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Mesg #90567 "suspension of disbelief"
Author Weird Jim     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Jun 13th 2002
6262 posts
Date Sun Mar-25-12 05:58 PM
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What do you understand by the term 'suspension of disbelief'?

For me, it is the ability of the reader to enter the make believe environ of the fictional world. (If it's not make believe, but ficitonalized truth, then I'm not about to include it here.)

I therefore also believe that the author should also be in that state of belief to get the reader to enter it, even if that requires the author to witness an imaginary murder, say.

I suppose it can becoume more complicated judging by the lengthy pieces written on the subject.

Weird Jim

"Good reading is the only test of good writing"
Robertson Davies. A voice from the attic 1960

  

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Replies to this topic
RE: suspension of disbelief, Linda Adams, Mar 25th 2012, #1
RE: suspension of disbelief, Justinvs, Mar 25th 2012, #2
RE: suspension of disbelief, CatrinP, Mar 26th 2012, #3
RE: suspension of disbelief, junedrexler, Mar 27th 2012, #4
RE: suspension of disbelief, RavenCorbie, Mar 29th 2012, #5
RE: suspension of disbelief, mooseythehut, Mar 30th 2012, #6

Mesg #90569 "RE: suspension of disbelief"
Author Linda Adams     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Feb 05th 2006
1548 posts
Date Sun Mar-25-12 08:30 PM
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In response to Reply # 0

I like your definition. But, I think it's also picking events in the story that don't make the reader jam on the brakes and say, "No way!"

I just finished a thriller did that to me. It was a fairly standard book, using crime as a basis. Where I ran into the suspension of disbelief was the opening chapter that motivated the characters. In it, a girl is killed in what looks like an auto accident. The killer is seated in the passenger seat, buckled in, and the murder victim's seatbelt is sabotaged. He essentially forces her to crash into a pole. My suspension of disbelief is that being in the car to execute the murder like this is too big of a risk. He cannot guarantee that the accident won't kill or injure him -- and yet, he walks away completely unharmed. I just could not buy it.

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Mesg #90571 "RE: suspension of disbelief"
Author Justinvs     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list Click to send message via AOL IM Click to send message via ICQ
Author Info Member since Jun 13th 2002
7141 posts
Date Sun Mar-25-12 09:33 PM
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In response to Reply # 0

For me, so much of suspending disbelief comes from th elittle details, things that show the author has a real authority about the subject. Even if the world is completely made up (and that's very hard to do!) small details will help win the reader over.

Case in point. I have a hard time reading stories about horses where it's plain the writer has never spent any real time with them. Something as small as never loosening a cinch can throw me out of a story. It's petty, but I would bet most readers have a hard time staying in the story if it's something they know more about than the author.

Moral is, I guess, no matter what genre you write do your homework first!

Justin

  

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Mesg #90574 "RE: suspension of disbelief"
Author CatrinP     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Dec 05th 2005
2772 posts
Date Mon Mar-26-12 06:27 AM
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In response to Reply # 0

Suspension of belief is as you say - the ability for the reader to enter the make-believe world.

But I also believe that you can only go so far when you write that make-believe world. The world still has to make sense (even science fiction and fantasy worlds, but more so contemporary, or almost contemporary worlds)

I have authors I cannot stand reading because I cannot enter their world. Usually it's because the world is too close to the real world, but also too different.

Things like a jumbo jet being retro fitted with harrier jump jets so the plane can take off and land vertically on a football field. Or the hero rigging up the jeep to drive itself whilst being chased and shot at. He climbs onto the bonnet, takes the bonnet off, throws it and himself onto the ground in front of the fast moving jeep. The jeep runs over him, but not touching him, and he comes out the back shooting and killing the bad guys. Or .....

You get the drift.

And yet I write vampires and werewolves. Go figure.

  

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Mesg #90593 "RE: suspension of disbelief"
Author junedrexler     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Jun 12th 2002
2095 posts
Date Tue Mar-27-12 02:54 PM
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In response to Reply # 0

I don't disagree with anything that's already been said, but I approach the question from a very simple place.

Readers know that fiction is 'not real', yet they allow themselves to care as if the characters and events were really happening.

To make the reader care about something that is totally invented on the pages of a book is a great skill.

--June

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Mesg #90626 "RE: suspension of disbelief"
Author RavenCorbie     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list Click to send message via AOL IM
Author Info Member since Oct 17th 2005
7824 posts
Date Thu Mar-29-12 09:51 PM
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In response to Reply # 0

I've thought about this a lot, actually. I think everyone has good points, but that it's also very subjective. For me, I'm much harder on myself about getting details right than I am other authors. I don't get knocked out of the story if they get something wrong; I get knocked out if I stop caring. So, I tend to agree more with June when evaluating other writing. Even if I know something is wrong, if I care about the characters and the story, I don't care that this one detail is wrong.

I was reading a vampire novel not too long ago, and some things just didn't make sense, even in that setting, but I loved the characters, so I couldn't put the book down. I know the Pirates of the Caribbean movies got a LOT wrong (after trying to write my own pirate novel), but I still love them and watch them over and over again. I think they'd be better with correct details, but they're great as is.

On the other hand, this is why I don't write historical fiction. I don't want to have wrong details in the story, but I struggle with researching details. I'm a perfectionist, so I want 100% accuracy, and that's just not possible if you want to actually get down to writing the novel. I would feel like a fake if I wrote a historical novel knowing I had not done the research that was needed for it. Yet, I read historical novels that I'm sure aren't perfect all the time. I know it's double standards, but I can't help it: I just can't write something I know might not be accurate, unless I'm making it up. And then it still needs to be realistic.

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Mesg #90637 "RE: suspension of disbelief"
Author mooseythehut     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Aug 29th 2003
145 posts
Date Fri Mar-30-12 04:43 PM
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In response to Reply # 0

To simplify the points others have made even more: suspension of disbelief is the point at which the reader says "I'll buy it"

They may not be fully immersed in the world or completely agree with the rationale for everything that happens, but they are willing to accept the plot point or setup or character arc or whatever other element the writer is trying to "sell."

So with that said, I do want to make the point that suspension of disbelief isn't only about thorough worldbuilding and airtight plotting. It's an outcome of those things as well as all the other things like character development and style and story structure. Reader belief, or a better term might be reader acceptance, comes from how well the story works as a whole.

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