Getting Your Readers to Take a Leap of Faith

Posted on 05/06/2013 by

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I think that in every story the author gets one official suspension of disbelief. You can have one thing that is totally ridiculous that you’re asking everyone to ignore.

Most science fiction and fantasy texts use it for the premise of the story. Aliens are real? Okay. Tiny blonde superhero can ignore the laws of physics? Fine. Robot pirate space monkeys? You got it.

You get the reader to accept that one thing and everything flows from there. But you can’t ask a reader to do it more than once. You can’t have the premise be ridiculous, and the location impossible, and the characters not make sense. Well, obviously you can but it’s not gonna end well.

I figure you can even add to your disbelief quotient over time. Each new book or movie or episode you have the chance to say, This is my one thing. Please ignore this.

But seriously, one thing. If you keep it up. If you keeping saying, And this, and this that’s when you get readers muttering about how unrealistic everything is.

It’s not that they’ve suddenly noticed. It’s not that they were sitting there thinking, Time travel, transporters, warp travel, totally makes sense. It’s just that there comes a point where they can’t keep doing it. And all of a sudden they’re absolutely incensed that your character couldn’t possibly have fit that in her pocket. Something that’s so simple it barely counts. But they’ve reached the point where they say, Here and no further. And after that you’re screwed.

You simply can’t say that because you’re already operating in a fantasy world nothing has to make sense. The further you go into fantasy the more the details, the characterisation, the logic has to be believable.

So be careful when you ask for that suspension of disbelief. Make sure it’s worth it. Think about what you need your readers accept to make it work.

Your readers don’t want to argue with you. They want it to work. They want to believe. It’s your job to make the gap between where you are and where they are jumpable. You get one leap of faith. Just one. Use it wisely.

Fuzzy image of the TARDIS flying over a treeline. Caption reads: I want to believe.

 

Posted in: Kandace