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Suspension of disbelief

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Suspension of disbelief

Suspension of disbelief or "willing suspension of disbelief" was a formula devised by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge to justify the use of fantastic or non-realistic elements in literature. Coleridge suggested that if a writer could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend his judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative.
The phrase "suspension of disbelief" came to be used more loosely in the later 20th century, often used to imply that the onus was on the reader, rather than the writer, to achieve it. It might be used to refer to the willingness of the audience to overlook the limitations of a medium, so that these do not interfere with the acceptance of those premises. According to the theory, suspension of disbelief is a quid pro quo: the audience tacitly agrees to provisionally suspend their judgment in exchange for the promise of entertainment. These fictional premises may also lend to the engagement of the mind and perhaps proposition of thoughts, ideas, art and perhaps theories. (e)

Writing Techniques to Support Suspension of Disbelief

As noted in Suspension of Disbelief in Science Fiction by John DeNardo on March 20, 2013

  1. Skeptical viewpoint character as stand in for reader
  2. Explain before use (a sort of Chekhov's gun approach)
  3. Worldbuilding: use many specific details to establish that the reader is in another world, and thus any big, difficult to swallow aspect of the story is given "different world sugaring" to help it go down.
  4. Maximizing the familiar/relatable aspects of the story and minimizing the unfamiliar.

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