We celebrated our 28th anniversary today. The kids are all home for the weekend so all 5 of us went to a charming little restaurant on the edge of the Kankakee River for dinner. I had jumbo shrimp, with sweet potato fries and a garden salad. We shared a huge munchies platter, overflowing with fried mushrooms, clams, cheese balls, and onion rings. We usually go there on our birthdays because the birthday person gets a free meal. Today we had to pay full price, which was $129. Ouch.
I can mentally hear some of you wishing me a happy anniversary and, though I thank you, I must admit it isn’t really my anniversary today. The kids will be back in school on March 20, which is when we will truly be married 28 years, so we pretended it was our anniversary and enjoyed a wonderful day together.
Our deliberate choice to ignore reality and celebrate as if this were our actual anniversary could be called “suspension of disbelief.” The same principle applies to fiction. Good writing will draw readers in, making them temporarily engross themselves in the story. People will ignore reality in order to be entertained, and will accept fantastical events as long as they are consistent within the world the writer creates.
Suspension of disbelief ends when something happens to make readers say, “Wait a minute. That couldn’t happen.” Our goal should be to make our stories and characters so believable that reality doesn’t intrude.
What types of things affect your ability to set aside your disbelief when reading a story? How do you make characters, setting, or plot believable?