Suspend, willingly, your disbelief: that’s what’s written on the very first page of all my self-published books and stories. I am bewitching the reader, if you will, to believe that anything is possible.
It is possible for alien creatures to inhabit the earth and influence our comprehension and our votes. It is possible for a man to kill his brother by poisoning him with medieval methods, and it is, by all means, very possible that there are con artists out there attending bereavement group meetings and swindling rich widowers out of thousands and thousands of Euro.
It is possible, anything is, when it is fiction.
The term, suspend, willingly, your disbelief is a manipulation of a phrase I heard often at NUI Galway while studying there from 1988 to 1991. One professor, Dr. Hubert McDermott, spoke of Shakespeare’s ability to command willing suspension of disbelief of his readers, in particular with regard to The Merchant of Venice.
Shylock was going to get his pound of flesh from Antonio. Oh yes he was, and we broke a sweat when he had to figure out how to do it without spilling a drop of Antonio’s blood. I won’t ruin the ending for you, just read the play.
The most demanding willing suspension of disbelief is done in Alfred Hitchcock‘s film The Birds. We have cowered behind the couch, covered our eyes, and ducked beneath pillows watching the birds go apes*!t on the humans. Then we watch in utter horror as the birds peck the wooden doors and glass windows of the house to shreds as the humans seek safety within.
We scream at the top of our lungs, “Don’t go in there!” as Tippi Hedren investigates the noises coming from a room at the top of the house. She is pecked to pieces, the poor thing.
We sigh a breath of relief as Rod Taylor drives her and his sister and elderly mother away in a soft top convertible through a landscape strewn with carnivorous birds, just waiting, waiting patiently.
Suspend, willingly, your disbelief.