I want to talk about suspension of disbelief. We all know that in our writing, especially in fiction, we need to push the limits of what could really happen in order to tell a compelling story. This is also necessary so that we can ensure that our readers know what is needful to follow the story.
This requires a sometimes significant suspension of disbelief on the part of our readers. We have to convince them to say, “I’ll buy that.” It’s a tough balance to strike.
Take last night’s episode of Castle as an example. (I know I use the show a lot, but I do watch it pretty close to when I write up Tuesday’s blog posts.) The show started out with a murder that eventually (spoiler warning) led to our intrepid group of detectives re-opening a decade-old murder. In the course of the new investigation, and the investigations into the two present-day murders, they begin to interview people connected to that original murder.
They start asking these characters for their alibi from a night 10 years in the past. And the characters can give alibis that are capable of being corroborated. Everyone sure has an amazing memory in the world of this show, don’t you think?
While watching the show, my mom asks me, “What were you doing ten years ago?”
My answer, “You could have been in Boston.”
Except, that whole ordeal was a 11 years ago. Sigh. I guess we should all just live in the fictional world where everyone remembers everyone and has perfect recall of every minute of their lives.
What’s my point in all this? We have to watch ourselves and watch where the limits are. I’m not saying that those lines can’t successfully be crossed, but when you cross them you risk losing your readers’ suspension of disbelief. Suddenly, they’re pulled out of the story and repeat to themselves, “That would never happen.”
Q4U: What were you doing 10 years ago? For those of you who journal regularly, try to think it up on your own, then go check the journal and see how memory compares. Do you struggle with suspension of disbelief in the plot twists you throw at your readers?
I won’t be around much today. I’ve lots to do before work starts. I’ll swing back through tonight, though. Have a great day everyone!