5 ways to incorporate ‘Tuesday bin night’ into your fiction writing (and why it’s so important)

In order to convince your reader that the world of your story is ‘real’ or ‘true’ – no matter whether it’s high fantasy, a crime novel, a rom-com, and so on – you need to create a sense of ‘verisimilitude’. Now, that’s a word that comes from a bunch of Latin words: verisimilitudo (from verisimilis) ‘probable’, veri (from verus) ‘true’ and similis ‘like’. So, the sense of the word isn’t simply truth-like (truthiness), but also probable or likely.

Your novel is a giant lie. But if you can make it appear sufficiently true. If you can make it look probable or likely to be true, then a reader will stay in the story. They will believe it. And we all want the reader to stick with us, not throw the book over the veranda railing!

Now, being the writer I am, I just can’t help myself so the name I have given to the means of imbuing a novel with the very dignified concept of verisimilitude is: Tuesday Bin Nights.

Here are five ways Tuesday Bin Nights can help make your fiction feel ‘real’.

1. The mundane helps the story ring true.

So, the Tuesday bin nights are the mundane actions your character must do in among all the exciting or unusual things they do in the course of the story. The mundane things aren’t there to bore the reader, but rather convince them that this life on the page has just enough boring activity to be someone’s real life. Remember: your character may well be bored in what they’re doing, but your job as a writer is to make sure that the reader (a) understands the character’s boredom but (b) is never bored by the story.

2. A person’s got to eat.

What is more mundane and boring than having to put the bins out on Tuesday night? I could have just as easily called it ‘grocery shopping’ but that doesn’t quite have the same ring. But you’ll see what I mean: if a character is going to eat or cook, they have to either go shopping or order a home delivery of groceries or order in some takeaway. Food doesn’t spontaneously generate (yes, yes, unless you’re in a science fiction novel). Most folk will have a preferred café where they go for their beverage of choice – whenever I travel (or travelled, in The Before Times) I would find a café near my accommodation where I would ‘make a nest’. Somewhere I felt comfortable and where I could get coffee and some sort of baked goods.

3. Location, location, location!

And the Tuesday bin night theory can also be applied to a character’s ‘stomping ground’. Not only where they live but where they habitually roam – so your setting. In my first novel Vigil, which is set in Brisbane, I gave the main character Verity my own local area habits. She lived in the house I lived in at the time, she went to the areas I used to go for breakfasts and socialising. In the third novel, Restoration, Verity wandered around my old alma mater The University of Queensland – all the spots I used to hang out when I was a student there. The places you’re very familiar with will ring very true to a reader because you’re not just making them up. They’ve got their anchors in reality no matter whether you transport them to another country or city or universe – because they’re real to you, they will feel real to a reader.

4. People who need people (or don’t).

Similarly, if your protagonist is in a story where they’ve met someone new, you really need to let the reader know what their usual habit of human contact is. They may well be an isolated person, but it’s actually really hard to go through life without some sort of contact with others. Most people will go to the same grocery store, bakery, coffee shop, etc – we are creatures of habit. The contact with the person behind the counter might be nothing more than scanning an item and handing over cash, but it's a contact nonetheless. A cashier might say of that character ‘Quiet guy, doesn’t say much, but always says thank you. Never causes trouble.’ Or ‘Creepy dude, always wears the same hoodie, never takes his sunnies off. Never says a word.’ This is a habit of mundane contact. Another character might have more friends and family – and we need to see them interacting with their Tuesday bin nights’ contacts because it provides contrast to the time they spend with the new person in the novel.

Now, the caveat: this won’t always work. Maybe your novel is a rom-com and the protagonist is very lonely, so when they meet the new person, they will spend all their time with them. In that case, what we’d need to see are some instances of how life was before – if there were no contacts in the life before, then the reader needs to know that so they have something to compare the new life to.

It’s also a hard thing to do in say, a thriller, because they are generally all about pace and movement and someone having to flee, so the everyday action isn’t really going to be so evident – but if your character is trying to stay under the radar, pretend they’re normal, hide out in someone else’s house? They might want to put the bins out on Tuesday night to convince the nosy neighbours that things are happening as per normal. So, don’t forget the ordinary actions that make the story believable.

5. But, but, but!

‘But, Angela, we’re always told that we shouldn’t add stuff into our story that doesn’t move the story forward or show a motivation for a character or serve a purpose in some way.’ Well, it does serve a purpose: it’s making sure your character and their setting (and how they fit into it) are as believable as possible to the reader. But don’t overdo it – these details are part of building an impression for a reader, not about writing screeds about the entire history of the Tuesday bin nights, every single action the character takes to fill the bin, wheel the bin out to the curb, walk back to the house, and how the Tuesday bin nights will fare in the future.

Incorporating the Tuesday Bin Nights into your fiction is a great way to give the story that sense of it being ‘real’ that can help a reader engage with and stay in your story until the very end. You want to make the lie work!

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About Angela Slatter

Angela Slatter is an award-winning author of several books including All The Murmuring Bones and The Path of Thorns. She has a PhD and an MA in Creative Writing and has written two instalments in the Brain Jar Press Writer Chaps series, You Are Not Your Writing & Other Sage Advice and What To Do When You Don’t Have A Book Coming Out & Even More Sage Advice.

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