Suspending Disbelief

In paranormal and urban fantasy, there is something called Suspension of Disbelief. It’s the idea that when I bend back the cover of one of those novels, I’m expected to be whisked away to another world. I’m prepared to believe that vampires exist (they may or may not sparkle), that werewolves shift beneath every full moon (then walk among us during the day), and that love can exist between paranormal creatures from different species. Demon and vampire? No problem! Angel and Fae? Sure!

But there are certain things you have to keep real…

Like location, for example. If I’m expecting the reader to think the story takes place in San Francisco on the Embarcadero, I better have my facts straight. I better know which piers exist and which are skipped. I better know the Embarcadero curves westward as the numbers increase. I better know where the bars and restaurants are, and where there are more tourists than locals. Throw a vampire in there and I can believe it. Take me to a pier that doesn’t exist, while you insist that it does and you may have lost me.

I can suspend disbelief of the world you’ve created, but cannot ignore the rules of my own.

This includes the concept of time. Am I the only one who had a problem with the length of Bella’s pregnancy in Twilight? Were you able to hop on board the “we just consummated our marriage and I feel my belly expanding” train? I wasn’t. I could believe Edward sparkled in daylight. Could see the Volturi on their thrones in some foreign land. But I could not get past the pregnancy issue. (And really, it was all because Meyer had to show Jacob imprinting on Bella’s young. The baby had to be born quickly. But does that make it the right tool to use? I don’t think so. I put the book down at that point. Sad…)

I can believe in lust at first sight. I can believe characters may be attracted to paranormal creatures of a different species, but…

You have to keep the logic behind their relationship real. Does the heroine feel threatened by the hero at their first meeting? (ie: is she being kidnapped, held at knife point, strangled by a stranger in her bed, shoved into a trunk, buried alive, held at gun point during a hostage situation?) If so, how can the author expect the reader to believe that instead of fear and anxiety in the given situation, the heroine would be lusting after her captor? The wicked, yet warm gleam in his eyes, the hard ridges of his abs, the way he softly grated the rope around the curve of her neck…nope! Sorry. Doesn’t cut it. I can believe there are vampire-therian-shifter wars. In fact, I can easily believe there are prisoners of those wars who eventually become love interests to their “enemies”…but the key word is EVENTUALLY. That change of heart must be gradual to be believable.

(I’m reading Showalter’s Heart of the Dragon and let’s face it, she’s one of the hottest paranormal writers in the market right now.) When the hero first meets the heroine, she has accidentally stepped into an enchanted mist and rocketed into Atlantis…where the hero must kill her for entering. Does the heroine fall all over herself gazing into his eyes? No, she shoots him. Over and over again. Knees him in the crotch. Screams for help. Does she also notice how strong he is? Yes. But it’s done in such a way that you know she’s putting up a fight. You know she wants to escape his hold, not nuzzle into it. Only after a long while does she notice the other, more gentler, things about him.)

In other words, take your reader to another world. Ask them to believe the unbelievable. But don’t ask them to forget the laws natural to them.


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