Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The Suspension of Disbelief
Writers sometimes ask you to believe crazy things when they write their books -- vampires who go to high school, gladiatorial games where kids are killed, the idea that the boy you love when you're sixteen will be with you forever and ever...
And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, depending on the reader.
Or the viewer.
Because really, it would be easier to train oil rig workers to be astronauts than it would be to train astronauts to use oil rig equipment? NASA doesn't have enough highly skilled engineers?
(BTW, guess what I caught on TV the other night?)
But that's what the willing suspension of disbelief is all about. And, if you can allow yourself to accept whatever crazy premise you're asked to, the ride gets much easier.
As Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote in 1817: "It was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."
Okay, so a lot of that was probably the opium talking, but the point is a good one. Just because a story could not possibly be real, doesn't mean there's no truth in it.
And this is one of those things where your mileage may vary. What works for you, might not work for me. A talking cat? Ridiculous!
But you know what? If I can't wrap my head around a cat that talks (and has infinite other cats under his hat), that's my loss. Because stories should never be judged on their reality. This is fiction, after all. Stories should be judged on what we take away from them, no more and no less. And, when I was four, those endless cats, stacked like babushkas, gave my my first look at infinity. Also, there were hijinks and messes and chaos.
Has your suspension of disbelief ever faltered and ruined a story for you?