Wednesday, April 24, 2013

World Building A to Z: Utilities/ World Book Night Recap

This month, I'm sharing my observations on world building and setting from a variety of stories. 

Utilities: Sometimes when I watch action movies where heroes and heroines embark on car chases, jump off buildings, or fight off the bad guys, I might wonder when anyone ever has time to use the bathroom. When I imagine myself as the lead in an action movie, I'd like to at least wash my hands after serving the villain a knuckle sandwich (in self-defense, of course). Let's say my hot male sidekick* and I, the heroine, take down the bad guys after pulling an all-nighter; I'd prefer to brush my teeth first before we lean in for our Hollywood ending kiss. So while there are a lot of good action movies out there, it sometimes bugs me that people can't stop to use the bathroom if they're in one. 

In order for a story to be believable for me, I need to know how citizens of a world can access basic utilities, such as bathroom facilities, water, and heat.

At Hogwarts in the HARRY POTTER books, the bathrooms seem like the the kind of bathrooms you'd get in the Muggle world, although bathroom goers have to watch out for Myrtle, the moaning ghost, while they do their biz in the stalls.

In THE BOOK THIEF, Max uses an empty paint can to take care of his bathroom needs. He cleans himself with buckets of water before he is permitted to take baths in a tub. He could warm himself by a fire only at night.

Can you share other examples of bathrooms, water, and heat from stories?

*My hot male sidekick bears a striking resemblance to my husband.

I want to take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to mention that I was selected as a volunteer for World Book Night this year. For those of you who aren't familiar with World Book Night, this is an annual event where volunteers approach random people out in public and ask if they want a free book. The purpose of this event is to promote reading among those who aren't regular readers.

I picked up my books from my local Barnes & Noble last weekend, and yesterday evening, I gave away 20 books at a plaza near my house. The book I gave away was James Patterson's MIDDLE SCHOOL, THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE. To avoid lugging around a big box of books, I put the books in my baby's empty stroller and pushed the stroller around in the plaza.  (In case you're wondering where my children were, they were nice and comfy at home with my wonderful husband who was watching them while I was out giving away books.) 

"You want a free children's book?" I said to strangers at the plaza. "This book's about a boy who is really struggling to get through middle school."

Most of the people I approached were very cool, even those who didn't have or know a child to give the book to. I did come across a few frosty types, who might've assumed I was trying to sell something under the pretense of offering a free book, but thankfully, those people were in the minority.

Overall, the people I gave the books to were grateful. And it was gratifying to know that I was actively doing something to help promote literacy in my community.  

Any World Book Night volunteers out there? Would you consider participating in World Book Night next year? If so, bookmark this web page. 


Lynda R Young said...

What a great event to volunteer for--spreading the joy of reading is a wonderful thing.

Empty Nest Insider said...

I second Lynda! It's such a worthwhile project, and I commend you for being part of it.

Great topic for "U," and it's true that most action heroes aren't seen using soap or even hand sanitizer. They'll clean up cities, but seldom worry about themselves.


Elsie Amata said...

I'm glad you volunteered. It's a shame some people weren't receptive but I'm glad they were the minority.

I always wonder about people having to use the restroom! I'm so glad to know I'm not alone. I even added a scene in the book I'm writing. The girl decides she better use the potty before a tense scenario because she's so nervous. ha ha


Natalie Aguirre said...

Awesome you volunteered.

And I don't see too many books with bathroom scenes. You picked two good ones.

S.P. Bowers said...

Book night is amazing! I live in a fairly rural area so I don't think I could really be effective but who knows.

I have a bathroom scene in my WIP (Nothing graphic, it's just mentioned) and I was wondering how it would be received.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Good for you! :) Sounds like fun!

I just finished reading WOOL by Hugh Howey and there's lots of cool details in there about how the people live and work, etc. Great world building.

Pat Hatt said...

hahaha yeah I wondered that too. Especially with 24, Bauer never used the bathroom or ate much.

Lynn Proctor said...

haha i am right there with ya--i am always thinking of things that need to be done in the bathroom---i can't leave the house without a shower :)

John Wiswell said...

This sounds like a lovely event. There really aren't that many big public places in my area to give away books, except for, ironically, the library.

John at The Bathroom Monologues

Jay Noel said...

Okay, I thought I was the only one. I'm the same way!!!! I'll watch a movie, and I'm thinking, 'they had a big dinner the night before, and yet, you'd think one of them would have to take a big poop'

David P. King said...

Using the bathroom in the story has a bit of an awkward sting to it, for some reason. With humor, it seems to lighten the mood, so to speak. One of my all-time favorite lines from a PC game:

"My little buddy here needs to use the facilities."
"Facilities be damned - I need a bathroom!"

Ghadeer said...

That's a lovely idea, I didn't know about it.

I volunteer for an initiative here that collects unwanted books from people and hands them out for free..and the reaction we usually get is 'Where's the catch?'

Mark Means said...

I've never heard of World Book Night, but I can imagine some thinking you are trying to sell them something.

It's a great idea, though :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Several others participated in World Book Night. That was nice of you to help out.

Nick Wilford said...

I'm guilty of forgetting such necessities myself in the rush of plot. But it's a good way of getting close to a character, literally!

Good of you to help out on World Book Night. I didn't realise they actually handed books out.

Jill Haugh said...

When I was young and reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books, I was always wondering how they went to the bathroom during the long winter. Did they pee in a pot when Pa was in the barn or what? What about other "womanly" necessities? And what about in the dugout? That was just one room!
Anyway, yeah. I wonder(ed).
~Just Jill

Mary Hill said...

Had never heard of this wonderful program. Very inspiring. Will investigate more.

Mary from

Anonymous said...

World Book Night sounds like a wonderful idea. I've seen the concept around.

I also wonder about utilities. Many characters seems so perfect, without bodily needs.

J.L. Campbell said...

This missed me. I remember seeing bloggers posting about World Book night last year. Good of you to do your part.

My writing is contemporary, so my mentions of facilities are usually one liners.

J.L. Campbell writes Jamaican Kid Lit

Anonymous said...

Hooray for World Book Night! I haven't read that book yet, and it sounds so fun. I bet a lot of kids in awkward middle school love you right now for sending it into their lives!!

Hope you enjoyed giving away your books! I got a little misty every time I connected with a teen last year :)

Cynthia said...

I guess I'm not the only one who has ever wondered about how people use the bathroom in stories!

World Book Night is a great event. I encourage interested parties to check it out next year.

Gina, isn't it great to connect with the recipients of the free books?

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