Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of Disbelief

May 27, 2021

When I think about “Suspension of Disbelief” it seems like a simple question on the surface right? Just use your imagination to get into the story, but it is not that simple.

I have recently been studying this exact topic while learning how to craft a story using the Story Grid that was created by Sean Coyne. One of the principles in this methodology it to assess and decide on how to best handle suspension of disbelief.

Under the Genre Reality and Style leaf of the Story Grid, the author must and decide and design how much the reader or viewer will have to suspend their disbelief. This will vary dramatically based on what type of story is being told. In stories that fall into genres like horror or science fiction, the suspension of disbelief must push the envelope while balancing and not going too far.

In my opinion, it is okay to go too far as long as you use softeners like humor. The more far out there the story concept is the more you have to help the reader suspend their disbelief. If you do not do this, you will lose the reader.

There are a couple of reasons that an author might want to help the reader suspend disbelief. These examples are purely my opinion and observations.

If the story is too strange and the author needs to bridge the gap. Let’s face it, there are some pretty strange stories out there that seem surreal. If the author adds humor or bridges the gap effectively between the strange and the real, the reader will have a much more enjoyable experience.

Also, when the story is too scary or shocking. With these stories, I love the shock factor, but I have a much better experience if the author has done an effective setup for context. I also think this can work for a buffer and protect the unprepared reader or viewer.

Finally, if the story is too much blood and guts. Ever notice that some of the goriest movies are loaded with humor. Think about it, you can have two different movies, both are packed with blood and guts. But the humorous one is much easier to watch.

As a new fiction writer that is focused on horror, mystery, and science fiction, I must become a master at helping my readers suspend their disbelief when consuming my stories. I must master the technique of right sizing the tools and story elements that help the readers to balance the line of reading a strange or scary story while still allowing themselves to still believe what they are reading.