Monday, August 22, 2011

Suspension of Disbelief

It's over. The awards have been presented. And there's something really neat about looking at those lists and thinking--hey, I read that one and I loved it! (Yes, I picked some winners!) I read many books and loved many books this last few weeks, and I'd like to offer my hearty congratulations to all the winners, the finalists, and all the entrants of the Dan Poynter Global eBook Awards contest. (Follow the link to scroll through a presentation of finalists and prize-winners, and find some great books.)

So, what did I learn, besides that I can read even faster than I'd imagined...

One thing I really found myself thinking about was that willing suspension of disbelief that keeps a reader glued to the page. After all, this is fiction--well, most of the books I read were fiction anyway. We know it's not true. Why do we care?
  1. We care about the characters: If they become sufficiently real to us, concern for them will keep us reading, even when we hit a place where we think, "No way. It couldn't happen like that. He wouldn't do that."
  2. We trust the author: If the plot's sufficiently well-constructed, we'll keep reading even when we think the author's missed something out, trusting it all to make sense when we get to the end.
  3. We want to solve the puzzle: Not just in a mysteries, but in sci-fi we want to believe the science makes sense; in fantasy we want the world to hang together believably, in romance we want to know their love finds the depth to make it real--it all goes back to trusting the author I suppose, but also to the writing being compelling enough to have made us want to believe.
Good characters and good plot will keep me reading. But my son believes it's good scenes that make that final difference. If the author skips a vital scene, the reader's left thinking, at least temporarily, "they couldn't do that, because..." and second-guessing. If the author includes an unnecessary scene, the reader starts wondering "why do I care about this when I want to know that?" Either way, for a moment, the reader's back in the room instead of the book, and that suspension of disbelief has, albeit briefly, been suspended.

In a really good book, a finalist, a potential prize-winner, poor scenes are like hamburgers offered during a 5-course dinner... So says my son, which isiInteresting, since he's  vegetarian.Me, I'm wondering if he's  spotted one aspect of that elusive "je ne sais quoi" that makes the difference between four-star and five-star ratings.

No comments: