Bookish Musings: Realism in Books – Basic Necessities

 
 

Food. Water. Shelter. Bathrooms. There are a few basic things that we humans need in order to survive, and a few other things that might not be entirely necessary but that we’d definitely notice if they weren’t available.

Generally in contemporary books, these things are common and available and not an issue. But what about books set in the past? Dystopian books? Post-apocalyptic books? Books in which characters are stranded on an island or in the wilderness? These things do become a problem in those situations, and I don’t know about you, but I tend to notice if they’re just completely overlooked by the author.

That’s exactly what happened in a book I read recently, and since it fits perfectly with my Realism in Books series, let’s talk about it!

 

 

Food & Water

Food and water are literally our two most basic of needs. We die without them. These aren’t the kinds of things that can be ignored. If characters live in contemporary or comfortable times, I really don’t need to know about it every time they eat. I assume they’re eating their meals in between the parts that I’m privy to. But if food and water aren’t just a given wherever the characters are living, I still don’t need to read about every meal, but I need to at least know where the food and water is coming from.

For example, I read a book recently in which two characters got stranded on a planet for days, but it was mentioned that they had some protein bars they managed to grab from their ship, and they had a canteen with a filter that they filled any time they came across a water source. They were still hungry and dehydrated because they didn’t have much and were rationing and sharing, but they had enough to survive, and it was all very believable and realistic given the situation.

But that’s another thing, when characters don’t have much food or water, then they would be hungry and dehydrated and probably weak because of it. So if a character is living in a situation without much food or water, I expect these things to be a factor. The characters shouldn’t feel perfect and strong after days or weeks with little sustenance, they shouldn’t never feel hunger or thirst, etc.

For example, in the book I mentioned in the intro, the characters were eating old canned food that they managed to salvage, and it sounded like they were each getting three cans a day (one for each meal), and they weren’t even full meals like soup—the MC just kept eating canned corn. I’d be starving all the time if all I had to eat was three cans of corn a day, for weeks. And canned corn isn’t much sustenance or nutrients, so the characters should’ve been not only hungry but also not at their best physically. And drinking water wasn’t even mentioned, so that also would’ve made them not at their best. Yet they all seemed to be fantastically healthy and never even experienced any hunger or thirst.

 

Hygiene

Bathing, brushing teeth, etc. might not be completely necessary to survival, but they’re definitely things you’d notice if you weren’t able to do them.

For example, back to that book that inspired this post, the characters didn’t have running water. As I mentioned, I don’t even know what they were drinking. All I know is that the character mentioned at one point having to hunt down water to rinse mud out of her hair, and she never mentioned bathing. That leads me to believe the characters weren’t bathing. And ok, they have to conserve water—I totally understand doing what you gotta do in a survival situation. However, you would definitely still notice if you and everyone around you hadn’t bathed in weeks, especially if you were living in an enclosed space. Number one, you yourself would just feel dirty and grimy, which would be bothersome. Number two, it would smell. And the fact that things weren’t mentioned made the whole book feel completely unrealistic.

 

Bathrooms

Let me make this clear, I neither need nor want to know the details of what goes on while a character is in the bathroom. However, depending on the living situation, what the characters are doing about bathrooms is still something the author should figure out, even if they ultimately decide it doesn’t need to be mentioned. Not only does it add to the realism, it can also add to the atmosphere, the world-building, or even the plot.

For example, I read one book in which there was an alien apocalypse and one of the characters and his dad made themselves a bunker in their basement or some room in their house… except they failed to take into account the bathroom situation. They used a bucket, but eventually it got full and the character couldn’t take the stench anymore and snuck outside to empty it but ended up getting attacked by an alien when he did so which moved the plot forward in a completely believable way.

For another example, I read another book that was post-apocalypse and all the characters were living on an airship, but there was a divide between the upper-deckers and the lower-deckers. The bathroom for the lower-deckers was only briefly mentioned, but it sounded awful, and it helped to reinforce just how terrible the living situation was for them.

 

My Overall Thoughts About Basic Necessities in Books

In case it wasn’t obvious by now, I think basic necessities in books are important, and they should be taken into account by the author. In certain situations they don’t all need to be mentioned or explained, but in some situations there does need to be some mention of them or else it makes the book feel completely unrealistic, like things are too easy and perfect for the characters, and like the author simply didn’t want to figure out the world-building or logistics because it was too much work. Including these things in a book can go a long way toward making a book feel realistic, three-dimensional, and well thought-out.

 

Check Out the Rest of My Realism in Books Posts!

Realism in Books – Characters
Realism in Books – Injuries
Realism in Books – Big Things vs. Little Things
Realism in Books – Basic Necessities

 
 

Talk to me!

Do you think basic necessities should be included or taken into account in books?
Do you notice when they're overlooked by the author?
Can you think of any more that I forgot to mention?

 
 
 
 
 

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  1. Greg

    The food & water thing is huge, of course, especially if they’re stranded or in You know, the apocalypse. :) The book I just read was a post- apoc and the author did a good job explaining how they survived, how dirty they were and how nice it was when they finally got to shower (the dirt just ran off them is kinda how he put it), so yeah. I think in those cases you gotta have a little realism. Same thing with medicine if someone is sick, or they need insulin, or whatever.

    As for the bathroom stuff I’m usually a little more forgiving lol if that stuff is left out. Mentioning that so-and-so went off to do their business is fine, it adds realsim. I know one author who has gone into more detail than I needed lol about bathroom habits and that was totally not necessary, but whatever. To each their own I guess :)

    What I want to know is what some of the high fantasy places, say Lothlorien or Rivendell, you know idyllic places, they have to have someplace to put their waste, right? That never gets addressed (not that I want it to necessarily, but it comes to mind). :P I mean in the old medieval towns they said people just dumped their” nightsoil” (gotta love that word) out the window or in the street- what do the elves do? For some reason outhouses or waste pits or whatever detract from the idyllic image?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Food and water is definitely huge, and I really need to know how characters are surviving if they’re in some sort of situation where it’s not readily available. Or else it just distracts me and feels unrealistic. It’s also kinda strange that characters can live in terrible conditions and run themselves ragged without ever getting sick, but I don’t really mind that.

      I agree that many times mentioning bathroom stuff isn’t necessary. I saw your comment on the post about periods and it cracked me up. If it’s not mentioned, I just assume they have a hole they’re using or are going off into the woods or something lol. But there are some situations in which I kind of wonder… like if characters are trapped in a room together for days or something. Oh, what really gets me is those times when a character is unconscious for whatever reason for days because your body doesn’t just go days without eliminating waste, so who exactly was taking care of that? Anyway, the author should at least know what the characters are using, even if it’s not mentioned to us, since it could somehow make a difference.

      I’ve never thought about that, maybe because I don’t read the same kind of fantasy with such idyllic places, but that’s a good point. That’s also the kind of thing authors should be taking into consideration. I’ve never heard the word “nightsoil” lol. I think having waste pile up in their yards or homes wherever they’re putting it would detract a lot more from the idyllic image than an outhouse, haha.

  2. Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

    YES! I find this very important too. I sometimes wonder when reading a fantasy book about an epic journey, or a dystopian/sci fi book when these people go to the bathroom, or where… And most of all, the fact that so many (YA) fantasy stories have a female main character but somehow their period is never mentioned. Like, I don’t need to know the details. But do women not have a menstrual cycle in this world? Do they? How do they deal with it while being on such an epic journey?

    Great post!

    Jolien @ The Fictional Reader recently posted: Top 5 Wednesday: Fictional Jobs I’d Like to Have

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, exactly! Most of the time I don’t need to know about bathrooms, but sometimes the characters are in situations that make me wonder. And the period thing, I was just commenting on a blog the other day that I don’t really need to know about periods in most books, it’s probably not important to the story, but in dystopian/post-apoc or books where the characters are running off on a giant adventure and traveling through a fantasy world, periods would be a real issue! Oftentimes the characters don’t even have a pack of supplies with them. Apparently they just don’t have periods lol. Thanks!

  3. Kei @ The Lovely Pages Reviews

    A million times yes! Its ridiculous that in contemporary novels these stuff are mentioned a lot when we all know they happen naturally but in dystopian where we need them for world building they are rarely there. Sometimes I get lucky to have a tiny thing mentioned but mostly just extravagant medieval-like showers and the likes. I definitely don’t want to read about someone’s bathroom breaks but the rest are kind of important.

    Kei @ The Lovely Pages Reviews recently posted: MINI REVIEWS: By Your Side & Literally

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol it’s the opposite of how it should be. I also don’t need to know what characters do in the bathroom, but sometimes just a mention of what they use as a bathroom, if they have plumbing or something, etc. can make a difference.

  4. chucklesthescot

    Most of the apocalypse and zombie books I read tend take the basics into consideration. I like when there is accuracy ie young kids whining that they need a toilet stop even if they are twenty minutes from grandma’s farm or suddenly needing the loo when zombies have you trapped somewhere! Some do fail on this side of things. If the person is short on food and water it can really annoy you that they are running and climbing with full energy, and it is kind of lazy by the author to just gloss over it. I also hate it when books go too far the other way and mention every detail of every meal. One book had too much detail about every toilet visit which I did NOT want to read! Great post!

    chucklesthescot recently posted: Chuckles 2017 Series Read Challenge-March

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s cool that most of what you read does take these things into consideration. And I’m glad I’m not the only one annoyed by how characters are so often in perfect health and functioning at 100% despite being hungry and dehydrated. I agree, it comes across as lazy writing. But no, I don’t need to know the details of the meals either. Just a mention that they have protein bars in their pack or are getting their food from XYZ is enough. Thanks!

  5. Krysta @ Pages Unbound

    I always wonder abut women and their menstruation problems in dystopian books. I guess it’s possible the stress or the lack of food would mean that many would find their periods had stopped so they’re not worrying about that hygiene. But I really think that a heroine on an adventure would need water more than a male character just for basic cleaning needs. And it’s never mentioned. Also, I’d like to see a heroine fighting through debilitating cramps while still saving the world. But I guess all that is still a bit of a taboo subject.

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s a good theory, I never even thought of that possibility! Though honestly I think probably the authors just didn’t think about it or want to put in the effort of figuring out how the characters would get hygiene products during the apocalypse or whatever. And if the characters did actually get so stressed that they stopped having periods, then I feel like they ought to think about that and be concerned. And cramps would suck too.

  6. Lily B

    hah I do love the books where characters don’t show or brush their teeth for days because of a certain situation and get their sexy on XD like…hmmm yummy, stinky..
    I guess they just don’t always try to mention stuff like that because they think people might find it weird? or the more likely reason they don’t take things like that into account

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think of that too sometimes. Maybe if neither of them has showered or brushed teeth in days, they just don’t even notice since they’re stinky too lol.

      Yeah, it’s probably that some authors just don’t take those things into account.

  7. Michelle @ FaerieFits

    Another one to consider is sleep / sleep deprivation. Again, not such a big deal in normal circumstances, but when characters are clearly going from one thing to the next and don’t get a chance for a nap or have been running on adrenaline for hours/days, I EXPECT to see some signs of sleep deprivation.

    I struggle with the hygiene thing in a lot of books that I read. When it’s a character who is USED to good hygiene and suddenly isn’t able to maintain that, I agree, I absolutely expect that to be considered/mentioned. But if you have a character who has never had good hygiene / in a world where it’s just not expected to be available, I never know how to handle it. Obviously, opportunities for hygiene can be shown as uncomfortable or exciting but … would someone used to living in their own stench really notice it anymore? Or notice others’ stench? I mean, I personally always still think about it, but I also don’t know what I would think as a main character in what THEY would perceive to be perfectly normal circumstances, you know?

    Michelle @ FaerieFits recently posted: Ten of My Favorite Antagonists to Love to Hate

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh yeah, that’s another good one! Just like they should be weak without much food, they should have sleep deprivation symptoms and be tired without enough sleep.

      Now that you mention it, I think that I do tend to overlook that in books in which the characters have lived their whole lives in some dirty dystopian or post-apoc situation, or books set in the past. They would probably be used to it. But characters who grew up with good hygiene would definitely notice not having it.

  8. Geybie's Book Blog

    I read a book about bikers once and noticed that there were no mentions about going to the bathrooms at all. It was about how the biker kidnapped the heroine. The heroine was tied up in bed for days. Does the heroine never need a bathroom? That’s what I thought all the time. It was weird when I thought about it. haha :-D
    The sex scenes made me urrggghhh… she didn’t have a shower for more than a week. Haha

    Geybie's Book Blog recently posted: Book Review – Preston’s Honor by Mia Sheridan

    1. Kristen Burns

      Ok yeah, I also wonder about that when someone is locked in a room for days. Or when someone is unconscious for over a day… who exactly was taking care of that? It’s definitely weird to think about. And yikes about the sex scenes lol.

  9. Uma @ Books.Bags.Burgers.

    Oh Food and water! It’s such a common trope in fantasy/dystopian books where the protagonist(s) is wandering in the wild survivng on like berries and stuff but yet when the dangerous monster attacks they have the strength to fight it off! I’m just sitting here like I can’t even fight a rat if I’ve been eating just berries! Basic necessities must definitely be taken into account by authors or the story is going to sound so unrealistic… Great post Kristen!

    Uma @ Books.Bags.Burgers. recently posted: Fantastically Diverse - Wrap Up and a Question!

  10. Bookworm Brandee

    I hadn’t thought about basic necessities like this, Kristen. Yeah, in contemporaries I figure they’re doing what they need to be doing but I don’t necessarily need to know about it. (although I do wish there was more mention of clean up after certain activities because…) But I just finished read Red Rising – and food and hygiene were discussed a lot. And it was realistically done. There was no access to certain basic necessities in certain areas. It was discussed how their hair was crusty, the stench from their bodies after not being washed for so long, what they had to do to store water. And although it didn’t really occur to me, I’m glad it was done this way because it made the story “feel” that much more authentic. So maybe if it’s not there, I’d notice but when it is there, and done “right” it adds to the feel of the story.
    Great post! :)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, I don’t need to know all about those things if the characters live in our times and have relatively normal lives. I find it funny that sex clean up seems to be randomly coming up a lot lately though, haha. Apparently lots of people have that complaint (and I agree). It sounds like Red Rising handled those things really well. Some authors definitely do include them in a great way. Thanks!

  11. Zeee @ I Heart Romance

    It is important to a certain extent, I guess. I think alluding to hygiene (brushing teeth) is fine. I read a lot of historical romance and while bathing is mentioned, brushing teeth isn’t.

    In cases where you are trying to survive with no food or water and the characters don’t show any effects of lack of nourishment, then I will have an issue with that. I will probably file that as not realistic (even if it is fantasy).

    I have a feeling you are talking about These Broken Stars (which I absolutely love) and there is a mention of food and water, albeit only a few they manage to scrounge from their escape pod. The mention of rationing/sharing the bars were believable.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’ve also noticed that brushing teeth is never mentioned in historical books. I wonder if they didn’t do that back then?

      Exactly, it’s not realistic for characters to be at 100% when they haven’t had enough food or water!

      I’ve never read These Broken Stars, so nope, not that book. But I would probably would also be frustrated by that book if it had the same problems lol.

  12. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I completely agree I don’t need things like food and using the bathroom to be explained in detail but it’s definitely something which should be addressed in a book. Especially if part of the book is the fact that resources are scarce and people are struggling with even the basics. I don’t need it in great detail but I need something to explain where food and water is coming from. If people are struggling for food they need to be weak because of it. I need at least a bit of accuracy even if it isn’t based in reality. The author can at least pretend they’ve thought about how their characters actually live and the problems they face.

    Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity recently posted: Looking Forward // March 2017

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, I don’t need details, even just a brief mention of where the food/water is coming from or what they’re using to bathe/as a bathroom really makes a difference. And people should definitely be weak if they’re not getting enough food and water. Lol I think the problem is that some authors simply don’t think about it.

  13. S. J. Pajonas

    Another great post! Sometimes if things are status quo, as an author, I just mention things briefly like, “I used the bathroom, grabbed my bag, and headed out.” No need for details, but it gives the reader imagery of normality. I liked that in The Hunger Games we were with Katniss as she hunted out water, and that was a truly believable moment. So yeah, I love when reality moves the story forward!

    S. J. Pajonas recently posted: Teaser Thursday – Typhoon Amanda

    1. Kristen Burns

      If things are status quo, then I don’t mind if these things aren’t mentioned, but a quick mention like your example does help add even more realism and normality. And exactly, these things can even be used to move the story forward, yet another reason they should be taken into consideration!

  14. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    YES YES YES. This is so important, and one of my biggest bookish pet peeves. Like you said, I don’t need ALL the details (please and thank you) but I DO need to know the basics, because if I am to believe that these human beings are in a certain kind of world, those basic human needs take precedence over other things, like romance, or joking, or whatever is happening. It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy- they can worry about all the OTHER stuff, but only when their most basic needs are satiated. Until then, I need to know that they have water, food, shelter. Then safety, then they can worry about falling in love and making friends.

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: Monthly Minutes at Midnight: February 2017

    1. Kristen Burns

      I love your comparison to Maslow’s Hierarchy, I never even thought of it that way! But yeah, finding food and water and shelter and safety should definitely take priority over starting up a romance. But you know how characters are, they seem to prioritize romances and kissing and getting it on over everything else, even when their life is at risk lol.

  15. Briana @ Pages Unbound

    Agreed! I think some of this needs to be mentioned in books more often, just not to the point that it becomes boring. (You know, you can mention someone brushing their teeth without making a five page scene out of it, if it’s not necessary to the plot.) I do think post-apocalyptic books get the food and shelter thing right more than many books, though they often seem to focus on those and maybe less things like going to the bathroom. I did read one book once, Spirits of Glory, where the protagonist was always on the lookout for the next bathroom break, and honestly, it was one of the most relatable things I have ever read.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, just a passing mention of something can go a long way toward adding realism, but I definitely don’t need whole pages describing the nuances of their meal or something if it’s not important to the plot. Hmmm, yeah, I think I agree that post-apoc usually considers food and shelter. It’d be kind of hard not to in those books. I think in dystopian it’s easier for authors to forget that characters need their food and water to come from somewhere and stuff like that. Lol that does sound relatable.

  16. Melissa @ Quill Pen Writer

    Awesome post! Nothing annoys me more than when authors ignore what state their characters would realistically be in, just because it’s too much work to write otherwise. If you’re going to put so much time into creating a story, then surely you can exert a little more effort into making it that bit better. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)

    Melissa @ Quill Pen Writer recently posted: How to Come Up With Book Titles

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! It’s so frustrating because it does scream of lazy writing, like the author didn’t want to put in the extra effort. But like you said, if you’re going through all the effort to write a book, why wouldn’t you put in a little bit of extra effort to make it as good as possible?!

  17. Molly @ Molly's Book Nook

    I love this haha It’s so true that they ARE necessary. Readers will notice if the character never eats or if there is no bathroom. It seems small, but we notice. Like you said, though, there doesn’t need to be endless details. Just a mention, or few details (if it’s post-apocalyptic and clarification is needed), is enough. One I’ve seen others mention is periods. Which I personally don’t want to read about BUT I can see why it’s something for a female character to be mentioned every now and then? I don’t know. Again, I personally don’t care, but others do. I mean, she’s going to need pads or tampons at some point. Or does the story just conveniently time jump past that week every month lol

    1. Kristen Burns

      Kinda makes you wonder how that *author* doesn’t notice sometimes. I can see both sides of the period issues. I feel like most of the time it’s not necessary to mention since it doesn’t affect anything or add to the story, but I actually would like to know what characters are doing in post-apoc kinda books. Like, that would be a legit concern. At least, it’d be my concern in that situation. And I suppose the occasional passing thought might make sense.

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  19. Cee Arr

    YES!!!!!! Why doesn’t anyone need the loo in books?!?! Like, if you’re locked in a box for three weeks or whatever… I have some questions re:toilets, ok? Lol.

    I really liked that in Lisey’s Story by Stephen King, Lisey’s at an author’s event with her husband, and she’s stood there like ‘I have to go to the bathroom… can I sneak out or will people notice? How badly do I have to go? Can I hold on?’ – I was like: YES! These things always happen at inopportune moments! XD

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s even worse when it’s more than one character trapped in a room together! Like, what is their bathroom situation?! I think I might be more concerned about that than food lol.

      Lol that would be relatable.

  20. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    This is a really interesting point! I do occasionally notice some of these things when the ignoring of them becomes truly absurd, but often they pass me by because there’s a strong convention that they don’t get talked about. Jolien’s comment about the taboo on mentioning menstruation is something that I do notice from time to time — not that it needs to be harped upon, but it does need to be possible in order for any kind of realism to exist. It’s so interesting how we accept the dropping of certain parts of life in our fictional worlds.

    Lory @ Emerald City Book Review recently posted: What is fiction for?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Honestly I’d probably have never noticed the lack of periods if no one mentioned since I feel it’s not something that usually affects the story enough that it’s necessary to include, but all the talk of it has made me realize that it would definitely be a problem in post-apoc or dystopian situations. But I do tend to notice when characters are in a situation where they don’t have immediate access to food and water yet it’s never mentioned. It is interesting though how we accept when certain things are missing.

  21. suzanna

    I think it’s a fine balance between being authentic and realistic, and just being too much information for the sake of it. I think the key here is whether telling us about how someone cleans their teeth or copes with their menstral cycle moves the plot forward. If it does, fine. If it doesn’t, I’d rather not know. I always wonder how people who need medical supplies, like insulin, would cope in an apocalypse situation.
    Interesting post.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I agree, that’s why I can see both sides of the argument when people start talking about including periods in books. Most of the time, it’s simply not necessary to mention, and I don’t think anything should be included in a book if it’s not necessary. But, for example, in situations where food and water aren’t readily available, I think it does become necessary to mention how they’re getting those things. Or if characters who grew up brushing their teeth twice a day suddenly didn’t get to brush for a week, they’d probably notice that and really want a toothbrush. And I definitely want more books about stuff like that in apoc situations.

  22. Danya @ Fine Print

    Hygiene is the one that really gets to me, especially when everyone’s wearing cloaks and riding horses. Y’all are gonna get *real* stinky, real quick. Add to that the general grossness of people having sex while they’re presumably not practicing good hygiene and I get squicked out by it all. Really, if authors feel that they should include rape in a historically set fantasy novel because it’s “realistic” (UGH) then why don’t they feel the same need to represent other realistic parts of life?

    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted: Romance Review Roundup: Vol. 2

    1. Kristen Burns

      Maybe their horniness just overrides all concern about hygiene? I don’t know, nothing ever seems to stop characters from having sex, not even life-threatening situations lol, but yeah when characters have sex during a complete lack of hygiene situation, it sometimes makes me cringe. And that is such a great point!

  23. Wren

    You know, I used to think about this a lot. It just occurred to me one day that I rarely read that a character has had to stop on some kind of journey or trip to go to the bathroom! I don’t really care about details or anything, but it got me thinking about this exact topic, and how often basic necessities are skipped over, even in fantasy or sci fi books where they might be important in some way.

    I have to mention….it would really suck to get attacked by an alien when you’re just trying to clean your hide-out….I must admit I chuckled

    Wren @ http://fortheloveofbooksreviews.blogspot.ca/

    Wren recently posted: Thirst No.1 by Christopher Pike

    1. Kristen Burns

      Right? How come no one ever needs to use the bathroom on these long journeys? These things are definitely important in sci-fi/fantasy!

      It would suck big time lol. Though you probably wouldn’t be laughing if you were actually in the situation.

  24. Kelly

    This doesn’t always strike me, but when it does, I can’t get past it! Like you said, I don’t need the nitty gritty details, but I do need to know how certain things are going to work to stop my mind from being pulled out of the story. This happened while I was reading Glass Sword most recently. A character was held prisoner for over a month and all I could think was what happened when she got her period? Lol

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, once I notice that these things are missing, it’s like I can’t think about anything else. And yikes! Yeah, was the captor bringing her hygiene products?!

  25. Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity

    Ohmygosh THIS. I am always put off by books that don’t mention basic necessities. I’m like … where are they going to the toilet? Why hasn’t anyone mentioned how greasy their hair is, or how much they smell? This happens most in fantasy and dystopian novels, and it REALLY irks me because it takes away the feeling of it being ‘real’.

    One thing that always gets to me is periods. I have only read one dystopian book that mentioned the female MC getting her period. All of the others completely (and conveniently) never mention it. How horrible would it be to be on the run from evil creatures trying to kill you and not being able to move because of cramps? I guess the authors want us to suspend our disbelief in these situations. But it still gets to me.

    Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity recently posted: Ida by Alison Evans: A Diverse and Unique YA Sci-Fi

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly! Like, you’d definitely notice and complain or at least think about in your own head how greasy and gross your hair feels, how much it smells if no one has bathed, etc. And the bathroom situation is always important. I agree, skipping these things does make the book feel less real.

      A lot of people have mentioned this and oddly enough it wasn’t something I’d thought about until it started getting brought up. But now I’m always going to think of this because yeah, what are characters doing in post-apoc and dystopian situations? Did they remember to stock up on tampons when they raided that grocery store? And it would definitely suck to run from creatures while dealing with cramps.

  26. Jen @ Books That Hook

    Wow! Excellent post :)
    I think about these things a lot.. The little details can sometimes make or break a story for me. I think it’s especially true for books like you were talking about, where you can’t take for granted that the characters have those basic necessities.

    It’s kind of similar to a discussion I had a while back about pet owners in books. It bothers me when the author doesn’t include anything about the character taking care of his/her pets. Are we to just assume that they are being fed and watered, especially if the character is gone for days at a time? I like it when the author includes that kind of information. At least then I won’t think the character is a negligent pet owner.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! I agree, the little things can make or break a book for me too.

      I don’t tend to read a lot of books about pet owners, or maybe I just don’t notice when those things are missing since I’m not a pet owner myself, but yeah, I can see why that would be bothersome. I feel like I did recently read a book in which someone left their cat at home or something and didn’t have time to leave out food, and I got really worried for a moment thinking the cat was gonna starve, but then she mentioned calling her friend to go pick up the cat.

  27. Yulia @ My Unprofessional Blog

    Hey! I just found your blog and that post grab my attention. Because I don’t know if it’s bad but I’ve never thought or at least I don’t remember doing that about the basic necessities in books. And as I was reading it I remebered that in most of the books that kind of things are missing or they are too little and are once in a while kind of a thing. Really interesting post :)

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s weird how sometimes we don’t even notice these things are missing and our brains just accept it! But once you start thinking about specific things, then yeah, you realize that they are often missing. Thanks!

  28. Olivia Roach

    I agree, these conditions don’t have to be mentioned in every single book, but when it comes to action or adventure books these things do become relevant. Authors need to make sure they don’t actually overlook them and miss out on them! To give the reader the feeling that the story could be real is really important…

    Olivia Roach recently posted: The Fifth Wave [Book Review]

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, there are certain types of books or scenarios when they do become relevant. And when they’re skipped over, the story starts to feel unrealistic!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Characters would definitely notice if they weren’t clean! Like, days of not showering or brushing teeth or all the things we’re used to would make you feel grimy and gross. That’s great that the book you just read included those things! Was that a book that you mentioned having disability too? Or am I remembering something wrong?

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