Created By: ohsointocats on April 2, 2013

Believe the impossible, not the improbable

Viewers are more likely to accept impossible breaks from reality in a story than improbable ones

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We probably already have this trope, but it's something that I was unable to find. It's advice I hear a lot when writing, that viewers are more likely to accept something downright impossible, like magic in the real world, science that doesn't actually work that way and they know it, someone surviving a No One Could Survive That!, than small things that are just highly improbable, like, say, a character who grew up in the projects speaking Newscaster English natively. I think the idea is that by getting one's facts right for the not-plot-relevant stuff in a story builds up trust in the creator to tell a good one, and extends the suspension of disbelief further than it would normally go.

There could probably be a catchier name for this, or if this trope already exists, there already is.
Community Feedback Replies: 5
  • April 3, 2013
    This probably falls under Willing Suspension Of Disbelief; that page even uses the same words as you to describe the phenomenon:

    A common way of putting this is "You can ask an audience to believe the impossible, but not the improbable."

  • April 3, 2013
    This is discussed under Analysis.Speculative Fiction.
  • April 3, 2013
    BTW, the place to ask if you're not sure whether we have something is the Lost And Found. A couple maybe-related tropes are Impossibly Mundane Explanation and Arkhams Razor.
  • April 3, 2013
    In-Universe:Literature: In the story "The Curse of the Golden Cross", Father Brown refuses to believe a story, not because it involves a curse, but because it involves medieval people behaving in an unlikely manner, for the time. His explanation includes the following(which I respectfully suggest for page quote): Not at all," replied the priest calmly; "it's not the supernatural part I doubt. It's the natural part. I'm exactly in the position of the man who said, 'I can believe the impossible, but not the improbable.'" [Note this includes the tropes name.] or, a little later on: "...Tell me that the great Mr. Gladstone, in his last hours, was haunted by the ghost of Parnell, and I will be agnostic about it. But tell me that Mr. Gladstone, when first presented to Queen Victoria, wore his hat in her drawing-room and slapped her on the back and offered her a cigar, and I am not agnostic at all. That is not impossible; it's only incredible...."

  • April 3, 2013