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Willing Suspension of Disbelief
An eagle-eyed viewer might be able to see the wires. A pedant might be able to see the wires. But I think if you're looking at the wires you're ignoring the story. If you go to a puppet show you can see the wires. But it's about the puppets, it's not about the string. If you go to a Punch and Judy show and you're only watching the wires, you're a freak.
Dean Learner, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the poet and author, called drama "that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith ..."

Any creative endeavor, certainly any written creative endeavor, is only successful to the extent that the audience offers this willing suspension as they read, listen, or watch. It's part of an unspoken contract: The writer provides the reader/viewer/player with a good story, and in return, they a) accept the reality of the story as presented and accepted that characters in the fictional universe act on their own accord.

An author's work, in other words, does not have to be realistic, only believable and internally consistent (see Magic A Is Magic A). When the author pushes the audience too far, the work fails. As far as science fiction is concerned, viewers are usually willing to go along with creative explanations unless the show tries to use real science, at which point it's fair game, though this is because Science Fiction is just that: Science FICTION. Attempting to use actual science to explain something you made up removes the story from its own fantasy universe and places it in the context of reality. That's why people don't criticize your wormhole travel system or how a shrinking potion doesn't violate the laws of matter conservation. Suspension of disbelief can be broken even in science fiction when a show breaks its own established laws or places said laws outside of fiction.

A common way of putting this is "You can ask an audience to believe the impossible, but not the improbable." For example, people will accept that the Grand Mage can teleport across the world, or that the spaceship has technology that makes it completely invisible without rendering its own sensors blind, but they won't accept that the ferocious carnivore just happened to have a heart attack and die right before it attacked the main character, or that the hacker guessed his enemy's password on the first try just by typing random letters, at least without some prior detail justifying it or one of the Rules listed below coming into play. What is in Real Life impossible just has to be made the norm in the setting and kept consistent.

Most action movies push this trope almost to the breaking point; for the sake of action, the heroes can do virtually anything, given enough Phlebotinum.

As always, the various Rules override nearly all other considerations. When the audience's disbelief, which was suspended during the show, gets reinstated some time afterward, what you get is Fridge Logic.

The MST3K Mantra is an exhortation to reinstate your Willing Suspension of Disbelief even if it's been broken, because "it's just a show".

Incidentally this is one of the more controversial elements of, believe it or not, Professional Wrestling, and is heavily tied to Kayfabe.

See also:


CanonConsistencyDeconstruction
Wiki MagicPt/Índice de TraduçãoWord of God
What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?Meta-ConceptsWish Fulfillment
Wham EpisodeScript SpeakWriting by the Seat of Your Pants
What the Hell, Hero?JustForFun/Tropes of LegendWord of God
William TellingWe Are Not Alone IndexWord Schmord

alternative title(s): Suspension Of Disbelief
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