What is the key to creating suspension of disbelief?


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Thread: What is the key to creating suspension of disbelief?

  1. #1

    What is the key to creating suspension of disbelief?

    I've had readers read a screenplay, I've worked on and some pointed out plot holes that I tried to fix based on their suggestions, but then it turns out the solutions had holes in them too. But I think I need to just pick an execution even if it has plot holes in but still get the reader to get caught up in the story, and be entertained by it anyway. Is there a way to do this, even though their are plot holes, without the reader thinking the characters are illogical, or idiots along the way? Or how do I create suspension of disbelief?

  2. #2
    Context. Imagine Hemingway introducing a wizard in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” or a flying bull in “Death in the Afternoon” It would never work and Hemingway would be a laughing stock because the stories are all about hard reality, and to introduce something magical or supernatural would kill the integrity of the story. However, in a Tolkien or C.S. Lewis novel, wizards and flying bulls fit perfectly because the whole story is about a world where the laws of physics work differently than the world we know. In both situations the atmosphere of the story starts right at the beginning, so if Hemingway introduces gratuitous violence or Tolkien introduces fairies, it’s totally believable. What’s really interesting is Magic Realism like Garbriel Garcia Marquez or Jorge Luis Borges or Italo Calvino who successfully integrate both in one story. That’s very skillful writing and hard to pull it off. But if you’re interested you should check those guys out.

  3. #3
    There is only one answer. Do more planning and thinking.

    Leaving plot holes is lazy writing -- by authors who can write. Sadly, I've also run into it in work by people who simply can do no better, and that's the last time I'm fooled into reading something by that person.

    As a consumer, I've always been a bit ill with writers who leave plot holes or write themselves into a corner and then create some ridiculous solution. The author has time to think, and it's their job to think. The better they think, the better the work. If they can't think, or can't be bothered to think, they'll only produce trash.

    One of the biggest examples of lazy writing in my mind is the last half of Alan Dean Foster's Pip and Flinx series. The first half of the series was innovative and brilliant. Then he got lazy. The last half of the series is full of plot holes, repetitive crises (lost in the wilderness at death's door became a big crutch for him -- he even did it TWICE in ONE BOOK), and salvation by unbelievable coincidence. Evidently I'm a masochist, but having been charmed by the first several books, I gutted it out to the end, feeling more and more ripped off with every terrible book. But he found he didn't have to do better. Early fans like me had developed trust. He simply betrayed that trust by producing junk for a guaranteed audience.

    Fledgling writers can't get away with that. At some point in time they have to write something pretty good to ever achieve a first notice. Some people are lucky enough to have natural talent. Everyone else has to learn the craft and work at it. Part of that "working at it" is learning how to write a complete story the reader will not roll their eyes at.

  4. #4
    You can have plot holes or logic holes, as long as the characters are interesting. For example, I don't think there has ever been a story written about time travel that wasn't completely illogical, but many of them have been entertaining and interesting--especially if they contain humor and oddball characters.

  5. #5
    Oh okay. Well I was told that the characters take too foolish of risks, that they make them idiotic, but it's hard to not to write an interesting story, if the characters are too smart to avoid risk and avoid conflict though.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Irwin View Post
    You can have plot holes or logic holes, as long as the characters are interesting. For example, I don't think there has ever been a story written about time travel that wasn't completely illogical, but many of them have been entertaining and interesting--especially if they contain humor and oddball characters.
    Time travel is read by reader's ready to accept a concept not yet developed. If you build the concept convincingly, however awkward the circumstances, the reader will accept more of the same.
    .
    If you break your own concept's boundaries you have betrayed the reader. Don't do it.
    If the reader is led to an impossible plot impasse, agog at how the protagonists will survive, don't short change them with an unbelievable solution.

    Quote Originally Posted by vranger
    As a consumer, I've always been a bit ill with writers who leave plot holes or write themselves into a corner and then create some ridiculous solution. The author has time to think, and it's their job to think. The better they think, the better the work. If they can't think, or can't be bothered to think, they'll only produce trash.
    Amen to that.

  7. #7
    I think it was Olson Scott Card in a book before “Ender’s Game” who developed a believable method of instant galactic travel. He created a god-like character that was an unexpected result of the galactic internet (he also predicted the internet) This entity existed within the internet and was able to transport people anywhere in the galaxy instantaneously but could not explain to human’s how it was done do to man’s limited intelligence. Works for me.

  8. #8
    Well I think the problem is, is that I need to make my characters more desperate and more psycho, but how do you do that without having to add so much more backstory? Otherwise everything just gets bogged down in a tragic backstory for so many characters, unless that's normal in writing?

    I think my problem is, is is that the characters are not doing what they need to do, to get to the ending I want. But when I try to change the characters around, it feels forced. Is there a way to change the characters around naturally, without feeling like they are hijacking the story and taking control?
    Last edited by ironpony; May 22nd, 2020 at 06:23 PM.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by TL Murphy View Post
    I think it was Olson Scott Card in a book before “Ender’s Game” who developed a believable method of instant galactic travel.
    Who decides it is 'a believable method'; the characters in the story? Obviously not the reader because of his/her limited intelligence. Sounds like a cop-out to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by TL Murphy View Post
    He created a god-like character that was an unexpected result of the galactic internet (he also predicted the internet) This entity existed within the internet and was able to transport people anywhere in the galaxy instantaneously but could not explain to human’s how it was done do to man’s limited intelligence. Works for me.
    However, as you say it works for you. Horses for courses?

  10. #10
    The reader brings the suspension of disbelief to the story with him/her. That's part of the contract between author and reader. The reader says, "Okay, I'm going to read your story and I want to believe in your world." That's what 'suspension of disbelief means, the reader is willing -- eager in fact -- to believe a pack of lies. The author's part of the contract is to not not fuck it up.

    Step one to not having idiot characters is to not write like an idiot.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


    Those who enjoy stirring the chamber-pot should be required to lick the spoon.

    Our job as writers is to make readers dream, to infiltrate their minds with our words and create a new reality; a reality not theirs, and not ours, but a new, unique combination of both.

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