Suspension of Disbelief

“The concept that to become emotionally involved in a narrative, audiences must react as if the characters are real and the events are happening now, even though they know it is ‘only a story’. ‘The willing suspension of disbelief for the moment’ was how the British poet Coleridge phrased it in 1817, with reference to the audiences for literary works. Schramm argues that this is a general expectation for all entertainment (see also entertainment function): we are ‘prepared to go along with a story or a spoof or a good joke, to identify and agonize with a character who never lived…to have a certain empathy with fictional characters, to go along with the conventions of films or broadcasts.’”

So, how far are you prepared to go - in all well meaning attempts before your kicker kicks in ?

That just about sums it up nicely for me. The only thing I would add for myself is that a prerequisite for this is that I must actually like the material. If I don’t then there is a barrier which just prevents any kind of reaction other than 'I don’t like it".

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Yes. An example to help things going…

Being a horror fan, I wanted to enjoy this.
After 15 minutes I kind of guessed what was coming.
When it eventually came I fell asleep

I was in a Derren Brown TV special and I haven’t been the same since…

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I find that I can believe anything in a story, as long as the characters stay true to themselves and the plot is credible within the storyline. Too often with current TV dramas the characters behave erratically to make the ending fit, when those same characters have displayed absolutely none of the characteristics now being shown. Much the same with the storylines, suddenly in the last episode the storyline changes so far as to be unbelievable in the context of everything that has gone before. Very poor writing and disbelief can not be suspended.

Try table top role playing games (TTRPGs) they’re even more immersive…
Whilst playing you really do live your character - much more so than any computer game.

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Lucky Number Slevin has the almost perfect Kansas City Shuffle.

Some opera libretti really test the ability to suspend disbelief, but I have found that when the music is right, and singers manage to put themselves wholly into their characters and convey all the emotion, it somehow works.

With films it again depends how well done it is, perhaps the characters just as in opera, and music transposing to the cinematography.

RPG’er here for many years and agree about the immersiveness and suspension of disbelief.

I’m also involved in Live Action Role Play (LARP) events, where you actually dress up, gather your weapons and become and live the character you have created for a few days and nights. Suspension of disbelief is vital to make it work, but when everything and everyone gels it’s incredible. Sadly reality kicks in when we all go home.

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Well you HOPE it does! :rofl:


We play, GM and write TTRPGs.

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Oh, I don’t know. :grinning:

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Same here.

What system & genre do you write / create?

High fantasy loosely based on Pathfinder at the moment. Have written games in Shadowrun, Psi, 2nd & 3rd Ed. AD&D, and White Wolf.


Suspension of disbelief can be easy when you enjoy something so much that it transcends the incredible.

Just watched an episode of something where the whole cast jumped the shark and crashed through the 4th wall and I’m grinning from ear to ear.

I think there are obviously some action films that go way too far, but for me, it is any fictional film that involves sport. There is no way that you can replicate the way a sport is played by ‘acting’ it. Setting aside the lame underdog to winners trope, it is never believable to me.

And then computers, anything where loads of things scroll up a screen.

“The Flight of Serpents” - A current time frame ‘superheroes’ game, that’s set in the Southern US, Mexico, Finland, Tuonella and the Middle East,

The Aardvark Avenue Adventure - a current time frame high fantasy game set partly in Shropshire and partly in Arcadia (yes it involves the Fey, but also the remnant of the Order of Hermes).

These use the !ZOG! system.

I’ve run games in D&D, White Wolf and Marvel superheroes, but I didn’t formally write them down for other people to run.

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I used to play a couple of games on a computer - Zork and Adventure. They were text-only games, so the computer was essentially acting as the dungeon master, I guess, of a D&D game. Thoroughly enjoyable. There were no pictures or videos, of course, so it all had to happen in your head. Years later I bought a Windows version of Zork, and really didn’t enjoy it anything like enough.
The main thing about both was that you had to solve a bunch of situational problems with no visual aids. They were great.
A lot of recent TV films and dramas I get bored with - I don’t car about the characters. They do stupid things and could very easily have avoided their problems if they had just thought for a few minutes.

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I remember reading The Day of the Triffids for the first time. Hugely immersive, wonderful book. Rubbish film. Similarly Dune (not seen the new film yet)