Tag Archives: skepticism

Suspending Disbelief

While brainstorming an idea for a (currently) short story involving ghosts, spirits, demons and other such things, my friend posed an interesting question, somewhat out of the blue.

“Are you ok with writing about this stuff? It’s taking as read that things you don’t believe in actually exist.”

I had to stop and think about it – it’s something that hadn’t hitherto occurred to me.

Exploring interesting ideas by pretending they are true is really what fiction is about. I write about magic, time travel, parallel universes, alien visitations, and gods. All are as ridiculous as each other, but can make for damn good stories. Not necessarily mine, but their are many capable writers out there. I can suspend my disbelief, and even imagine belief in the absurd in order to write a story. It’s part of being creative.

We suspend our disbelief all the time as readers too. I love Lord of the Rings; the non-existence of elves presents no difficulty to me, I’m not about to throw the book down declaring it’s lack of realism.

The only thing that I may worry about is that something I write might be seen as an expression of belief in something ridiculous. And this is the reason I had to stop and ponder the question.

If i write about magic and wizards, no-one is going to assume I believe in the existence of immortal humanoids with supernatural abilities. (Insert jibe about the Catholic Church). Likewise, if i write a snippet on alien communication, no-one is going to ask me when i was abducted, and what the alien’s name was.

Why is it different with ghosts and gods?

Shows like Most Haunted are good entertainment, and well scripted shows. Why are they presented as if ghosts actually exist?

Why do psychics like Sally Morgan insist on lying to people, saying that they actually communicate with the dead, rather than be honest and say that they are performing a show where the skill is in reading people and educated guesswork.

By writing something in which the existence of ghosts is assumed, why do I wonder if I’m telling the reader “I believe in ghosts, wooOOoooo!” *waggly fingers* when it is obvious that they don’t and can’t exist?

ESP, telepathy, fate, luck, god(s), ghosts, demons, daemons, angels, djinn, spirits, homeopathy, afterlife, horoscopes, etc etc….. Some make good story tropes, some don’t (my first Homeopathy Avenger novel out soon, pre-order now, beat the rush), but I would be mortified if someone thought I believed in any of them.

I love my friends, I sometimes wonder if I’d think about anything interesting without them.

Oooh, kitten picture!


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