Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Point of Disbelief

Monstrous ... Rotting Stick
Everyone is keen to talk about the need of consumers of fiction to be able to suspend their belief in reality for the duration of the fictional feast. And this is achieved by good writing, good research of world-building detail and back story, and even good grammar, punctuation and spelling on the part of the fantastical world's creators.

Nobody ever wants to talk about that moment in a story when a character and or reader comes upon their point of disbelief and has got to be written through it. 

Is that even necessary, I hear you say. Most stories are closed systems of belief after all, and it is the writer's responsibility to make sure story-logic hangs together from the get-go. No character, in for example, The Lord of the Ring needs ever to doubt the world he is in. 

Even such a modern day story as The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Stephen Sherril (2002) and reviewed here, is a closed system of belief. Every other character accepts the minotaur as one of them, if a different sort of person. 

Open systems of belief are a little less rare than hen's teeth. 

Meaning, there are a couple that I have come across. (Other than the ones I'm writing.) The Power of the Rellard by Carolyn F Logan (1986) is a children's book I have great affection for in that it first showed me this magnificent possibility.  

In this ordinary-world story, we (readers and characters) are led slowly and inexorably by the main character's own staunch belief to a point very near the end, where we must either believe or disbelieve the premise. 

To disbelieve will, of course, kill our enjoyment of the carefully built up crisis and its denouement. Nor can the rest of the characters disbelieve and bring ruin upon their town. A brilliant ploy!

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