Ari Marmell is a fantasy author whose novels include
The Goblin Corps, The Conqueror’s Shadow, The Iron Kingdoms Chronicles: In Thunder Forged, as well as the
Widdershins novels (Lost Covenant, Thief’s Covenant, and False Covenant). His latest novel, Hot Lead, Cold Iron, begins a new urban fantasy series. Follow Ari on Twitter using the best handle ever: @mouseferatu.
How to Successfully Create Suspension of Disbelief
by Ari Marmell
“Suspension of disbelief” is absolutely essential to any fantasy tale. If you can’t get the reader to accept the impossibilities of whatever magic or monsters you’re throwing at them, you’re never going to get them invested in the story. Everyone knows that.
What many people do not realize, though, is that, to suspend a reader’s disbelief, you have to start them from a shared baseline of what IS believable. A foundation of realism, some might call it–except that reality gets in the way of believability surprisingly often.
Ari Marmell is the author of several works of horror and fantasy tie-in fiction – including Agents of Artifice, a Magic: the Gathering novel-as well as roughly ten-billion-and-one role-playing game supplements for Dungeons & Dragons, Vampire: the Masquerade, and others. The Conqueror’s Shadow, available from Random House’s Spectra imprint, is his first published non-tie-in novel. You can find Ari online at www.mouseferatu.com.
Why Anti Matters
With the possible exceptions of horror and superhero comic books (which, though predating the field of “contemporary fantasy,” are arguably as much a subset thereof as they are a subset of sci-fi), the fantasy genre seems to contain a greater proportion of antiheroes than any other. From Elric of Melniboné to Vlad Taltos, Thomas Covenant to Xena, Locke Lamora to the Black Company, Jack Sparrow to-if I dare hope to place him in such infamous company-my own Corvis Rebaine, fantasy is absolutely replete with protagonists who are either former villains trying to make good, or who still would be villains if their tales were told from only a slightly altered perspective.
It almost goes without saying that for such a character to work, they must be given redeeming traits to make up for, or at least explain, their more villainous aspects. Vlad Taltos limits his “evil” to (more or less) those who have earned it. Jack Sparrow occasionally tries to do the right thing, and he’s just a whole lot of fun. I gave Corvis Rebaine strong motivations for his attempted conquest, and a family he loves and wants to protect once he’s “retired” from his martial life. I could write an entire (very lengthy) essay on all the various ways to make an antihero sympathetic, but A) that’s a little broader than I wanted to get, and B) I think most of you would lynch me if I tried to make you read that much on a computer screen.
So, let’s put that aside for just a moment and talk about something that’s going to seem unrelated, but bear with me. My mind’s tricksy that way, Precious.