Writing about bathrooms

My blogging pal, H.R.R. Gorman recently wrote an interesting post about including bathrooms and bathroom scenes in novels. You can read her post here: https://hrrgorman.wordpress.com/2020/10/01/5-tips-for-writing-about-bathrooms/

This post made me think about bathroom scenes and whether or not I have used them in my books. I realised that I have used them rather often. Here are a few extracts from my books that are about toilets and bathrooms:

From A Ghost and His Gold – Adult supernatural history COMING SOON!

“Every morning, when the family passes the tents belonging to a group of Bywoners on their way to the latrines, which are nearly half a mile from the main body of the camp, Estelle is obliged to listen to Marta loudly expressing her disgust at having to live in a camp with such dirty people.  

“Look at the ground around their tents,” she complains. “It’s soiled with slops and rubbish because they are too lazy to dig a hole near the fence and bury it. They don’t even use the latrines; they just do their business wherever they want to; it is completely unhygienic, and they are putting us all at risk of typhoid and other illnesses.” 

In some ways, Estelle doesn’t blame them for not using the latrines which comprise of a mixture of trenches, similar to those used by the army, and a bucket system which was easier for the small children. As she draws near, her gorge rises from the overpowering stench.  Ardrina carries the makeshift chamber pot that the occupants of their tent use during their night and empties it into the latrines. It’s the largest cooking pot that Marta had managed to pack, and keep, on the day the Khakis attacked the farm. The pot is always overflowing by the morning and Estelle finds it revolting, but she is grateful she doesn’t have to try and make her way to the latrines during the night or, even worse, find somewhere to squat away from the tents in the open.” 

From Through the Nethergate – YA supernatural fantasy

“There was only one toilet in the small rest room. Katharine used it first, followed by Lizzie.

Elizabeth was the last to enter the small cubicle. She was washing her hands at the basin when she heard the voice of Sarah Jukes calling her:

“Help us! Help us, Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth looked around, startled. The small space, with its starkly painted white walls and water-stained basin, was empty.

Elizabeth shook her head to clear it and turned the tap on again to rinse the soap off her hands.

“Help us, Elizabeth.” Now the voice of Sarah Newton echoed around the small room, bouncing off the walls. A wave of dread washed over Elizabeth making her shake.

What is wrong in Nabs Wood? Why are the children calling me?

The bright light bulb enshrined in its plain white glass bowl started to expand. Elizabeth watched it grow with astonishment and fear. The light became fuzzy and stretched looking, as if she was seeing it through heavy rain on a dark night.

The other children in Nabs Wood joined in the calling. “Help us, Elizabeth. We need you.”

Their cries boomed inside her head, making her clutch her head in pain. In the centre of the large pool of light, Elizabeth saw Nabs Wood.

The children were standing in a half circle, gazing at her. Their eyes were wild and frightened. Sarah Newton was clutching her face with her small hands, as if she was in a frenzy of fear. They were all calling for her to help them.

She took a step forward into the glowing circle and her eyes widened in horror.”

From While the Bombs Fell – Children’s fiction

“First thing in the morning, Mother emptied the ceramic chamber pots that the family used if they needed to wee during the night.

Next to the cowshed outside, across the dirt yard, stood the family’s toilet, a dark and cold outhouse.

During the winter, Mother lit a paraffin lantern and place it near the pipes to prevent them from freezing during the night. People used newspaper, instead of toilet paper which was unavailable, to clean themselves as best they could.

The chamber pots were usually full to overflowing by the morning and Mother emptied them into a pail and took it across the yard to empty out into the toilet.

Later in the year, during the warmer spring months, the trip across the yard to the outside toilet could be rather hazardous. The cows were turned out to pasture, and this affected their bowels dramatically. At that time of year, sticky greenish cow poo covered the dirt path to the outside toilet, and if you didn’t jump accurately, it could end up a slippery ride! Falling and landing on your bottom in the muck did not bear thinking about.”

Do you use bathrooms and bathroom scenes in your writing?

37 thoughts on “Writing about bathrooms

  1. Your scenes seem to be a natural part of the story. It should not, as you say, just be added to make things “real”. Now I’m thinking of all those toilet training children’s books. No shyness there! (K)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The main thing I got out of this was that “Ghost and his Gold” is going to be a good time! But very intriguing – I think I missed something on that post I made about how toilets can make such an impact on setting!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes, I do have bathroom scenes in my fiction, now that you mention it, playing various roles. Speaking of bathroom scenes, the most memorable one I ever read was in John Updike’s novel Couples. After reading that book, I never read anything of John Updike’s again. That scene was very disturbing on multiple levels.

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  4. I generally don’t include bathroom scenes or the need to pee etc., but when it sets a scene or adds to the story, as it does in your excerpt, Robbie, that’s another thing altogether. The snippet from your story shares so much about the conditions and the dangers of the camp. Really well done.

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  5. lol good to know you paint your characters as very human … we all have bodily functions!
    Your last one reminded of a converted school house I lived in … the cows were fenced off from us but we had to dodge snakes when we visited our outside dunny!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jacqui, I also don’t make a habit of setting scenes in the toilet or bathroom but sometimes, for supernatural and horror, it is a good and creepy place to set a scene. For my historical writing, I also find that describing the ablutions help set the tone and scene.


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