A to Z Challenge 2014 · How to write Romantic Comedy · Romcom Alphabet Soup

Suspension of disbelief

SSuspension of disbelief is powerful. Readers long to be swept into the wonder of your story world. Sure, it’s fiction. But your readers want it to be real. Don’t let them down.

As a storyteller, you must be trustworthy. Have your characters respond in ways that are reasonable, that make sense. You want readers absorbed and turning pages. Keep that acorn of suspended disbelief spinning.

It’s fatal to jolt your readers into thinking. That sounds wrong, I know, but it only takes one “That’s stupid!” thought to pull a reader out of a story. This is a bad thing. Once your book is closed and set aside, it could be for good.

So keep it real. Even if you’re writing high comedy (as in the excerpt below) your characters’ actions must make sense, well… for them. They must be believable.

A clash of the opposites…do I pull it off? We have Lady Russell, staunch friend and law-abiding citizen—and a respecter of the titled gentry—attempting to rescue Sir Walter from a soon-to-be-issued warrant for arrest. The bankruptcy is his own fault—but he, a superior being, does not share her anxiety.


Since leaving the bailiff’s, a transformation had taken place. The lines that worry and illness had etched on Sir Walter’s handsome face were now smoothed away. He gazed out of the window of Lady Russell’s carriage with obvious delight. They were very near to their destination now. “I had quite forgotten about your little house, Amanda,” he said. “Rivers Street is a charming situation—a most charming situation!”

The carriage came to a stop, but Lady Russell did not appear to notice. “I cannot understand it,” she said, frowning. “That bailiff was so insistent about knowing your address! I cannot like that.”

Sir Walter smiled slyly. “Was I not clever to give him Anne’s?”

“But you were seen to be leaving with me. When that second warrant is issued, the bailiff will come here.” Outside, Lady Russell’s coachman let down the steps and attempted to open the door, but she held it closed. Then she pulled down the window blind. “Sir Walter,” she said urgently. “You will not be well hidden here.”

Sir Walter blinked. “But you said—“

“I know what I said, but my friend, you are not safe! I fear we must leave Somerset earlier than planned. In fact, we ought to leave tonight!”

“Tonight?” he squeaked. “Why, that will never do!” He looked about anxiously. “Surely…your…coachman must have time to prepare. Yes, that’s it! After all, one must travel properly. I was hoping,” he added, “to have my crest painted over Sir Henry Russell’s before our departure.”

Lady Russell’s fingers dug into his arm. “Don’t you understand?” she cried. “We daren’t use this vehicle! We must travel to London secretly!

Sir Walter considered this. “Do you mean…in disguise?”

Lady Russell waved aside his boyish grin. “We must travel in the Mail Coach. Longwell will know how to manage it.”

Sir Walter clapped his hands. “I say, that’s famous! I’ve always fancied to travel in disguise!” His smile became cunning. “I’ll go dressed as a highwayman!”

“A tradesman would be best,” said Lady Russell. “Or a common laborer.”

Both eyebrows went up. “Common?” Sir Walter scoffed. “Me? Impossible!


For tomorrow, she who is Too Stupid to Live.

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[excerpt from Mercy’s Embrace: So Lively a Chase by Laura Hile, 2009]

6 thoughts on “Suspension of disbelief

      1. What I cannot do—or should not do—is lift passages from other novels. So (*heavy sigh*) tomorrow we’ll be stuck with Mary.

        I am becoming familiar with what I wrote in these novels—how odd that I would forget what I wrote! —by searching for excerpts to share.


        1. I watched a crime show the other day with a writer as the bad guy. In a dramatic scene, a detective shoves the author’s own book into his hands and demands he read a few lines. All I could think was how I’d be so lost and not even recognize the words I had written.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. With some characters, like Sir Walter, upping the ante and outrageousness adds to the fun and doesn’t bend credulity. Ask yourself if there is anything that SW WON’T do to bolster his own ego or make himself look larger in the eyes of the peasantry? You’re right, there isn’t. Anne, or Frederick, have their limits when it comes to even beginning the ridiculousness ball in motion. Paddy is the sort who can swing both ways depending on who he’s with at the time. Of course, he’ll be the hero every time and be getting everyone OUT of the miry clay.

    Liked by 1 person

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