Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Suspension of Disbelief

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Reading is an act of faith. Someone picks up a book and instantly trusts that the author is going to tell a decent story.

When writing science fiction or fantasy, the author sometimes asks the reader to trust them further as they take the reader into another world. This makes it more difficult for the reader to relate and presents an opportunity to confuse him and shake that act of faith he brought with him into the story.

So, when writing, it’s important to keep in mind the term suspension of disbelief.



This means that readers will give you (the author) the benefit of doubt when reading your story. They’ll hold off on judging you for implausible things—and maybe even some confusing things at first—trusting you to have it all make sense at some point. But if you push this too far, if things become too far-fetched, you risk losing your reader.

This is on you. It’s your job to portray a world with characters, creatures, magic, and situations with enough realism that readers will believe it possible, or suspend disbelief, and enjoy the tale.

So tread carefully. Don’t give your reader a reason to mistrust your storytelling. Use science to make your inventions plausible. Give your reader familiar things to anchor him to reality along with your strange new ideas. Don’t have scaly snakes in arctic environments—unless you can use science to show the reader how it could plausibly happen. Don’t have characters on a fictional planet listening to Michael Jackson music—unless you intend to show how this mythical galaxy is connected to ours.

The reader is ready to trust you. Don’t betray them.

*This is an excerpt from Storyworld First: Creating a Unique Fantasy World for Your Novel.

Also, to celebrate the release of Storyworld First, I'd like to give you some free download links to worksheets I created for the Storyworld First book. Enjoy!

STORYWORLD FIRST PRINTABLES
-Solar System Worksheet
-Civilization Worksheet 
-Creature Worksheet
-Character Worksheet
-Magic Worksheet
-Single POV Plot Chart
-Two POV Plot Chart

Can you share in the comments a book that so captured you, that you read from start to finish without putting it down?

What about a book that broke the suspension of disbelief? Can you (kindly) share what the author did that pulled you out of the story?

34 comments:

  1. A ( one of them ) book I couldn't out down was The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The characters are just so easy to relate to.

    The book that sticks out the most that disappointed was a novel on L. M. Alcott. I can't remember the title or author. But. I read it because it was about l. M. Alcott....who I love. The book started out good, and I liked it until they made Louisa do something that she would have never did, and preached out against in all her books, and the author never made her repent! It made it look like it was ok in the book.

    That's was the only book that I can remember reading and wishing I never had :(

    And it was so sad, because the author did lots of research, and did a good job besides.

    Enough about that book :)

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  2. I read the Hunger Games in one sitting.

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  4. Twilight was this way for me. About halfway through, I just couldn't suspend my disbelief anymore. I found it completely unrealistic that Bella and Edward would be so absolutely obsessed with each other after only a few weeks.
    I've never actually read a novel in one sitting, but I came close on In Between by Jenny B. Jones. I stayed up until four in the morning reading that one!

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    1. oh my gosh Twilight was the same for me! The romance pacing was just way too fast and so unrealistic

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  5. I can't recall any books that broke suspension of disbelief, but two series that did a really good job of capturing me are the Tales of Goldstone Wood and the Mistborn trilogy.
    Also, I think I need to do these worksheets for my worlds . . . Thanks!

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    1. Both of those are wonderful, Sarah. And, you're welcome!

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  6. I don't think I've ever read a book in one sitting (I usually just don't have time), but I remember reading Inkheart (which is over 500 pages long) in about four sittings. Oh, and I bought all the Dragon Keeper Chronicles within less than a month and read them all so fast I could hardly remember the plot lines.
    Can't think of any books that broke the suspension of disbelief right now though.

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  7. Oh and I forgot, the worksheets look really helpful thanks :)

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  8. I don't think I've ever read one book in just one sitting- in a perfect world! O.R. Melling's Summer King came close, as did the final Harry Potter.
    Books that broke suspension of disbelief... See, this happens a lot with me and I've had to train myself to just enjoy the book. (Too many college literature/reader's advisory classs methinks) Twilight I think tops my list because the characters and their relationships are too unrealistic. Hunger Games... I felt like the author was trying to tell a dark story that kids could read and I never understood anyone's motivations beyond Katniss. There was another book a long time ago, I've forgotten the name, that was beautifully written about a society of ravens from the point of view of a raven in the mountains. Then he looked through the window of a cabin in the middle of nowhere and knew the name of some reality T.V. show despite never seeing T.V. XD

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    1. LOL! Maybe he had TV telepathy... I read the HP books fast, partly because my husband was patiently waiting his turn. ;-)

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  9. I couldn't tell you how many books I've read in one sitting--that's kinda what I did on weekends in middle and high school. ;-)

    I won't name names, but there was a historical I read that lost me because the whole premise was based on an incorrect assumption about British law--that a duke could just choose to disown his son and heir. He can't. It's law, not up to the duke, who inherits. The rest of the story was ruined for me because the whole thing hinged on that one wrong fact (which could have been researched in five minutes *grumble, grumble*).

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    1. I totally understand, Roseanna. That kind of thing frustrates me too!

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    2. Actually, there are cases of a younger son inheriting because the first born was disowned.

      Although British titles are bestowed by the monarch (and dukes tend to be princes- for example, the younger brother of the king would hold the title of 'duke'), inheritance law is not. So, while the monarch may specify that the title descends to the "heirs male of the body" (and, rarely, "heirs of the body", meaning that females can hold the title), this controls only the title, not the land, money and other sundries involved in succession.

      So, if a duke decided to disown his first born son, thus ignoring the tradition of primogeniture, his son would still become duke upon the death of the father, BUT the second son would inherit the estate, the money, possibly the retainers etc, unless the estate is inherent to the title.

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  10. I don't remember if it was all read in one sitting, but I read Exposure by Brandilyn Collins very fast. One or two sittings...and Over the Edge also... She just makes them so good and suspenseful I have to keep reading to know how it ends! I never did finish Gone With the Wind...for me, there was way to much swearing and I didn't like Scarlett... Thanks for the post, Jill!

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  11. I remember reading a book, and I couldn't understand anything they were talking about, or what was going on, but I decided in the end to stick with it for a few more chapters. In the end, I put it down because the author had all these terms and slang that made no sense to me.
    The Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger I read all in one sitting! The characters were real, and it felt vivid enough to be fantasy, but not so un-real that it was hard to read.

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    1. cool! I don't do well with books that have too much hard to undersstand unless it is a classic or is written that way cause that style of writing fits the plot.

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  12. A book I read (almost) in one sitting was "All Our Yesterdays" by Cristin Terrill, because despite the fact that the explanations for her time travel paradoxes were a bit iffy, she wrote her characters so well/ plotted so suspensefully/ explored the concept of past and future selves so well that I didn't give a hoot about how it worked. I just know that as a book it did.

    A different time travel book - not naming names - had a great premise (girls get sucked into the future) but I believe I put the book down when I learned that all the animals in the future were gone/eaten...

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    1. Oh no! How strange. Do you like time travel books, Miri? *grin*

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  13. Great post! I've never read a book in one sitting, though there were many where I read nonstop for hours. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and countless more...
    Thanks a lot! Those worksheets are just what I need. Rock on, GTW!

    Oh, and I was wondering...I didn't know where to ask this question so I'll ask it here. In my current WIP the first chapter included four scenes in all counting the 100 words one that ends the chapter, is that too much? One of my critique partner from the matchup liked it (the others haven't responded yet) but I still wasn't sure. It also has around 3000 words...is that too much?

    Thanks a lot once again!

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    1. You're welcome, Jonathan. As to your question, are you asking if 3000 words is too long for one chapter? If so, I don't think so. Some of my chapters are 4000 words long.

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  14. Dear Jesus, please tell me I didn't push it too far! ;)

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  15. Hopefully my debut book and its 8 chapters will cause suspension of disbelief...
    I am writing a book called Hellens war. It will have 6-8 chapters.

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  16. I don't know many books that are that unrealistic that things seem too fake....

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  17. I find Anne Elisabeth Stengl's story-world and characters so engaging, that I read Dragonwitch the day I bought it.

    Speaking of complex characters, I'm nearing the end of Les Miserables. Jean Valjean and Javert make a fascinating hero and villain. However, I found the romance between Marius and Cosette was too strong too fast. Maybe I'm being a bit cynical, but I really dislike romances like that.

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  18. I think the most recent book I've read with worldbuilding that just really, really stuck with me was The Scorpio Races. I love a lot of different things about different books, but it's extremely rare that the worldbuilding is what captures me. But with this book, that was it. I could almost feel it and taste it and smell it. I'm not sure what exactly it was that was so special, but the island of Thisby stuck with me long after I finished it. I actually skim-read parts of that book again yesterday when I was needing to feel inspired. :)

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  19. This is an awesome post! Thanks! And so random question. Do you know of any good editors for teens? Or just any at all? :):):)

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  20. I read each of the books in the Divergent series in two days per book. I would have read in a day, but when the clock started saying 3.00 am and I had school the next day I had to go to sleep.

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  21. The magic worksheet is good. One part of every story with magic I have ever read is that all lot of the rules are the same. That is probably because one can't have ones character blasting through everything with a magic fireball.

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