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P is for peeing

October 9, 2012

What writer-type stuff do you want for Christmas (or your holiday of choice)? Let me know. We’re compiling a Holiday Gift Guide for publication in early December. 

I really like Brian Freeman’s work. He writes a mystery series set in lovely Duluth, Minnesota and other suspense novels, as well. While I drove back from taking my daughter to school, I listened to one of his non-series works Spilled Blood on CD and enjoyed it–except for one thing.

Toward the end of the book, one of the characters abducts a woman and ties her hands behind her back, then keeps her in a van for the better part of all night. According to the book, he’s kind and gentle to her–as kind and gentle as you can be when you bind someone’s wrists together behind their back.

The book worked, except for the one thing–THERE’S NO WAY YOU CAN KEEP A WOMAN TIED UP IN A VAN FOR THAT LONG WITHOUT HER HAVING TO PEE!

It’s not meant to be a sexist rant. Men and women have different characteristics. If you’re a guy and sports is on TV and you can see it, it doesn’t matter what your wife is telling you, your eyes will be drawn to the TV. Even if they’re showing curling.

And if you’re a woman who’s tied up–even gently–in the back of a van all night long, you are going to need to be untied and taken to a bathroom someplace so you can pee. I would bet all my possessions on it. Even Ripley in Alien would have had to sneak away from brawling an ugly alien so she could take a minute in the ladies room.

I swear to God if you don’t open that door now, I’ll shoot my way through it and kick your butt right off that toilet.

It’s little logistics like peeing that are easy to forget, but when you can work them in–if you do it successfully, they can add to the richness of the narrative. In Gerald’s Game, the protagonist is a woman handcuffed to a bed wearing nothing but panties in the middle of the woods. Her husband has a heart attack and dies and she’s stuck there. In that context, one of the issues she’ll face is the need to pee.

And surely, you’ve been in the car trying to get home–or even just to the next exit–squirming like your midsection is covered with ants because you have to find a rest room badly.

Like everything else, peeing should add to the plot, rather than getting in the way of the plot. But the lack of peeing should also not detract from the plot.

Let’s say your characters are stuck in the wilderness in the middle of winter and they fear freezing to death–waste removal will be a significant hurdle. It’s worth writing about–probably not intimately. But let’s face it, no one wants a frostbitten butt.

And even a guy might have to pee if bound in the back of a van all night long.

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2 Comments
  1. October 9, 2012 2:44 pm

    Oh so true, for either sex! Little details like this do make a difference.

  2. Suzanna Crean permalink
    October 9, 2012 5:08 pm

    I just read an old Patterson book where the cops are tailing a suspect from LA to Baja and all over the place. Not only do they never stop to pee they don’t stop for gas. This is one of my peeves. The cops on stake out or in a chase…no peeing, no Coke drinking or eating when they’re sitting in one place for four or five hours, and they always have a tank full of gas when they take off in hot pursuit of the bad guys.

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