Budgie’s Journal #69 – Where Does the Poop Go?

Yes, before you ask, today I’m discussing poop on my blog. Deal with it, adults.

Last night, I got into a hard and fast discussion about world building and the people who build worlds. If you’re unfamiliar with what this means; it’s basically the term used when you write a story in its own world, outside of our normal reality. Think Middle Earth, Westeros, or whatever the hell version of the United States in which Hunger Games takes place. If you’ve read my work, you can look at Cendrillon from Askharoth and Draken, Son of Drog.

But there was a piece of advice given to me a while back about world building, a question you have to ask yourself before you start to build.

“Where does the poop go?”

The discussion last night was odd. Someone hijacked the conversation to say that if you don’t feed your characters they’ll starve. They went on to state that if you don’t have them poop you’ll constipate them. I ask: then why bother feeding them so much if you’re worried about them pooping during your story?

But let’s get serious about our poop conversation for a moment. Just because you’re not writing your characters expelling feces doesn’t mean they don’t poop in your created realm. I don’t recall Tolkien talking about hobbit outhouses or whether or not elves even poop to begin with. I assume the fellowship of the ring had to stop from time to time, digging holes, pooping in them, and burying their droppings, as not to attract the agents of Sauron with their scat. I imagine Aragorn would practically insist on pooping this way, and he’d even know which leaves were best for wiping. Also, I’m positive dwarves don’t wipe at all. Ever.

But that’s my point. If chapter four ends at night and chapter five begins the next morning, can’t I just assume the characters pooped between chapters? Why is anyone even imaging this while reading? Who wants to read about it? Maybe George R. R. Martin has influenced too many indie authors.

I’ve noticed something about some of the indie fiction I’ve read or beta-read. It’s over-detailed. I know everyone wants to be as descriptive as possible, “painting pictures with words”; but sometimes it feels like padding, and not everyone is Stephen King. As a reader, I don’t need four paragraphs on the description of a single item. Give me a general idea and let my imagination fill in the blanks. Don’t take me out of the plot to describe what stuff looks like if you can’t be subtle. And, for the love of all that is holy, let me assume the characters poop on their own terms.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: over-description is an insult to your readers’ imagination. The internet is full of terrible tips, memes, and repetitive writing advice that will do nothing but hurt your writing if you dwell on it. The world building tips are no exception.

I’m not saying not to think about poop while writing. I get the point of the concept of thinking about where the poop goes. Start from that minor detail of life nobody thinks about and work up from there. But these are details you may want to cut from your draft later, keeping them aside as personal notes.

Here’s my quick and dirty tips for world building from my own wealth of experience, as terrible as they my be. Hell, they work for me.

A lengthy description of your world is boring. There, I said it. I’m not saying not to do it. I’m just saying to make it quick and try to employ subtly. Subtly is something else that indie authors tend to forget about. Describe organically, throughout the story, when it’s important to your characters’ point of view. Your reader doesn’t need to know about the ice-covered mountains of Darianna until they travel to the ice-covered mountains of Darianna. One of the biggest complaints I see on indie fantasy book reviews is the pacing of the story, due in part to the writer to pause to beat the reader senseless with world description. 

I guess that was just one tip instead of the short list I pictured, but it encompasses the points I’m trying to make.

In conclusion, feed your characters when the meal is important to plot / development, keep description clean and to the point, and don’t assume your readers wants to know how and when your characters are pooping.

And yes, I wrote a hearty chunk of this piece while on the toilet.

-Budgie Bigelow
8/17/17

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7 thoughts on “Budgie’s Journal #69 – Where Does the Poop Go?

  1. Pingback: Do you know the right amount of information to share?

  2. This is an awesome post. I think finding that sweet spot is trickier than it looks. I read just as many authors who under-describe and over-describe. The first leaves me lost; the second leaves me bored. I think the best advice of your post is to describe the environment as the character interacts with it, and describe it from the character’s pov – the tighter, the better. 😀

    • That’s exactly the point. I’m writing a sci-fi world now for a satire on the genre. The MC read a the paper with world events in the beginning, but that’s only a couple of paragraphs. All the details are shown as he’s interacting with what’s around him.

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