AllCreative WritingWriting Tips

How to Suspend Your Audience’s Disbelief

By June 26, 2019 No Comments

Hello Writers and Readers, and welcome to this weeks post on creating Suspension of Disbelief for your audience, whether that be a reader or a viewer. We have found two sources to help us with this article, so we will be linking them below this paragraph, and at the very bottom of what we have to say on the subject. We hope you enjoy this article, and now on with the post.

Click here to check out our first source.

Click here to check out our second source.

What is Suspension of Disbelief?

Lets start with the basics, what is Suspension of Disbelief? Well to keep it simple, it’s basically making your audience not question all the crazy stuff your throwing at them, or at least filter the kinds of questions you want them asking. When you’re writing fantasy, or sci-fi, or just anything that requires some amount of world building, then knowing how to get the audience to go along with what you have for them is a skill that you have to learn. Being good at creating Suspension of Disbelief seems to have a correlation with generally good writing practices, these practices include such things as being consistent throughout a narrative, having good characters, not leaving details out for convenience’s sake, etc….

Consistency is Key

The two sources have a consensus on the belief that consistency is key, and we happen to share this belief. Being consistent in a book/show, is having an element of a story that remains roughly the same throughout, unless you set up that this element may be wrong or can be changed in some way. Consistency has multiple through lines dipping into various parts of writing, such as having a consistent world, you can’t go having the great continent of Flibadidi being to the South one day, and the North the next, that just doesn’t work (once again, unless you allow a way for it to work, like making moving continents an established thing). There is also magical consistency, or scientific consistency for sci-fi, where the power your characters use is kept under strict scrutiny of set up rules that can’t be broken, and if you do break one of your rules then that can throw your reader off the balance of your story, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to do with Suspension of Disbelief.

Another consistency to keep an eye on is characterization, which can be a little bit more fickle than the others we have mentioned. This is mostly because well done and complex characters have more to them than just good or bad, they are, as we said, complex. We suggest you place some core principle that this being is based around, these principles could be flaws or strengths or even both depending upon the situation. But we should also know that good characters change throughout the course of a story, meaning that these morals that you have set in place can change, but not without the proper prompting, your reader has to understand why this change has occurred.

Using Reality

Keep in mind that in the real world there are people that know a lot more about certain topics than you, and they could possibly stumble across your creation and find some issues in logic or non-realistic scenarios, that just throw them out of the story, which is something that you don’t want. No one can really be a professional in your magic system, except for you of course, but there can be professionals in the fields of mathematics, science, and history which can be a real pain for sci-fi and historical fiction writers. But this issue can usually be solved by a long laborious bouts of research, but who’s to say that you won’t at least find some interesting things while you search. Learn if what you are actually putting down on the page is plausible or even remotely possible. One thing you could do in sci-fi is just not explain the science behind something or show it vaguely, only showing what it can do through fancy blasters or food fabricators, but if you do this wrong you can run into the issue of why not just use this essentially magical science to create world peace and erase all conflict. It is usually a better route to do the research rather than ending up with a story that falls flat because of it’s overpowered system. And for historical fiction writers, we suggest to sticking with what is actually happening through that time period, scrubbing away all the bad bits of a time and keeping only the ones essential to the conflict can get rid of some depth and nuance in your story.

There are also people who have jobs, or go to school, or any number of situations that you could put your characters through. You need to interview people with the job that you are thinking of giving your character, and don’t forget to research it. It’s okay to have small embellishments, but nothing large scale where the description of the job basically changes. Occupation can also include things like school, which you may think you remember, but things have probably changed just a little bit. We can suggest asking of your younger relatives who are still in school to tell you about their experiences. Finding these little touches when add into your book, and used the right way, adds a sense of realism that draws the reader in even deeper.

Fixing Overpowered Devices

Anything that seems like it could fix all of the protagonist’s issues, or even the entire world’s issues, will make the reader wonder why this piece of magic or science is not being utilized. You need to create justifications that are easily interpreted by your reader, and also make sense. Having a justification like “It’s to dangerous to use,” can seem weak and vague, coming across more as “We can’t use it because of plot,” which is never good. If something happens ‘because plot’ then you need to go in and do some heavy editing. You need to tell or show the reader just how dangerous this weapon can be, and why it is not a preferable alternative to what the characters actually do. If you’re overpowered device only kills the user rather than the thousands of lives that would have been lost in battle, then you should think about maybe upping the stakes of your ultra-weapon. Fixing this issue is just a matter of adding limitations, not just throwing them haphazardly on when you realize that your story is lacking, but something you plan from the very beginning of development.

Also go check out our article on the basics of creating a magic systems to get a better understanding of the topic at hand, click here to check it out.

Coincidences

One thing that throws us off of a good story is having loads of things just happen by coincidence. Like say that the villain is about to defeat the hero, but for no reason other than cosmic coincidence a meteor strikes them and kills the bad guy, essentially making the entire story, plot, and character pointless (unless you count getting the villain to stand in the right spot, which we don’t). This is not good story telling, this is lazy story telling. If you’re having trouble coming up with something to help you reach an important plot line other than, hey look I’m at important plot-point C because reasons, then we suggest that you just start writing, force yourself to do it, and if that doesn’t work, take a break and reflect on it. Something will eventually come, even if that something is to scrap that scene entirely in favor of a different approach. take the long route of getting somewhere if you have to, sometimes coming up with a complex way of doing something is much better then just a coincidence. But the complex event does have to make sense and be readable, not just a jumble of words that makes the reader go, “Huh?”

The 4th Wall

Before we wrap up we wanted to mention the best way to throw your writer out of the story, 4th wall breaks. Where the character inside the story becomes self aware that they are in fact a fictional character, and showcases this fact to the reader. This is most often played for laughs in comedy, but sometimes it is misused. Like how Deadpool is a great film with multiple 4th wall breaks, this works because there are multiple (and they are also genuinely funny), meaning that it’s set up that this character can do this. Only doing this once as just a random thing to try and get a laugh out of an audience can make the reader/viewer question why the author never acknowledges this random break in the 4th wall.

Thanks for reading what we at the All The Writing HQ had to say on the subject of Suspension of Disbelief. We hope that you found it helpful and we can’t wait to see how you’ll put it to use. See you all next week!

Click here to check out our first source.

Click here to check out our second source.

Written by All The Writing HQ