Last time I discussed some basics of suspension of disbelief, the willingness of a reader or viewer (in the case of movies or TV shows) to give up realism and logic for the sake of entertainment. Suspension of disbelief is vital to your story. If your reader cannot suspend her disbelief it’s likely that she will stop reading and not pick up your book again. So, in order to create a satisfying read you must master this concept.
This time I want to continue the discussion by reviewing four ideas I found that will help you aid your audience in suspending their disbelief and keep them reading. The four ideas are as follows:
1. One way to maintain your audience’s suspension of disbelief is to keep the story as realistic as possible. This doesn’t mean writing your novel as if you’re creating a nonfiction work. But, by using authentic dialogue, settings, and descriptions you place your audience in a world they can likely relate to and feel at home enough that they will willing go along for the ride as you guide them along your fictional tour. Examples of this would be to use authentic dialogue in a detective story or in a thriller. Here is a snippet of dialogue from my novel, The Peril Protocol, a medical thriller, that uses authentic medical terminology: “Geez, Bryan. You’re gonna let this girl die. Write this down: Assist control, tidal volume of 300 cc’s, respiratory rate 25 per minute, flow rate 60 liters per minute, FiO2 of 100% and PEEP of 15.” These are ventilator settings. It’s not important that you know what this means, but it sounds authentic and thus helps the audience suspend their disbelief. But, what about sci-fi and fantasy stories? That brings me to number two.
2. In outrageous stories such as science fiction and fantasy tales it is important to have internal consistency in the created world. This means world-building. You have to create the history, geography, and ecology of your made up world. Maps are sometimes helpful. In addition you will need to create a culture or cultures with all the laws and traditions necessary for believable civilizations. Also, you’ll need to have rules for things like magic or space travel. It’s a lot of work, but having a world in which your reader will willingly suspend his disbelief to dwell within for a few hours will be your reward.
3. Technology is rapidly advancing these days. I recall having one of those early generation cell phones. They were nearly brick size clunky devices. Now, cell phones are thinner than pencils, fit into shirt pockets, and have the power of many laptop computers. You can use technology like this in your story lines. Ideas that a few years ago would sound like science fiction are now “ripped from the headlines”. Things like bullets that can be shot around corners, computers in eyeglasses, and surveillance cameras on every street corner are all either being researched or on the cusp of mass production. Although, they may not be in common use, they are still fair game for use in your story. And, since most people have read about and are fascinated by such devices, they won’t mind being plunged into a world in which they are part of the plot.
4. Thanks to some pioneering writers you have a wealth of subgenres that, a few years ago, would have seemed fantastic and too outrageous for publication. These have now come to be considered the norm for today and audiences have no difficulty suspending their disbelief in reading them. I’m talking about things like superhero stories, mostly found in graphic novels and the movies. Also zombies are very popular and novelists have found unique ways of featuring them in their works. Who would have thought that Abraham Lincoln and Jane Austin would work as characters in zombie novels? Another popular subgenre is the Fifty Shades of Grey type relationship stories. This has tapped into a type of fantasy romance that women seem to enjoy.
You can stretch your writing muscles and continue to have your readers suspend their disbelief by using the above ideas.