing mentions. Like...when people are camped out in the woods and get up in the morning. The first thing almost everybody does is urinate when they get up in the morning. For a fast moving war band, it holds true. Get your needs out of the way because we aren't stopping until midday meal. So in a single paragraph to sum up the morning routine and move back into the prose, there's a mention of urination in a string of other information.
___

As for the rest of the conversation, I am writing dark fantasy, so it has an element of dirty reality therein. I've alluded to the gamut of bodily functions. Some do get mentioned explicitly (ex: the poopocalypse, aspirating vomit, wetting pants in abject fear, etc). Most, however, are only mentioned in passing and are easily processed in the background without sitting center stage for scrutiny. I find slipping in mentions doesn't detract from the reading.

I'm both amused and frustrated the conversation kind of immediately wrote the question off as intended for comedic effect when it definitely wasn't. Get clinical with me here. If the doctor wants a stool sample, we're not cracking fart jokes (pun SO intended).

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Jedi Knight Muse

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Re: Bodily Functions in Writing
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2017, 05:30:01 PM »
I've definitely talked about...stomach aches with my friends, but that's because I have "unofficial" IBS (I'm saying "unofficial" because I take a med for it for when I get a stomach ache, but also because the gastroenterologist I went to basically thinks I have IBS but I don't really have the symptoms for it. There was a point in 2011 where I'd have stomach aches almost every day, and I'd be at work...super embarrassing, because I had to have someone cover me so I could go deal with it (and that still happens). It turned out that the tumor I had near my aorta gave off a hormone that caused stomach aches. The stomach aches didn't just magically go away after I got that tumor removed, but it's waaaaay better than it was back then. Usually I get them once a month OR because of certain foods I've eaten, but it doesn't really seem to matter what food it is), and there have been times where I've been like "oh shit (no pun intended), I really need to use the bathroom," and I either rush to do so or I make someone pull in somewhere with a bathroom (if we're in a car) so that I can go. Actually, there have been way too many of those times for me to count.  :-\

...I don't talk about it in detail or anything, though.

Burping doesn't phase me. I can give loud, long, man sized burps when I've had a lot of soda. (There was one time when I was in high school where I was on the phone with my friend and I burped and it, like, echoed through the house and my dad heard it from upstairs. My friend and I STILL talk about it, and that was like...sixteen years ago, at least!) My friends know that I can do this and don't care. None of them are prim and proper.

Talking about bodily functions and/or actually doing those bodily functions (like farting or pooping) totally depends on where I am and who I'm with. Like, I once accidentally farted in front of my dad's fiance, but I didn't say anything and I just tried to pretend it didn't happen. Despite the fact that she and I have known each other for ~10 years and my dad's been engaged for at least five or six, we still have never farted in front of each other (that I know), but my dad has no problem doing so in front of either of us when we're both in the same room. But I could pretty easily fart in front of certain friends. The one that I burped on the phone with back in high school? I had a sleepover and we ate taco dip (which has onions and some other stuff in it) at like 2 AM with two other girls and we were all farting up a storm.

...I think this is officially the first time I've talked this much about bodily functions in an online community. :P  :'( (pretend those are happy/laughing tears, not sad)
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