Monday, June 08, 2015

Suspension of Disbelief

By Vicki Delany

I loved Aline’s discussion last week of how much we readers are prepared to suspend our disbelief when reading fiction

It’s a fascinating subject as there is a definite line between a reader pretending not to notice that the head of the entire police division for half a county is actively investigating a single murder case, and then stepping into un-believability territory when the reader decides they've had enough and puts down the book in disgust.

Sometimes it’s the small things that test the reader. Get that street name in New York City wrong, and you’ll hear about it.  Have the forensic results back the next day, and the reader will pretend to go along with it.

I have written about how in some ways I am finding it easier to write cozies than police procedurals because I don’t have to worry about stuff like forensics or criminal or police records. And readers enjoy that along with me.

But I don’t  know a heck of a lot of librarians who solve murders when the police are unable to do so.

Now some readers will scoff at cozies on the grounds that they’re sooooo unbelievable (see point about re librarian), but then they are perfectly ready to accept the brilliant bad guy who challenges their detective (equally brilliant) in a game of wits.

I always remember a police friend of mine saying, “If they weren’t morons we wouldn’t catch half of them.”

I think perhaps the biggest thing the writer can do to maintain suspension of disbelief is consistency. I mean, come on, do you think people wrote to J.K. Rowling to say “That would never happen.”? No, because she created a world and kept it constant to itself.  I can pretty much guarantee that if Hermonie’s wand had changed colour mid-book, Joanne would have heard about it.

We can fudge some of the facts, but ultimately we have to stay true to our characters and to the world they live in, and to human nature as it is. Or disbelief will come crashing down.

On Saturday I joined Type M's Barbara and some of Eastern Ontario's best crime writers for the hugely successful inaugural Prose in the Park in Ottawa. This pic shows the beautiful venue.  Thanks to Brenda Chapman for the picture. 


Melodie Campbell said...

Excellent points made, about how we already accept the unbelievable when it comes to police procedurals, and not only in books. A little television franchise called CSI comes to mind. So why not in other sub-genres? Good post - makes one think.

Sue Coletta said...

It is fascinating to think how we, as readers, are willing to believe the unbelievable. But as writers, we try so hard to ensure everything makes sense. Your day at the park looks like so much fun!