Suspension of disbelief

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Suspension of disbelief describes purposely accepting something that you have reason to believe is untrue. The term is typically applied to works of fiction where the person experiencing it ignores the sections that are unbelievable in order to still enjoy the work at large.

There are many ways a writer can require their readers to suspend their disbelief. Examples include:

  • Describing something that is scientifically impossible or inaccurate. This is extremely common in science fiction.
  • Having a person do something completely out of character without later justifying their actions; like a villain suddenly having a change of heart for no real reason.
  • Having an internally inconsistent world, commonly called a plot hole. For example, everyone has a cell phone, but nobody ever thinks to call for help.
  • Including supernatural elements in a story that's supposed to take place in the real world; like a prayer being answered and miraculously saving everyone at the last minute.
  • Having a time line out of order. This often occurs due to bad editing.
  • Older fiction that incorrectly predicted the future. When reading speculative fiction from the past which is meant to take place now, the predictions are usually very inaccurate. For example, most fiction before the 1980s failed to predict the Internet, so their characters are still mailing letters and using payphones in 2020.
  • A similar problem is older fiction that accurately described the science of the time, but that science has been superseded.
  • Having far too much good or bad luck to the point where it's ridiculous.


Although I sometimes enjoy suspending my disbelief in satire or comedy, I typically find it tiresome. As such, I generally don't like older speculative fiction and all religious fiction, but I really get annoyed at just plain old glaring plot holes. I frequently enjoy fiction which introduces fantasy or cartoon elements, but, I expect great care from the creator to ensure they make sense and are consistent in the fictional world they've created. For example, I hate it when video games have bullets do less damage than knives.