Suspension of Disbelief

a willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment

I caught bits and pieces of the movie Dante’s Peak — only because Hubby had it on and I happened to be wandering in and out of the room.  Maybe I’m just getting more cynical in my not-as-young-as-I-was age, or maybe I just caught the worst parts of the movie (assuming there were better parts), but I found myself yelling at the television as though it were to blame for the disbelieve-ability of the entire thing.

Allow me to set the scene:  The characters are in a life or death race against a volcano ready to blow its substantial top.  They race *up* the mountain because two children drove up to save their grandma, despite the fact ash was falling thicker than a Wisconsin blizzard and they couldn’t see past the hood of their truck.  Everyone winds up at grandma’s cabin, and while she waxes nostalgic about she and grandpa building said cabin, the back wall suddenly turns red and erupts into flame.  Why?  Well, because a giant lava flow has snuck up on them.  They flee the burning house just ahead of the lava flow and make it to the river where sits an old motor boat.  They climb in, start up the ash covered engine, and everyone breaths a sigh of relief.  Whew!

Or not.  Because suddenly they realize all the fish in the river are dead.  The volcanic activity has turned the water into acid.  Acid which is steadily eating through the boat.  Put your feet up kids!  Now, granted, I’ve never had to outrun a volcano, and I hope I never need to.  HOWEVER, if I found myself in the  middle of an acid river, eating a hole through my boat (which it did much quicker than eventually eating the prop), I certainly wouldn’t keep putting blithely down the middle  of the river.  I’d be heading for the opposite shore because there are no paddles in the boat.  Not our guy.  Straight down the middle, slowly, gazing dramatically at the dead fish and the water seeping in through the bottom of the boat.  He seems totally flummoxed when the engine stops, and he realizes the acid *finally* did in the prop.  Now what are they going to do?

I won’t spoil it for you.  Suffice it to say, they make it to shore in the nick of time.  We can breath again.  I missed bits and pieces after that and came in on the next totally inane scene.  This time they’re in a forestry truck which they’ve hot wired (which leads me to wonder if everyone on earth besides me know how to hot wire a vehicle??)  They drive the vehicle through a lava flow.  Yes, the tires flame and melt almost instantly, but they keep trucking (pun intended), even pausing long enough to save the family dog along the way.

There’s more, but I think I’ve got enough to make my point.  And that is?  Simply this:  If a viewer — or a reader — loses their Suspension of Disbelief, we (the author) are screwed.  As a member of the audience, I’m not very forgiving when this happens.  Quite frankly, it pisses me off-fa-fa.  I’m investing my time to read that book or watch that movie.  I’m willing to believe what you throw at me as plausible within the confines of that story so long as it makes sense and is honest.

My hope is I never ruin it for my readers.  If I do, I sure hope they’ll let me know!

And, as this is actually my ROW80 check-in — *happy dance, happy dance* made it through the scene re-write/edit that was stumping me and back into making great headway on the rest.

Write on!


  1. Brittney Van Sandt

    Wonderful Post! Thanks!! I’ve seen that movie and it is pretty crazy…hahah the scene with the boat always made me really creeped out… Just the thought… you know what I’m talking about;)
    Glad your Row80 is going well!

  2. I believe I can say with absolutely certainty that I just derived more pleasure from Dante’s Peak than I would ever have watching the movie. Thank you for the spectacular re-cap. You’re right about the suspension of disbelief. It’s the first thing that pulls me out of a story, especially if I’ve connected with the characters/world and can reasonably predict what a consistent reaction would be (and if I can’t, then disbelief is the least of that author’s problems). Thanks for the post!

    • LOL Thanks. 🙂 It was. . . yeah. I’d recommend it just as an example of how not to treat your audience, but why waste the time. Then, by complete contrast, there’s Kate & Leopold which I plunked myself in front of last night. Time traveling by jumping off a bridge. But I could *believe* it within the context of the story because they were true to it and made it work.

  3. Very funny. I saw that movie a long time ago. I thought the minute they went to rescue that stubborn grandmother that the conflict was too forced, contrived.

    The screenwriters or whoever came up with that idea needed something “major” for us to worry about on top of the raging volcano. They had the right idea, but they just didn’t execute it well at all–hence the lack of believability.

    I wish I could think of some other movies that have made me tear my hair out over the flaws, but my mind is blank. There are many, and I, like you, scream at the television that they screwed it up and lost me.

    • A tweak here or there in how they handled things and they would have had a much better movie. Still not among the greats, but better. Yes, you need tension and conflict, but it needs, but you nailed it — way too forced & contrived.

  4. Ruth Nestvold

    Thanks for the laugh! I remember finding Dante’s Peak to be more comedy than drama myself, not a good sign. *g*

    Congrats on getting the rewrite done!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.