Suspension of Disbelief

Anyone who wants to know what suspension of disbelief is needs only Google or go to Wikipedia to read the definition.

Yes, I am a fiction writer, but here on this blog, I tend to focus more on the career or writing more than the actual writing I do. I wanted to talk a little bit about suspension of disbelief as it might pertain to non-fiction writing.

Yeah, that’s what I said, suspension of disbelief in non-fiction.

Okay, first, let me talk about suspension of disbelief for those who don’t know. In layman’s terms, this simply means, can you write something in such a way that no matter what it is you are writing or what it’s about the reader can wholly believe, at least for the moment they are reading it, that it is a ‘true’ story – they can believe it’s real, and for the moment, suspend any disbelief.

Have you ever found yourself watching a movie and saying, “Oh, get real. That could never happen!”

That means the movie didn’t manage to create a proper suspension of disbelief for you… and as a writer, not being able to do that means your writing isn’t going to go over well with readers.

There’s lots of ways to ensure you do this properly. One way is to simply tell such a wonderful story in such a compelling manner that your reader is so captured by it that even if you get something historically inaccurate, something physical impossible, etc, that they simply don’t see it.

But that’s weak writing. Stronger writing would make sure everything is accurate and possible AND write a compelling story.

Of course, then you have your fantasy and sci-fi genres. Boy, these are tough, because the fans of these genres are often fanatical about making sure you know your stuff. If you aren’t spot-on, these readers can rip you apart. So sure, you can do things in fantasy and sci-fi that you can’t do in a book based here on earth in our reality – BUT you’d better make darned sure you have explained the laws of that universe, word, ship, realm, whatever it is well enough to suspend disbelief for your reader.

But I said this was a talk about suspension of disbelief in non-fiction writing.

I know this is going to be kinda silly and I do indeed know this isn’t what the intent of suspension of disbelief was when Samuel Colridge, but even in non-fiction writing, you need to remember that you’re coming at the writing for the perspective of – you are the expert (the writer, the one with the information) and the reader is the one seeking more information, and may or may not know more than you do on the subject.

Every reader comes to your writing, article, book with a knowledge base that has told them something about what you’ve written, and they are looking to see if you are right – and it’s your job, with facts, information, and experience, to show them you know what you’re talking about.

If you are a good writer – you can BS a reader and make them believe you are an expert in your field or that field, when you really don’t have a clue about it and everything you are telling them was stuff you found on the internet or in books that you read before writing your article or book about that topic.

Also, for sales copy writing people are going to be skeptical to start anyway – can you write good enough copy to have them suspend their skepticism and have to get the product or service you’re writing about?

THAT is where you get the ‘good’ writing – when your writing, whether fiction, non-fiction, sales copy or otherwise, allows the reader to wholly believe what you have written – at least, believe it for the time they are reading it.

With non-fiction, you do need facts on your side, because a good reader will verify your information or utilize it, and they expect it to be right, accurate, safe, informative, etc.

But if you don’t know you facts, you get something wrong, or you hit a point where a person says, “Nah, that’s not right….” you’re going to lose your readership.

So when you write things, whether fiction or non-fiction, read them in such a way as though you had no knowledge of the subject and ask yourself, “Would *I* believe this if I hadn’t written it?”

If not, then either the writing isn’t compelling enough or you need to explain yourself better.

Mostly I’m just rambling now – you’ll forgive me for trying to write while taking a Lortab. Perhaps I just broke my own rules here and wrote something that makes no sense and you’re reading through this thinking, “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

If so, you would be right.

I’m not talking.

I’m typing.

Ya’ll have a great day.

Love and stuff,
Michy