Writer's Viewpoint Vs. Reader's Viewpoint

The other day I was in a discussion about suspension of disbelief. This sounds self-important - I don't mean it that way - but I was impressed with what I had to say. (Funny huh?) I realized my on the fly opinion held a lot of truth. At least, in my opinion it did so I thought I'd throw it out her to see what y'all thought about it.

Writer's Viewpoint

I think as writers we always look at situations from a writer's viewpoint. I don't think readers look at things the same way.

For instance, if a writer is trying to create a situation in which the protagonist does something most people wouldn't do, the writer agonizes over how to make it believable to the reader. The writer jumps through all kinds of mental hoops to create a situation in which readers will suspend their disbelief and get involved in the story.

Reader's Viewpoint

Actually, I don't think most readers (who are non-writers) ever really think about that. They don't shop for books, picking up one after the other, with the thought, "No, I won't read that because it's too unbelievable." Or, "yes, I can suspend my disbelief and read this."

Otherwise, there would be no paranormal sales whatsoever. Probably a lot fewer romance sales too. Likewise for mystery. When a reader wants a mystery, the reader probably doesn't pick up a book, read the blurb, and think: I don't believe the reason this sleuth is involved in the story.

Bottom Line

Regardless of the genre, readers follow the thought process of: "ah, this sounds intriguing." Or it doesn't sound interesting and they don't buy. Readers don't buy books based on whether the reason that the sleuth becomes involved suspends their disbelief. They buy based on the way the story or the character resonates with them.

I think this is true for every genre. I also think, as writers, we lose sight of that fact. We get caught up in the mechanics of building a better mousetrap in hopes that the world of readers will beat a path to our door.

At least that's my two cents.

Takeaway Truth

Ultimately, suspension of disbelief is achieved by being carried away by a story and its characters.


  1. I don't think one goes into a book deciding if the premise will allow suspension of disbelief. However, during the read, I've been totally disillusioned by characters who do things I can't understand, despite obvious attempts by the author to try to convince me they would.

    Most of the time, I finish the book, but it's usually the last one I buy from that author. And I'm talking some big names here.

    I think as writers it IS our responsibility to try to make characters behave in the way that particular character would. Done well, a reader might think, "Well, I wouldn't have done it that way, but I can see why he did it." And I don't think that's 'suspension of disbelief'. It's making a character real.

    Where I AM willing to suspend disbelief is where reality might have to be stretched to suit the story. Usually, in what I read and write, it relates to things like DNA results (you don't actually believe CSI is the way police departments work, do you? But you can watch the show for the puzzle -- or, if you're my hubby, for the low-cut tops the women wear, even though you REALLY have to suspend disbelief to think they would actually dress that way.)

  2. You bring up an interesting point about well-established authors who disappoint. I sometimes get the feeling that writers, after achieving a certain amount of popularity, start taking their readers for granted.

  3. I'm still in the developing stages, and will most likely be here for quite a long while. So much to learn.

    thanks for sharing