Monday, April 30, 2012

Suspension of disbelief

Okay, so a couple of months ago I received a rejection for a short story and this is what the editor wrote.

I found this story very confusing -- I wasn't sure if the black goo was good magic or evil magic, or how the father became the doll, but especially confusing was the comment that witches are demons.
When I read this I couldn’t help but to laugh. I laughed so hard I almost spilled my guts. Can you imagine a grown man asking about black goo, magic, and how the heck a man can become a doll? Take it out of context and, yeah, we are loco la cabeza. I loved it. The best rejection ever because as a reader he wanted to believe my story.

So after I tightened the bolt in my brain, I started to wonder about the suspension of disbelief. Readers need to believe our world and our characters.

I believe there are vampire warriors with high sex drives in Caldwell, NY. (The Black Dagger Brotherhood series)

I believe a young girl has been totally traumatized for surviving the Hunger Games.

I believe that there’s a spaceship (in space, duh) housing a couple thousand people, some frozen, trying to get Across the Universe.

And I believe in magic, wizards, and witches in a school called Hogwarts. (Harry Potter)


Great characters and great storytelling makes me believe. What makes you believe?

16 comments:

  1. Great post, Elizabeth. I guess what makes me believe is when the author sets up their make-believe world and then stays consistent with it. I don't like to find out half way into a story an important fact that would have drawn me into the novel earlier, had I known.

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  2. Love it. (Especially JR Ward's brotherhood! *swoon*)

    It's such a balance... getting everything right. And an art. It's HARD work. And all these examples you listed are author's that have NAILED their characters and story telling! Great post. :D

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  3. Strong world building and authentic characters--that's what does it for me. Great post!

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  4. I'm willing to believe all sorts of crazy things - as long as the insanity is consistent.

    I may not believe something in a story is true (even when I'm pretty sure it's a fact in "real life") if the internal structure of the story contradicts it. I'm contrary that way. ;-)

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  5. I think the author has to earn that suspension of disbelief by presenting a believable world and only slowly unveiling the things that stretch credibility. Harry didn't find out he was a wizard in chapter one. We first meet Amy when she is about to undergo a scary medical procedure and she's being reassured by her parents -- it just so happens she's being frozen. There's a combination of ordinary and extraordinary in these books.

    I have sampled a few books on Kindle recently that failed to suspend my disbelief -- and therefore didn't convince me to buy. In each case, the author hurled the world at the reader in the first chapter -- maybe even the first page -- and said, "Here, catch!" (ie: I'm a peppy teenage girl with an uncontrollable ability to shoot laser beams out of my eyes and here I am trying to speak a coherent sentence at my crush! Page 1)

    My two cents is, suspension of disbelief happens slowly. Take your time.

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  6. Yeah, suspension of disbelief is one of the challenges we have in world-building.

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  7. I definitely agree that we do need to believe in the characters and story line in order to go along with whatever the author has written.

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  8. Victoria, I agree. I think consistency is important.

    Morgan, I just became a fan. Love the series. =) **Swoons too**

    Anita, Thanks for your comments. Yup.

    Deb, yeah you're not alone there.

    Dianne, I think presenting the info in context is important. The example of the editor I gave is a great one. If I heard someone rambling that on the street I'd think he'd need...yeah, something. =)

    Michael and Alleged. It is hard and important. Thanks for your comments.

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  9. It shouldn't be like playing racquet ball with my father. I quit playing with him because he keep changing the rules on me. ;)

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  10. Haha, great rejection! I'm like you - if there's great characters and storytelling I'm sold and I suppose a lot of fantasy now has certain rules that help you believe e.g. vampires drink blood.

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  11. sometimes its hard to put into words what we envision. so many different povs out there interpretting what we write to fit what they believe =)

    i like a constructive rejection! it means they liked it!

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  12. The same: great characters and storytelling.

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  13. This is a great question to ask ourselves as we write. Personally, i usually strive to make the setting and characters believable, as well as the backstory or reasoning *behind* the wacky stuff.

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  14. Thanks and you all make excellent points. Things to think about.

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  15. I'm not sure they make me believe, but they do make me think.

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  16. Martin, I'll believe anything that makes me forget where I'm at at that moment. =)

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