Monday, 29 October 2012

Seeing is Believing

In supernatural thrillers and horror stories one of the parapsychologies will usually figure somewhere along the way.  Clairvoyance is one of these. The dictionary says clairvoyance is ‘the ability to perceive things that are usually beyond the range of normal human senses’.  But I think many people associate it with the power to ‘see’ into the future.  (My current WIP features this a little so I must confess I am rather fond of it!)
Second sight or ESP is one of these ethereal subjects and it can be a particularly helpful plot device; remembering, of course, that we are talking about fiction and a willingness on the part of a reader to suspend disbelief.
The idea of being able to ‘see’ (or sense) something that is not within the bounds of normal is not a new one. It has been used from the early beginnings of the written word and tales from the classics and mythology are steeped in them.
The main areas of second sight seem to be Remote Viewing, where a person can ‘see’ something that is happening a long way away, Precognition, where a person can ‘see’ and foretell something that is about to happen, and Visions where a person simply ‘sees’ something (it may only be a flash image) but has no idea if it’s from the future, past or present.
Telepathy, premonition and telekinesis are also closely related to second sight.
Of course the scientific community does not accept any of this stuff as it requires proof that is just not available. The various researchers into the area are of the view that most of it is fraud, self-delusion and guesswork. But that doesn’t stop the believers and it certainly doesn’t stop the notion of second sight being fertile grounds for the imagination in fiction writing.
One does not have to believe these things to enjoy a good story that uses any these ideas. If you asked the population in general how many believed in the paranormal you would get a much lower number than those who read the fiction books and watch the films. This is what suspension of disbelief is all about; in that, just for the period that you are immersed in a good story, you are willing to step into a universe where all things are possible. This is the nub of all good plots and fiction in general. How else would we enjoy Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings?
The other interesting thing for me is that if you have one character who believes in the paranormal and one that doesn’t then that sets the story up for even more conflict and tension, quite naturally without having to work at it.
What do you think? If you make a world ‘real’ enough for the reader, can you suspend disbelief?


  1. Nice breakdown, Pat. All these parapsychology things are fascinating to me in fiction stories. I'm not too good with horror, but I love paranormal books. Good stuff!

  2. Great post! Yes I think it is definitely possible to create a world that a reader will believe.
    I do believe we have extra senses that we've perhaps forgotten how to use and don't properly understand and the possibilities of these are limitless! x

  3. I'm a believer. I think there is way more to this universe than we can ever imagine.
    (I traveled over from Kyra's blog...still wanting to know how you look 30 at 60)

  4. It is possible to get a reader to suspend disbelief - but they have to want to do it, so engaging characters are probably more important than realistic seeming descriptions.

  5. Interesting stuff! And yes, I believe that if a writer makes a world real enough, the reader can suspend disbelief.

  6. Oh, I happily suspend disbelief. But you're right, the writer has to be good enough for that to be possible. I think a lot of people come willing and prepared to suspend disbelief, but there's only so much even they can take if the world created, and the circumstances in which the unreal (to them) occur, aren't good enough.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  7. I think most people are willing to suspend disbelief, especially if they've read the blurb and are up for it! If you weren't, you wouldn't buy the book, I guess. I love all that stuff! There's an award for you over on my blog, by the way! :-)

    1. Thank you so much for the award! And thanks for commenting!

  8. I am always willing to suspend belief when the writing is good. Thank you for explaining the differences between the the parapsychologies.

  9. I am always willing to suspend belief when the book draws me in completely. It's an act of trust between writer and reader that makes reading a rewarding experience.