E. Tip of the Day: The words every writer wishes they didn’t have to hear-This pushes the suspension of disbelief. And the same words every editor holds close, using them sparingly for those times when they think the writer may have gone off the deep end in their plotting.
What does it really mean? Pushing the suspension of disbelief is exactly that. The writer is pushing their character into a scene or situation that character does not belong in. And for the character, there’s no way out of the situation they’re in unless they do something that is not within their abilities and/or personality to accomplish.
How to fix this problem? I’ve given a couple of easy solutions.
1) Set-up. Show your character early on in the story in their normal environment showing that character doing the activity that may save their lives later on. For instance, how to hot wire a car. If your character doesn’t know the first thing about hot wiring a car, and later on in Chapter 20 has to hot wire a car in order to get away from bad guys it’s going to seriously make the reader doubt how this character had the knowledge to do it. However, if you set up in Chapter 2 that the character hung out at his uncle’s garage and played around with junked cars, one day even being shown by the uncle how to hot wire a car, then it’s believable they would have the knowledge to pull off the stunt. Getting the suspension of disbelief comment marked in your novel has been completely diverted–this time. 🙂
2) Listen to your inner muse. If your character is running away from the situation, screaming “I can’t do this, I just can’t!” there’s a reason. That character is right. Listen to your subconscious–your character’s voice. Find a different solution instead.
3) Bring in another character. If there’s another character with the experience you need to pull off the scene, use them. Who says your main character has to solve every problem by themselves? True, the main character should be solving most of the conflicts, but it’s okay for them to get help once in a while from a friend, or even an enemy. As long as the scene is set-up properly, and this other character doesn’t fall from the sky from out of nowhere. Hypothetically, it should work.
4) Using a super power, mental disorder, disease, or other outside influence. Using amnesia as the example here, it is possible for a character to do something out of the ordinary if they no longer remember their previous life. As the writer, you’re starting over with the character’s essence, and rewriting their history–for a time. Use these outside influences sparingly so as not to push the reader into doubting the character’s new abilities. In these situations, be very careful there are only a few episodes of the character doing something out of character. Later, if necessary, you can explain why the character did what they did, and why.
Hopefully these tips will help you avoid getting that comment, “This pushes the suspension of disbelief” the next time you’re getting edits back from your editor. And if you do receive the comment here or there in your manuscript, remember it’s okay. There are ways to fix it. Just don’t be afraid to ask your editor for suggestions on solutions if you can’t think of any. Good luck!