Suspend belief

I spend a lot time on this blog criticizing fairy tales (as only someone who really loves them can), but there is one thing that I truly love about fairy tales–the ability for fairy tale characters to believe in the extraordinary.

Cinderella just ran with it when her mother’s grave started granting her wishes. The woodsman didn’t question hearing voices coming from a wolf’s stomach. And the miller’s youngest son didn’t ask Puss why he needed the boots, he just got them.

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Not that belief hasn’t gotten fairy tale characters in trouble–The Emperor comes to mind, walking a parade route completely nude–but it rarely impedes the story. We’re asked to suspend disbelief, but what of characters in modern stories.

I’ve gotten through a lot of reading done during this strange time, and what’s irked me in more than a few fantasy books are the main characters unwillingness to believe in the fantastical even in the face of so much proof. I finally figured out why (besides wanting to yank the MC out of the story and put myself in their place). No one should be so stubborn in their need for rationality and order that whimsy no longer has a place in their life. It makes me angry and sad at the same time. Why can’t they suspend disbelief?

And while I’m sure it would be an interest plot device to hear Cinderella’s inner dialogue wondering why her mother’s grave is so keen to help her win a prince at a ball instead of getting out of an abusive home, it would slow down the story. Whimsy and the fantastical open up possibilities–escapism at its best.


6 thoughts on “Suspend belief

  1. I think its a reflection on modern society. We have been brainwashed to accept only that which we can physically see and/or touch, to the point where even in stories we are reluctant to allow our characters to believe in the supernatural. I know I struggle with it in my Redcliffe novels series, and I probably held back on a lot of imaginative storytelling because I was conscious of making the story believable to a cynical audience.

  2. I love your take on this, I never really thought about the fact that fairy tale characters happily went along with their strange encounters so openly. Certainly better than them constantly asking “but why?” 🙂

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