Some rapid-fire tips for Suspension of Disbelief in writing SFF, or speculative genres in general. You've probably read all of these somewhere else already, but on the off-chance that you haven't, have some I've found to mostly make sense and actually work.
One Impossible Thing
"One impossible thing" is a rule that can be bent, dented, stretched, scratched, pulled, and contrived any which way you please, but for the most part, it seems to apply to the average speculative piece. One is the limit of impossible things a reader/consumer of stories can accept without completely breaking their suspension of disbelief, and, to some people, turning the story sour in their mind. This seems restrictive, I know.
Still, there's always the awesome thing to remember that one impossible thing can be more like a very general umbrella statement sort of "one thing". These are all (1) impossible things:
- This is Arda/Narnia/Whatever your world is called
- This is a Miyazaki film/any other stylistic sort of statement (heavily applies towards absurdist pieces like Hitchhiker's)
- This is a classical fantasy
- Science has reached this level
- Science deviated towards this in this universe
- All things in this world come from a chaotic pantheon of gods and can be changed whenever they like
...and so on. Go wild with yours.
Do your research
The less there is that doesn't make sense (when it should) the better. History has plenty of the logic of how humans work and how they mess up royally. It covers the best and worst of humanity, how things were made and unmade. Try going back to it when you're unsure about how to do something or need inspiration. For a place to start, check out our recent articles on fantasy and history:
On designing a fantasy court
Ways to use history when building a culture
Decide on your rules
Chances are, your speculative world doesn't not have rules — it simply has different ones. Decide what's what, and make sure to show it within the first act of the book (unless you can't for some reason) and recheck this with betas/in revisions. It's easier to miss than you think, because what you've been working with for years is completely new to the reader. If you have a magic system, try to show it early. If there are dragons, maybe try to mention them quickly too.
Most of the time, the suspension isn't broken because of your world's concepts, It's because the concepts bend to the protagonist. They (probably) shouldn't, and it'll get your reader screaming in frustration if it does. Revives, deus ex machinas, bending your science-based magic system with an inexplainable summoning power for your protagonist, and anything else in that vein. Magic is usually not created to serve the protagonist alone. As long as it isn't, it shouldn't behave that way either.
Bend your world as much as it's supposed to. Happy writing!
is a writer and self-dubbed professional daydreamer. Her work has appeared in Unpublished Magazine and Paper Crane Journal, among others. She is also a staff writer at Outlander Magazine.