The discussion of bodily functions in literature

Use this forum to discuss the February 2018 Book of the Month, "The Reel Sisters" by Michelle Cummings.
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Re: The discussion of bodily functions in literature

Post by LoisCHenderson »

holsam_87 wrote:
08 Apr 2018, 23:20
Unfortunately I have a tendency to shy away from books that get too descriptive in talking about bodily functions. I get easily nauseous when I read about them, which is ironic since I work as a Home Care worker.
Couldn't help but laugh at Prince Charles' response to the furore about whether he took his own toilet seat on tour with him!

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Post by Cswrawr »

There are moments where I certainly wish books would bring up this topic. I recently reread all the Little House on the Prairie books and at one point I ended up google searching frontier bathrooms because I realized that Pa had built like three houses and not once had she mentioned him building an outhouse.

While trying to remember if I've read any that mention toilets specifically, I recalled the horrifying scene in Dreamcatcher by Stephen King which I saw mentioned above, UGH!

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Post by Javier Campos »

It is always a bit awkward but if it is included it should convey some sort of message or idea about the character or the plot, so I think bodily fluids could useful as literary devices

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Post by kina »

Bettercallyourbookie wrote:
31 Mar 2018, 20:36
Many of the books that I read involve larger issues than bodily function, like running from a corrupt government or coping with the apocalypse. Because there are so many other issues, the author rarely has time to comment on things that we normal people take for granted, like finding time to go to the bathroom. :lol:

While I think it would be an effective way to create a sense of realism, I think it would be hard to incorporate it in a way that isn't distracting or weird. Or to make sure it doesn't change the tone of the writing.
That's definitely true and how I feel about it. Sometimes adding bodily functions even takes me out of a story by being made uncomfortable by how awkward it is. I wish authors would add subtle bodily functions where they count though instead of just descriptions of mindsets and thoughts, such as a person starving in the apocalypse or being so scared they wet themselves.

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Post by Allie_L »

I find that usually when bodily functions are mentioned in books it's used as a form of comic relief and I'm all for it! As long as things don't get truly disgusting, I can handle a bit of potty humour.

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Post by crediblereading2 »

I have never read a book where there is a description of bodily functions, except medicinal books, etc.
I must say though, that I can only imagine that this could give the book an engaging and realistic feel if it is now described in a lewd manner.

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Post by Zain A Blade »

I've read many books that describe bodily functions in detail, though I can't readily remember the title of the books right now. It's never really bothered me, because it depends on the author's narrative style and the plot's setting and theme. If bodily functions were to be described in Victorian novels like Pride and Prejudice or historical romances like The Duke & I, well... now that would seem very off.

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Post by AnitaM »

In my experience, books rarely include references to normal, everyday bodily functions. I haven't really considered it before, maybe authors assume that it would be boring reading. Personally, I think it would be an interesting addition - perhaps making the characters seem more real? The inclusion wouldn't offend me anyway, bodily functions are part of life!

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Post by kastle »

The effects of bodily functions in books actually fascinates me in seeing how authors describe them. After having cancer, bodily functions are second nature to me and reading them in books doesn't bother me at all.

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Post by Sketches_by_Shell »

BriennaiJ wrote:
30 Mar 2018, 07:45
LoisCHenderson wrote:
29 Mar 2018, 22:04
BriennaiJ wrote:
29 Mar 2018, 19:00
I have to say that I have not read any books recently that really describe bodily functions. However, I think that they would be an interesting addition to some novels. Especially fantasy novels. I think I would laugh seeing a person having to deal with having to pee during the apocalypse, or having an upset stomach or even the flu while they were traveling on a long-term adventure.
Or imagine a vampire attacking one on the loo - kind of takes the gravity out of the situation (though some might say it adds substance to it ...).
Yes! All of these things would be hilarious to read, and yet it would allow readers to truly put themselves in the shoes of the main characters. :lol2:
That might just be one thing I would rather not relate so strongly with a character! Many times when reading a book, I can delve into many of the characters by their actions and feelings in the story. However, if one had the flu, I believe I would rather not.
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." Cicero

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Post by Kendra M Parker »

One of Soman Chainani’s books that I recently read had a description of the character being pulled into a grave and realizing that she was hungry, couldn’t breathe or pee and immediately feeling a need for all three. It’s a great example a fantasy work including these bodily functions in a way to speaks to a reader and makes it more “real” somehow.

I certainly don’t mind seeing bodily functions included as long as they are pertinent to the story and actually add something to it. I don’t care for gratuitous addition.

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Post by rusalka »

Sometimes it would be refreshing for women in fiction to even have bodily functions, to be honest; as is, no woman ever is hindered by period cramps or a lack of a public toilet nearby. As amazing as that would be irl, it just doesn’t sound very true.

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Post by Chanti Stargirl »

I find that bodily functions should only be in a book if they add value to the story. Otherwise it should only be subtly hinted at, just to make the character feel more human. It is a subject that I thought about once when I noticed a distinct lack of bodily function in some novels. I then concluded that it is generally assumed that a character has a way of dealing with these issues that is either mundane or gross. Either way it would not be worth telling because it does not add anything to the story.

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Post by Lgs1089 »

Bodily functions are natural, but also one of those details that really depend on the purpose of the scene when deciding whether or not it's relevant to incorporate in writing.
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Post by teacherjh »

I think it's interesting in our society of no privacy and no shame that peeing is still taboo to discuss or write about. I remember in Ramona the Pest when she asked the teacher when the character went to the bathroom. Classic scene.

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