What will suspend the disbelief of readers?

The character or the story?

Kind of a chicken and egg question.



My husband loves action movies. Lots of action with special effects and death-defying stunts. The bigger, higher, louder and most incredulous the better. Me, I can take or leave them. However, good actors are a must for me to sit through any movie.

So with the promise of dinner, I agreed to go see Equalizer 2 with Denzel Washington. A win-win for us both. Hubby gets lots of action and I don’t have to cook plus I get to watch Denzel. Be still my heart.Beating heartLater that evening, over dinner, we discussed our likes and dislikes. Hubby could use more action. Sigh… But, our conversation did get me to thinking about the suspension of disbelief. About how I can accept a temporary acceptance of a particular reality or situation that normally strain credulity?  Because that’s what it takes to keep me in my theater seat or turning the pages in a book.

Now everyone knows movies like Mission Impossible, and Equalizer aren’t real. So, what is it about these movies that keep fans coming back? That gets us so involved we jump in our seats every time there is an over the top explosion? Cringe when an actor leaps from tall buildings in a single bound, and he isn’t Superman?

For me, it’s the actor and he must sell the story. Same with books. A reader cannot get lost in our story unless they become invested in a character. Hate or love doesn’t matter. But the reader must have strong feelings about your character.

Which brings me to my writing.

What is it in a story that enables a reader to suspend disbelief?

Is it the character, plot or storyline?

For me, it’s the character. If I feel an attachment to the character, he becomes life-like. I want him to survive and succeed or die and disappear off the face of the earth. See what I mean about strong feelings?

What makes a character life-like when there are unbelievable stunts and wild special effects that we know are not possible?

Is there a way to show a vulnerability that will make a reader care?

Yes. Through everyday events. Back to my movie example. In the Equalizer 2, a lot of regular, believable, and even mundane things give the Robert McCall depth. He drove a Lyft car, lived in a simple apartment, helped neighbors, cared for an elderly customer, made tea, cooked, read books, etc. You know, normal stuff. With these normal human activities scattered throughout the movie, I liked the man. And when the wild, out there unbelievable began to happen, I gladly suspended disbelief to cheer in on.

What do you do to get a reader invested?

How do you connect with unbelievable stories?

Got any tips for me?

Go to the bottom of this post and click on the links.

Writing Fiction: How To Write Evocative Characters Through Action And Strong Language

Suspension of Disbelief






Do you know where to look?

For that next book idea?

There’s nothing new under the sun.

In other words, no new ideas. Even inventions are the result of a previous idea or invention. One thing always leads to another.

So where do other writers get their ideas?

They steal, from each other and everyone.

From movies, books, TV, newspapers (a great source for SF), or their great Aunt Fanny.


Remember, everything old is new again! That’s where.

I know, enough clichés. But you get the point. Click and read this terrific article about Michael Crichton and how he turned the ideas of others into best-selling books with his own twist.


Talk to me – I love comments.

Please head over and “like” my Facebook page at Facebook at jeanswriting . Or to connect with me, click the “write me” tab. Don’t forget you can follow me on StumbleUpon,  on Twitter @jeancogdell , and Amazon.com.

Please stop by and say “hey!”  I’ll leave a light on. 

Now, how about you?

Have your ideas been sparked by a favorite movie or book?

Could you take a kernel from it and make it your own?

Keep Reading – More great articles ahead!

How To (Legally and Ethically) Steal Ideas 

Borrowing, Stealing, and Building Upon Other People’s Writing Ideas by

Why You Should Steal From Other Authors by K.M. Weiland


Do you think writing is more effective with a formula?

Of course! Formulas are buried in every book, movie or play. 

Take the Pixar movies! Who doesn’t love the little train that could? Or the little fish that doesn’t quit? Our hearts go pitter-patter when boy meets girl and live happily ever after. And what about the underdog who keeps plugging along until he wins. We love to cheer for Rocky Balboa, Scarlet O’Hara, the Great Ali, Harry Potter, and yell run Forest run. The list could go on to “infinity and beyond.” buzz lightyearI think you get the idea.

So what do I need to know about formulas that are repeated over and over in books and movies?

Do they work?


Yes! They work if we understand how to apply them. How to make them ours.

Here are 22 Rules of Storytelling from Pixar to get us started.

What did I learn from these formula rules?

  • A character that I cheer across the finish line, you may boo.
  • My readers may not think basket weaving is fun.
  • Forcing a theme on my characters may not work.
  • Whatever makes my character a star, steal it for a time. hehe
  • A formula works because it is tried and true. Once upon a time….
  • KISS, (keep it simple) until I reach the end. There is always time to go back and flesh out the details second round.
  • Characters have opinions, might as well let them speak.
  • Give the readers a reason to cheer or jeer.

What do you think?

Can you spot formulas in your writing?

Is there a formula that works for you? 

When you get stuck does a formula put you back on track? 

Tell me I’d love to know!

Leave me a comment – I love comments.

Please head over and “like” my Facebook page at Facebook at jeanswriting . Or to connect with me, click the “write me” tab. Don’t forget you can follow me on StumbleUpon,  on Twitter @jeancogdell , and Amazon.com.

Please stop by and say hey! The lights are on, and I’m waiting.

Do you need inspiration for your story?

To keep your writing fresh?

Don’t know about you, but I’m always searching for ways to get inspired. Because if I’m inspired, that inspiration will be reflected in my writing.

A few days ago I wrote a post, How to make progress on your novel without writing, about breaking through sluggish points in writing when you’re not sure what comes next.

Ways to step away from writing without leaving the manuscript behind. I loved y’all for leaving so many wonderful comments and suggestions.great-idea-1426607_640

One reader, Phillip T Stephens suggested– 

Read novels similar to your own and see what other novelists did. Joyce said all artists steal. The key is how well we do it. Did another author solve your problem? Great. How can you adapt that to your novel in a new and interesting way? Did another author come up with a really crappy solution? Even better. How can you spin that terrible solution into the perfect solution for your novel?cactus-1063094_640

Binge-watch movies and series to prime your creative pump or recharge your batteries.”popcorn-1433326_640

I took Phillip’s suggestions to heart and started reading other murder mysteries to find where the author placed their “inciting incidents,” where the story speeds up and then slows down to give the reader a second to catch their breath. Phillip’s idea is a great way to understand the pros use movement and pace in a story like yours.

What do you think?

Have you ever binge-watched a series or movies? 

What about spending a day just reading or even a week? (I love taking a few days to binge read.)

Here are a few more ways to study a favorite novel or movie.

A favorite movie? Try SlideShare. or IMDb.

A favorite book? One similar to your WIP? Try SparkNotes or Pink Monkey.

Need more? See if one of these meets your need:


Okay, here are my questions of the day–

Do you use Cliffnotes for your research?

Can you share other websites or sources for research?

How do you research a new project? Or a WIP that’s ground to a halt?

I’d love to hear from you! Click to write me or contact me on Twitter @jeancogdell, Facebook at  jean.cogdell and Amazon.com, stop by and say hey! The lights are on and I’m waiting.

Please remember share this post with your Twitter peeps and Facebook fans.