I’m sure this will come as no surprise to some of you, but I used to be a hardcore, die-hard Trekkie. No, not a “trekker” but a bona-fide Spock-ears wearin’ Trekkie. My dad started me out watching reruns of the original series and dragging us to the movies, and then as a teenager, I got hooked on The Next Generation. In the middle of devouring all the novelizations and watching all the syndications I could find (and indulging in some very bad, handwritten-so-there’s-no-record-of-it fanfic (featuring *gasp!* a teenager who stowed away on board the NCC-1701-D, was a better Betazoid than Deanna Troi and a smarter engineer than Geordi LaForge–with a more awesome banana clip), I started to wonder. It started out purely as research for my Epic Epic of Epicness, but it soon turned into an obsession. I just had to know one thing.
Where were the bathrooms on the Enterprise?
Oh, I knew there were bathrooms in the crew quarters and such…but what about the Bridge. Not like you can hop a turbolift 23 decks to have a pee-break, especially in the middle of a pants-wetting dogfight with the Borg. So what did the crew do when they had to…you know?
This kind of nitpickery has haunted me throughout my writing career. Oh, I eventually found out that yes, Wesley Crusher, there *are* in fact powder rooms off the main bridge, thanks to one of the editions of the Starfleet Technical Manual (which also gave astoundingly good illustrations of crew uniforms, regulation utility belts, and critical locations of both turbolasers and photon cannons. Yeah, I went there. Set phasers all the way to weenie). But the urge to know where James T. Kirk drained the lizard has followed me.
No, I am not resurrecting that fanfiction. It was awful in an awful way of awful that will haunt me the rest of my days. Simply knowing that it existed, at one time, somewhere, somehow, makes this world a darker place. Trust me on this.
But it’s that need for me to know the intimate details, the dead times, the unspoken places, and the transitions of my characters that dogs me to this day. Part of my writing process, no matter how hard I fight it, try to skip over it, or wrestle it into submission, is that I simply have to write my characters doing their mundane tasks in between important scenes. No, not to *that* level of detail, but if there’s, say, a party or a dinner where a scene happens, I have to establish how the characters arrived, what they ordered, who they met, and where they put their coats. Yes, most of this gets mercilessly hacked to bits and hidden in various undisclosed wooded locations far from civilization, but try as I might, I just can’t not write it.
Part of it is that I can’t stand being the reader that has a fridge logic moment and realizes there was no way (or no good reason) for the characters not to have had an opportunity to talk out a misunderstanding, share important information, or confront each other on a subject of conflict when they spend scenes together, but fail to broach the critical subject. When I write these “bathrooms on the Enterprise” moments, what I’m really doing is puzzling out the reasons why the characters avoid their subjects or deal with internal conflict surrounding them. Once I figure that out, I can cut the unnecessary parts and rebuild the scenes in the right order and with the right pacing.
But just like the world-builders who plotted out where the access hatches were (and who, presumably, did leave space for bathrooms even if you never see them), if I as the world-builder know that they’re there, you as the reader never have to see them. But you’ll know they’re there, too.