How Do Fantasy Writers Obtain & Hold Suspension of Disbelief? Guest Post from Terri Rochenski


Hey everyone! Terri Rochenski stopped by today to talk about an interesting topic that affects fantasy writers and readers in particular. Enjoy!


Suspension of disbelief is described as ‘a willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe the unbelievable’.

How can a fantasy writer get their reader to do this? Heck. Fantasy is unrestrained & extravagant imagination. Make believe. Conjured worlds, people, and magic. It can be anything we want, right? Totally out there, nonsensical stuff from dreams.


Nonsensical? Hmm. Not so sure.

If a story or character isn’t say, consistent, will a reader continue to read?

Let’s say wizard Joe Schmo can wipe out his enemies with a simple sweep of his hand. Why wait ‘til the climax of the story to do so?

If the land is suffering from a drought in chapter 12, why hasn’t the water princess Tina Bambina called forth rain from the sky way back in chapter 2?

Robert Dopert learns in chapter 3 he can move at the speed of light. How is it he drops his magic wand in chapter 7?

Never mind PLOT HOLES—these examples bring up the necessity of believability.

“WHAT?” you say. “But suspension of belief …!”

Yeah. I know. Thus, the conundrum.

Let’s look at it this way: If everyone in your created world possesses unlimited, unrestrained magic that has no side-effect or cost, where’s the conflict? Where’s the tension to keep a reader turning those pages? What’s going to keep the reader on the edge of their seat thinking, ‘maybe this time the bad buy will win’?

Since I’m really a ‘no-one’, let’s see what some people in the ‘biggie’ business think.

Donald Maass, in Writing The Breakout Novel, states the first key he looks for is plausibility (having an appearance of truth or reason.) And yes, his literary agency represents fantasy.

[quote][On fantasy writing:] It’s not enough to create magic. You have to create a price for magic, too. You have to create rules.

Eric A. Burns[/quote]

[quote]If you’re writing urban fantasy, it’s all about voice and world-building. It needs to make sense and be believable.

Irene Goodman[/quote]

[quote]Fantasy writing, when done well, is as demanding as writing a historical novel, so it’s well worth the effort to do it right. Never let yourself say, “Oh, it’s just fantasy”—that way leads to poor writing and books worthy of the rejection slip.

Lynn Flewelling[/quote]

I could go on and on and on and on, but I’ll stop there.


The Debate: Fantasy Writers

So whatcha think? Will an inconsistent, un-plausible story hold your interest? Will you become immersed in a story that makes no sense & doesn’t relate to you?


Grab Terri’s Book

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Make Believe: A Collection of Short Stories

Sacrificial Oath by Terri Rochenski

An impetuous act unwittingly makes Alesuela the fulfillment of the Sovereign’s Blood Oath to their Goddess. In five days, she’ll be forced to make the greatest choice of her life: become the virginal sacrifice already promised, or force the man she loves most to die in her place.

With an impossible choice in front of her, she searches for ways to undo the oath, and in her quest, finds not everything in her life is as she expects.

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