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Saturday 26 March 2011


Suspension Of Disbelief - is described by Wikipedia as:
"...Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 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... It might be used to refer to the willingness of the audience to overlook the limitations of a medium, so that these do not interfere with the acceptance of those premises. These fictional premises may also lend to the engagement of the mind and perhaps proposition of thoughts, ideas, art and theories."
(Wikipedia, 2011: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspension_of_disbelief)

Another aspect that I look for in a book is "suspension of disbelief". Sometimes when an author is so talented, he can convince the reader so utterly of the world he has created that the reader is transported to another world entirely. That world is so convincingly real that it is so very easy to think that it could happen or "suspend disbelief". As far as I can see, there are two major factors that people in the literary industry attributes to "suspension of disbelief": One, the author factor. And two, the reader factor.

  1. Author Factor
    • Author's Convincing Talent: bryngreenwood's comment highlights the idea of "believability" of a story/scene/narrative and the author's convincing ability, in which he said that:
      "....last night I had to quit watching a movie because I just didn't believe in the characters. I said, "Look, I'm willing to believe that a neo-Nazi skinhead could fall in love with a black woman, but I don't believe that this skinhead is falling in love with this woman. Simple as that."
      (Isabel Roman, 2009: http://bit.ly/fefTZa)
    • Author's Convincing Talent: Isabel Roman supports the "author's convincing ability" argument and states that "suspension of disbelief" requires a delicate balance of how the writer weaves his fiction. And I quote her:
      Ordinarily, you might not accept there are true, real Witch Hunters in the world, but presented as fact within a universe, it could be made believable. You can’t be tentative when creating a universe such as this. While dealing with magicks and so on, there’s still that careful line between what people will generally accept as “Well, that’s magick”, and what they’ll say as “That’s ridiculous.”
      (Isabel Roman, 2009: http://bit.ly/glOOxT).
    • Consistency: Allison Pang further argues that the author's consistency with the world he has created plays a major role in the reader's "suspension of disbelief" (Allison Pang, 2011: http://bit.ly/h73e3M). An author is not allowed to break his own rules.
  2. Reader Factor
    • Another factor attributed to "suspension of disbelief" is the readers or audiences' frame of mind (Welkos, 1993: http://lat.ms/eAxY6M). How receptive is the audience to the world the author has created?
So, "suspension of disbelief" is influenced by the human interest and semblance of truth in the story, plus the author's covincing talents with consistency and the reader's receptiveness.

Whether it's 90% author's talent and 10% reader's receptiveness, is up for debate, because there is no solid evidence that I found to substantiate either way. However in my experience, when it comes to "suspension of disbelief", I find it important that it has to make sense, for me to be able to suspend disbelief. To me, "It happened like that just because it's magic" wouldn't cut it. It wouldn't convince me as a reader to suspend disbelief. Consequently, I would have the tendency to put that book down and pick up another. In which case, I probably would not buy another book by that author ever again. So I say, on top of Allison Pang's "consistency" argument and Isabel Roman's "delicate balance" theory, that the story also has to make sense for a reader to suspend disbelief. So in your experience as a reader, what do you find makes it difficult or easy for you to suspend disbelief?


S.A. Larsenッ said...

Great post. I consider myself an 'open' reader--one who is able to give the writer the benefit of the doubt. With that said, a storyline must flow succinctly for me to buy into it. If it jumps around too much, trusting me as the reader to simply fill in the blanks, that's when I struggle with 'suspended disbelief'.

Cherry said...

I dig what you mean about them holes... but sometimes an author is so talented that I don't mind having to fill a hole. However if there is, like, two holes too many, then I probably wouldn't be reading another work by that author again.

Mystica said...

I like that definition by Coleridge very much. I read it three times over to get the full gist of what he said.

Thanks for following me. I am now following you. Like your blog very much.

Tales of Whimsy said...

Wow. So very very very true. Great post my friend ;)

Cherry said...

Thanks for dropping by Ju! :)

Cherry said...

Mystica - yeah, that one also took me a minute or two to digest :)

Audrey (holes In My brain) said...

Ooh, I really like this post! (droping by from Saturday Network). For me, i think it's kind of 80-20ish, Authors need to be able to craft a world that is even the tiniest bit believable, and then explore that world in some sort of credible and engaging manner, then no doubt I'll buy into that. I've read quite a few dystopian YA lately and i'm impressed by the believability of some of the stuff, so I guess reader receptiveness is definitely important as well. Sometimes i find readers are so "aware" or are "looking for" these plot holes, I think it doesn't hurt to just live in that suspended disbelief, read now, think later! Great post!

Natalie said...

For me, I'm most likely to suspend my disbelief if the characters feel like real people. Even if they have superpowers, live in a different world, or even aren't entirely human, they have to FEEL like they are. If I can connect with the characters, the author can do just about anything with the plot or story line, and I'm game.

Great discussion! I stopped by from the Saturday Network!

Unknown said...

I also agree that the characters have to be believable and the situation has to be something I think can happen. Recently read a review where the character woke up with horns. I think I'd put the book down immediately if that happened.
PS Please stop over at my blog. I found a publisher for my novel and I'm having a giveaway of "The Lincoln Lawyer."

Donna (Bites) said...

Haha! I literally just did a post about this following my Wither review because her book just raped my overall suspension of disbelief.

The author can't write in a world where no rules apply. I get the fantasy element but like what was said in your post, the author can't break their own rules. On the other side, they can't exist in a world without rules in order to serve the plot. Make sense within the context of the world and you got me. Punch logic in the face and you'll lose me.

Cherry said...

Audrey (holes In My brain) - As a reader I go into a book wanting to enjoy it, otherwise I wouldn't pick it up to begin with just to waste my reading time. So generally speaking I go into a book wanting to believe whatever the author has created... It's later one when I do the review that I begin to question things... So I could come under your idea of "read now, think later" kind of reader.

Natalie (Mindful Musings) - I think that is what bryngreenwood meant that the characters had to FEEL right and I agree with the both of you.

mike draper - You and I think alike, yep, the characters have to make sense to make them believable...

Donna - Characters described one way and then act totally different will have me avoiding that author too...

M. J. Macie said...

I agree with you. I am willing to suspend my disbelief as long as the story makes sense while I'm reading it. I also write that way. My characters find themselves in unbelievable danger, yet I present the danger in a believable way. I also love what Coleridge wrote and totally agree.

I love your blog page set up. And the chocolate looks tasty.

Cherry said...

M. J. Macie - thanks for visiting! :)

Jo said...

Do you think "suspension of disbelief" could also be evidenced by or related to suspension of morals? For instance, I love Steven Brust's fantasy series featuring Vlad Taltos. Vald is an assassin. In real life, I'm so opposed to killing that I don't believe in capital punishment, let alone assassination. But in my reading I REALLY like this assassin and don't flinch when he kills someone for money. But if the character and stories weren't well written? I doubt I could be so nonchalant about Vlad's occupation, etc.

Cherry said...

Jo - I am an escapist reader, by that definition, I suspend everything which I think includes morals. However, I think there are different levels of reality that we suspend. Some aspects of reality, we can easily shed, like the fact that there is actually no magic in reality. Some aspects are a bit harder to shed, like our morals. As to what aspects of reality is easily "shed-able" or not, I think depends from person to person. Morals for me is not easily "shed-able" either. But I can be persuaded when the author is convincing enough. Because there are some authors who really are talented. This is where mediocre authors don't cut it, I think. So, if I were a mediocre author, I wouldn't even try asking the audience to suspend reality on aspects which are usually important to people like their morals. That author of yours, Jo, is obviously not mediocre.

roro said...

For me, I'm most likely to suspend my disbelief if the characters feel like real people. Even if they have superpowers, live in a different world, or even aren't entirely human, they have to FEEL like they are. If I can connect with the characters, the author can do just about anything with the plot or story line, and I'm game.''' totally agree wat Natalie of (Mindful Musings) said

Cherry said...

roro - I wholeheartedly agree with you and Natalie (Mindful Musings) on the "FEEL" factor. No matter how logical the author presents the characters, if they don't have the "FEEL" right element, the book still won't work with me too.

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