“Suspension of disbelief or willing suspension of disbelief is a term coined in 1817 by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative…” ~Wikipedia
Without what is known as the suspension of disbelief, there would be no story. At least there would be no fiction, and I bet a good percentage of essays and memoirs would take a hit as well. Suspension of disbelief is the leap of faith the reader must take to enter into worlds not their own.
Without suspension of disbelief, old ladies could not be young again in the arms of the handsome prince, stranger, outlaw, bad boy, bad girl, or alien. Without suspension of disbelief, space ships couldn’t zoom across space “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” Without suspension of disbelief, a small New England town couldn’t sustain a murder a week for 12 years. Without suspension of disbelief, zombies couldn’t apocalypse, heroes couldn’t save the world, cats couldn’t talk, and pigs couldn’t fly. You get the picture.
How does a writer achieve suspension of disbelief? It’s far more complex than tossing out a quirky plot to see where it lands. A reader must be drawn in gently as if into a trap, inch by inch without ever realizing they are being led. That requires a preliminary foundation, baby steps down the rabbit hole.
FANTASY FAIRY KITTEN CATS
by Artist Cyra R. Cancel
In my sci-fantasy series, Cat Seasons, I need my reader to believe cats can save the world from alien and otherworldly threats. To do that, I first must convince my reader that cats can talk - within the first chapter! I personally have no problem accepting miraculous cat behavior – I wait longingly for Tinkerbelle or Little or Red to say something! Anything! It doesn’t have to be profound or prophetic, just a hi, how are you would be fine - but some readers need more convincing. It turns out my protagonist does, too. As the cats convince her, they convince the reader as well. It’s not just dialogue, though – “Hi, I’m a talking cat” doesn’t cut it. There has to be more. Environment, a dream-like state, an intense sensitivity to scents and sounds, and a sprinkle of deviant moonlight all help to persuade. I try to create a picture so compelling, the reader wants to believe.
In my Crazy Cat mysteries, I parallel a truer universe, one where people work and volunteer and pay bills and go to the bathroom. But then suddenly the path takes a twist into the unfamiliar, landing the reader in the midst of murder and mayhem, where hopefully, they don't in reality go.
Mystery Cat by LadyTashigi
Suspension of disbelief is in the details, the mix of fact and fantasy. It’s in the description, both what is offered on the page and what is left out. It’s in the presentation of evidence that, unlike law, is not beyond reasonable doubt. It is the miracle of possibility.
Do you believe? Do you want to?
Elf Ranger by cypritree
Check out more blogs by Mollie Hunt at: