Let’s Talk with Diane A.S Stuckart

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS…

by Diane A.S. Stuckart

I blame Maggie Toussaint for today’s blog post. When I submitted my January entry for this column, she emailed me back to say that she’d hastily read its title and thought it said something about peeing. We both LOL’d at that, but then she got me thinking. You see, I’ve actually addressed this subject elsewhere before; namely, the mention (or lack thereof) of characters using the bathroom in fiction. And so I decided that would be an amusing topic for my next entry here at the Bench.

You more refined gentlefolk out there don’t have to stop reading. I promise to remain classy despite the subject matter. But first, a confession. I have three architectural obsessions. Two are churches and cemeteries, mostly because how people worship their God and honor their dead is far more revealing of the society than any written history. The third obsession is, to put it delicately, comfort stations. Much as with churches and cemeteries, bathrooms tell us a lot about a civilization. Which explains why my cell phone’s photo albums contain random pictures of famous and not-so-famous bathrooms, the glorious yellow-and-black tiled bathroom in Key West’s Ernest Hemmingway house being my number one (no pun intended) favorite.

So what does this have to do with cozy mysteries? Quite a bit, for me.

I started writing historical romances back in the 1990s (and reading them for a decade prior to that). I always found it odd that, while characters constantly jumped in and out of beds and carriages, they rarely ate or drank. And never did a heroine take a potty break! Though, thinking back now, I guess that taboo was typical of the times. For those as old as me, you might recall that the off-stage flushing toilet sound effect on All in the Family was considered edgy for 1970s TV. And trivia buffs know that the bathroom stage sets featured in Leave it to Beaver and The Brady Bunch were built sans toilet so as not to offend viewer sensibilities.

Things didn’t change much in the ensuing years regarding attitudes toward the loo…at least, not in the romance genre. As a newbie writer not wanting to buck that unspoken romance writing no-no, I kept toilet scenes firmly in the water closet (sorry!). That was, until I read one particular chapter in a romance by the late, great Roberta Gellis. Following the main characters’ explicit night of passion, the heroine jumps out of bed next morning and gleefully uses the chamber pot…and, right in front of the hero!

Peachy ScreamTalk about mind blown! I vowed then and there that some character of mine would use the era-appropriate toilet at least once in each of my books. And I’ve kept that promise to this day. My current Georgia B&B Mystery, PEACHY SCREAM, has guests at my protagonist Nina’s inn queued up at the powder room following a long drive. In my upcoming (May 2021) release, PEACHES AND SCHEMES, Nina finds herself hiding in a ladies’ room stall because she’d been using the facilities just before two other characters rush in to conduct a heated argument. My editor never even blinked at that scene (maybe because I made that fictional bathroom cool and retro).

So…are bathroom scenes not your thing in fiction, or do you appreciate this bit of reality in your reading? Comment below for a chance to win an ARC of Peaches and Schemes, Book 3 in the Georgia B&B Mystery series (US winner only).

Remember to click over and enter our monthly contest. It runs from March 1-18, so there’s still time to enter! One winner, one book in hand. Yay! CLICK HERE

Comments

  1. Cherie J. says

    I am fine with bathroom scenes as long as I don’t have to read a lot of details. Everybody needs to use the facilities. I just don’t need a play by play.

  2. Mary Cardell says

    Need those potty breaks. A plot takes place over a week for example. people got to bed, wake up and eat breakfast. Before eating one could at least mention going to use the facilities, brushing teeth, looking at that person who seems to have had a rabid weasel sleeping in their hair sort of moment. Go for it I say!!

  3. Sally Fortney says

    I don’t mind bathroom scenes. I was annoyed at a book where the sleuth passed up chances to eat. Yea, you want to catch the bad guy but you still have to eat (and go to the bathroom)! Stay safe and well.

  4. U iften wonderif they ever go to the bathroom I say as I am getting ready for a potty break!!!

  5. Well, I’m certainly late to this pitstop party! I typically don’t include bathroom scenes anymore, having, ahem, gotten it out of my system in the first McKenna Mystery. Being ‘men of a certain age,’ McKenna (and I) are always on the hunt for the nearest restroom. In Photo Finish, McKenna had grown so familiar with his toilet that he actually named it (Bosco). Anyway, he’s still got the same problem, but as the saying goes, it was funny the first time, not so much after that. In real life, some might think that when I walk into a new space and scan the area I’m looking for the nearest emergency exit or threatening individuals. Nope! It’s always about where’s my happy place so I don’t have to panic later!

  6. I usually gloss over this topic in my books. Or I might say something like, She refreshed herself in the bathroom… It doesn’t bother me to read about this topic in someone else’s story. Makes it more realistic.

  7. Hmm, I’ve never thought much about it before but I don’t see why not, it’s a normal part of life. I hate when books talk about someone needing to go in the middle of a stakeout- didn’t their mother tell teach to go before leaving the house?! And look at everything that could happen in a bathroom- Psycho and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets both come to mind. I remember a joke about this being the reason women go together, safety in numbers. Plus a sleuth could overhear some good info that way. Even in real life you hear gossip and drama in bathrooms.

  8. Sue Stoner says

    I’d be okay with it, as long as it’s not TMI.

  9. I’ve always included bathroom scenes when the story called for one. One thing that bothers me about historical romances, especially those that take place in medieval times, is how people could stand to be around one another without passing out from the stench, much less have all that sex, given they rarely bathed. Ugh! I gave up reading those books decades ago.

  10. maggietoussaint says

    I love this analysis of bathrooms and books! True story: we lived very far in the country when I was a child and whenever we went into town, Mom made us all go to the bathroom, whether we had to go or not. To this day, I can’t get in a car unless I’ve made a “comfort station” visit first. Turned out, I instilled the same practice in my kids. For years we thought one daughter had an underlying kidney/bladder issue because she needed to stop so frequently for bathroom breaks on trips. And if the bathroom wasn’t clean enough, she wouldn’t go! (FYI, we did have her checked out and nothing was wrong with her body functions) Anyway to conclude this story, we thought she might grow up to become a bathroom inspector. She went another direction with her career, but this was certainly a big part of our lives.

  11. cherylhollon says

    LOL from me as well. That picture of the comfort station is in downtown St. Petersburg. I’ve been using that little building since 1975. The city takes great care of it. I think all books need a bit of reality for characters to eat, drink, and answer the call of nature.

  12. I include them. In fact, my biggest pet peeve is when a character says he/she needs to pee, and then the author never gives them a chance. I read with legs crossed.

    • LOL, Terry. And you remind me that, growing up, I was somehow conditioned never to mention needing to go. At 18 or 19 I actually once left a party and drove home to take a pee just because I didn’t want to walk past all the other guest to the bathroom. It’s very liberating as an adult to be able to say out loud, “Yo, hold up, folks. I need to make a pitstop!”

  13. Debra J Pruss says

    I really do not have a problem with bathroom scenes. Thank you for the opportunity. God bless you.

  14. Hilarious… I hadn’t thought about the Brady Bunch bathroom being sans a toilet. I was told when I began writing that one never took the characters into the bathroom nor, in a cozy, beyond the bedroom door. That’s changed in the few years I’ve been doing this…. so, I’m glad to know your characters eat, drink, and make pit stops.