Keep It Real – by Candi Wall

“That willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
That’s right. As writers of fiction, we’ve set ourselves the task of making our readers believe a complete fabrication as the truth.
Oxymoron much?
But there it is none the less. It’s our job to make it possible for a reader to choose to ignore what they know is the truth and put their trust in us to deliver an amazing product that they won’t hate us for after. And let’s face it, when we put our faith in something that lets us down, we usually don’t give it another chance. As a matter of fact, that product, its producer and any reminder of such becomes a bit of a dirty word. We might not malign it, but we certainly aren’t going to pass it on to our friends either. Death of said product…
Suspension of disbelief is a friend to any writer. But making it work for us can be difficult. Some may think paranormal or sci-fi genres have it even tougher, but the truth is, if you’re writing fiction, you’re playing in Coleridge terms. Like it or not. It’s up to you to write the unbelievable in a way that makes it believable. Or to clarify, make it good enough that your audience is willing to mute the portion of their brain that’s all but screaming bullshit. Keeping that mute button on is OUR job.
And it’s not easy. People are smart. (Yes, I know. I didn’t mean ALL of them.) Think of how quickly you question what you read, see or hear. Sorry to say it, but the same thing happens when a reader is engrossed in a book and the author makes too quick of a jump into fantastical. Readers can be pretty forgiving and even when they suspend disbelief intentionally and willingly accept that your hero is a vampire from page one, if you decide three chapters in, to try and con them into believing he was captured by aliens who turned him into a vampire, you’re going to have some serious shaking of the suspension bridge.
So here are some thoughts as you plot, pantser, edit or stew….
  • Build your world as you go – Layers and details help a reader fully engage in your world where more things than they ever thought possible, are possible. World-building is key to suspension of disbelief whether you’re writing a small town cowboy, a pirate on the high seas, or a shape shifter who fights other creatures at the back door of human society.
  • Keep it consistent – This example from Media College is stellar! ” There are many things about the Star Trek universe which are basically impossible in the real world, but because Star Trek makes an effort to work consistently within its own universe, the stories become believable. For example, as long as you’re willing to accept that the Galaxy is mostly populated by humanoids then there is nothing within the series that will break the believability.”
  • Put truth in your writing. Readers have to be able to believe to be willing to suspend their disbelief. Readers want to be entertained, so they come willing to suspend judgement. Don’t forget the grounding factors of realism so your readers will have something to relate to.
  • Remember that each action has to have a reaction, from your character – not YOU. Author’s tend to insert their own thoughts and feelings in their writing. Readers need to learn and live this world and its incredible developments through the character’s POV. Your character is the vessel through which your readers see and experience what’s happening. Readers can only see, hear, or feel what the characters POV allows them to experience.

Suspension of disbelief is what readers offer the writer.

What we offer back is a period of time where the reader can lose themselves in another world, time, or place. A break from reality. A good book to curl up with.

Don’t give them a reason to find something else to occupy their time.

Happy writing!

4 Responses to Keep It Real – by Candi Wall

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Great blog, Candi. And great reminder. I love how you put it with the vampire/alien analogy.

    <<<Suspension of disbelief is what readers offer the writer.

    What we offer back is a … A break from reality. <<<

    Well said!



  2. Todd says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I really believe that this web site needs far more attention. I’ll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the information!


  3. Audrea says:

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Many thanks, However I am experiencing difficulties with your RSS. I don’t understand the reason why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone else having identical RSS problems? Anyone who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


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