Suspension of Disbelief — for the Sake of Story

sometimes you just have to put thinking on pause

Suspension of Disbelief

Most of the stories we truly enjoy require some level of the suspension of reality in order for us to enjoy them. If you analyze the science, the practicality, the likelihood, the details — you might just miss out on a great story.

The term suspension of disbelief “ was coined in 1817 by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative.” (Wiki)

What’s the meaning of the phrase ‘Suspension of disbelief’?

The temporary acceptance as believable of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas. — Phrases.org/UK

One of my favorite shows is a perfect example.

The 100 is one of my favorite shows. My boyfriend had never seen it and being an intelligent man, I warned him — just don’t think. Because some of the details are completely laughable.

100 kids coming out of space in a glorified tin can without any training, having never stepped foot on planet Earth aren’t going to just fall from the sky and then walk out into the sunshine and celebrate. You can’t think about the details too much or you’d spend the entire time the show is playing wondering how in the hell is this possible?

It isn’t possible. But for the sake of great story — we don’t care! We just want to be entertained. We want for the hour or so that we are staring at our television to forget all of the details, the thinking, the analyzing, the reality.

That is why we come to need great stories.

“We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.” — Ray Bradbury

Why are we able to forget all things realistic? Because we love story. We love characters that are interesting and interact within a great plot. A realistic plot? Who cares!

We want to be entertained. We do not care about the details as much as we care about being transported into a whole new place. We want experiences that don’t require us to get off the couch or put down the bag of pretzels. We just want to enjoy the story.

Being transported emotionally into an alternative reality helps us to invest more completely in a piece of fiction, no matter how unbelievable. Thus, we are able to believe in the supernatural occurrences in Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, the inhuman strength and speed of Superman, or the harrowing journey of a Hobbit in his quest to destroy an evil ring. — Scientific American

The 100, a Netflix series, does that beautifully for me. I can go on adventures. I can sit on the edge of my seat. I can love and feel and be a part of something that sweeps me away and into the depths of story.

I have to forget the science I know. I have to forget reality for a little bit. And that is ok when the story is good and the characters blend in fascinating ways. Don’t be predictable. Don’t be boring. Be all of the things for me that life isn’t and I will keep coming back for more.

I will binge on you.

Reality can take a hike for a little while while I pour myself another Cheerwine, wrap up in my fleece blanket, jockey for space on the couch with two snuggly cats, and settle in for another episode — then another — then another.

We all want great stories. And for us to get them we sometimes have to just leave our brains out of the equation and just watch with curiosity. As long as we are entertained — who cares about the details?


Christina Ward is a poet, columnist, blogger, and nature writer. She writes about life experiences, parenting, mental health issues, parenting, ethics and society issues and lots of other things… Stay in touch! She is currently working on her first novel, a work of literary fiction.

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