Suspension of disbelief is the avoidance—often described as willing—of critical thinking and logic in understanding something that is unreal or impossible in reality, such as something in a work of speculative fiction, in order to believe it for the sake of enjoying its narrative.  Historically, the concept originates in the Greco-Roman principles of theater, wherein the audience ignores the unreality of fiction to experience catharsis from the actions and experiences of characters. 
The phrase first appeared in English poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Biographia Literaria , where he suggested that if an author could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a story with implausible elements, the reader would willingly suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative.  Coleridge was interested in returning fantastic elements to poetry and developed the concept to support how a modern, enlightened audience would continue to enjoy such types of literature. Coleridge suggested that his work, such as Lyrical Ballads , his collaboration with William Wordsworth, essentially involved attempting to explain supernatural characters and events in plausible terms so that implausible characters and events of the imagination can seem to be truthful and present a greater contrast between fiction and reality.   Coleridge also referred to this concept as "poetic faith", citing the concept as a feeling analogous to the supernatural, which stimulates the mind's faculties regardless of the irrationality of what is being understood. 
It was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. Mr. Wordsworth on the other hand was to propose to himself as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us. 
This concept had previously been understood in antiquity, particularly in the Roman theoretical concerns of Horace and Cicero who wrote in a time of increasing skepticism about the supernatural. In Horace's Ars Poetica , he used the quotation Ut pictura poesis , meaning "as is painting so is poetry". According to David Chandler, Coleridge also originally drew his notion from Johann Jakob Brucker's Historia Critica Philosophiae which cited the phrase "assensus suspensione" ("suspension of assent");  Brucker's phrase was itself a modernization of the phrase "adsensionis retentio" ("a holding back of assent") used by Cicero in his Academica .  
The traditional concept of the suspension of disbelief as proposed by Coleridge is not about suspending disbelief in the reality of fictional characters or events, but the suspension of disbelief in phenomena that is regarded as implausible.  This can be demonstrated in the way a reader suspends disbelief in supernatural phenomena itself—simulating the feelings of a character that is experiencing the phenomena in the narrative of a story—rather than simply the implausibility of the phenomena in a story.
The phrase "suspension of disbelief" came to be used more loosely in the later 20th century, often used to imply that the burden was on the reader, rather than the writer, to achieve it. This might be used to refer to the willingness of the audience to overlook the limitations of a medium, so that these do not interfere with the acceptance of those premises. These premises may also lend to the engagement of the mind and perhaps proposition of thoughts, ideas, art and theories.  With a film, for instance, the viewer has to ignore the reality that they are viewing a staged performance and temporarily accept it as their reality in order to be entertained. Early black-and-white films are an example of visual media that require the audience to suspend their disbelief for this reason.  Cognitive estrangement in fiction involves using a person's ignorance to promote suspension of disbelief. 
Suspension of disbelief is sometimes said to be an essential component of live theater, where it was recognized by Shakespeare, who refers to it in the Prologue to Henry V : "make imaginary puissance [...] 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings [...] turning the accomplishment of many years into an hourglass". Poetry and fiction involving the supernatural had gone out of fashion to a large extent in the 18th century, in part due to the declining belief in witches and other supernatural agents among the educated classes, who embraced the rational approach to the world offered by the new science. Alexander Pope, notably, felt the need to explain and justify his use of elemental spirits in The Rape of the Lock , one of the few English poems of the century that invoked the supernatural. 
American psychological critic Norman N. Holland provided a neuroscientific theory of suspension of disbelief.  Neurally, when a person engages with a narrative in a work of fiction, the brain goes wholly into a perceiving mode, engaging less intensely with the faculties for acting or planning to act; "poetic faith" is a willing act that is supported by the value of a narrative that is being engaged with. When the person stops perceiving to think about what has been seen or heard, its "truth-value" is assessed. 
Aesthetic philosophers generally reject claims that a "suspension of disbelief" can accurately characterize the relationship between people and "fictions". American philosopher Kendall Walton noted that if viewers were to truly suspend disbelief when viewing a horror movie and accept its images as absolute fact, they would have a true-to-life set of reactions that are impractical and contradict the safety of the leisure of viewing the movie. For instance, if this logic generally applied, then audience members would try to help endangered on-screen characters, or call authorities when witnessing on-screen murders. 
Not all authors believe that "suspension of disbelief" adequately characterizes the audience's relationship to imaginative works of art. J. R. R. Tolkien challenged this concept in "On Fairy-Stories", choosing instead the paradigm of secondary belief based on inner consistency of reality: in order for the narrative to work, the reader must believe that what they read is true within the secondary reality of the fictional world. By focusing on creating an internally consistent fictional world, the author makes secondary belief possible. Tolkien argued that suspension of disbelief is only necessary when the work has failed to create secondary belief, saying that from that point on, the reader ceases to be immersed in the story and so must make a conscious effort to suspend their disbelief or else give up on it entirely. 
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, literary critic, philosopher, and theologian who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He also shared volumes and collaborated with Charles Lamb, Robert Southey, and Charles Lloyd. He wrote the poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, as well as the major prose work Biographia Literaria. His critical work, especially on William Shakespeare, was highly influential, and he helped introduce German idealist philosophy to English-speaking cultures. Coleridge coined many familiar words and phrases, including "suspension of disbelief". He had a major influence on Ralph Waldo Emerson and American transcendentalism.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–1798 and published in 1798 in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads. Some modern editions use a revised version printed in 1817 that featured a gloss. Along with other poems in Lyrical Ballads, it is often considered a signal shift to modern poetry and the beginning of British Romantic literature.
Defamiliarization or ostranenie is the artistic technique of presenting to audiences common things in an unfamiliar or strange way so they could gain new perspectives and see the world differently. According to the Russian formalists who coined the term, it is the central concept of art and poetry. The concept has influenced 20th-century art and theory, ranging over movements including Dada, postmodernism, epic theatre, science fiction, and philosophy; additionally, it is used as a tactic by recent movements such as culture jamming.
A plot device or plot mechanism is any technique in a narrative used to move the plot forward. A clichéd plot device may annoy the reader and a contrived or arbitrary device may confuse the reader, causing a loss of the suspension of disbelief. However, a well-crafted plot device, or one that emerges naturally from the setting or characters of the story, may be entirely accepted, or may even be unnoticed by the audience.
John Shirley is an American writer, primarily of fantasy, science fiction, dark street fiction, westerns, and songwriting. He has also written one historical novel, a western about Wyatt Earp, Wyatt in Wichita, and one non-fiction book, Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas. Shirley has written novels, short stories, TV scripts and screenplays—including The Crow—and has published over 84 books including 10 short-story collections. As a musician, Shirley has fronted his own bands and written lyrics for Blue Öyster Cult and others. His newest novels are Stormland and Axle Bust Creek.
Deus ex machina is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly or abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence. Its function is generally to resolve an otherwise irresolvable plot situation, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending or act as a comedic device.
Mimesis is a term used in literary criticism and philosophy that carries a wide range of meanings, including imitatio, imitation, nonsensuous similarity, receptivity, representation, mimicry, the act of expression, the act of resembling, and the presentation of the self.
The fantastic is a subgenre of literary works characterized by the ambiguous presentation of seemingly supernatural forces.
Arthur Owen Barfield was a British philosopher, author, poet, critic, and member of the Inklings.
The term Middle-earth canon, also called Tolkien's canon, is used for the published writings of J. R. R. Tolkien regarding Middle-earth as a whole. The term is also used in Tolkien fandom to promote, discuss and debate the idea of a consistent fictional canon within a given subset of Tolkien's writings.
The Biographia Literaria is a critical autobiography by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, published in 1817 in two volumes. Its working title was 'Autobiographia Literaria'. The formative influences on the work were William Wordsworth's theory of poetry, the Kantian view of imagination as a shaping power, various post-Kantian writers including F.W.J. von Schelling, and the earlier influences of the empiricist school, including David Hartley and the Associationist psychology.
The concept of genius, in literary theory and literary history, derives from the later 18th century, when it began to be distinguished from ingenium in a discussion of the genius loci, or "spirit of the place". It was a way of discussing essence, in that each place was supposed to have its own unique and immutable nature, but this essence was determinant, in that all persons of a place would be infused or inspired by that nature. In the early nationalistic literary theories of the Augustan era, each nation was supposed to have a nature determined by its climate, air, and fauna that made a nation's poetry, manners, and art singular. It created national character.
Aesthetic distance refers to the gap between a viewer's conscious reality and the fictional reality presented in a work of art. When a reader becomes fully engrossed in the illusory narrative world of a book, the author has achieved a close aesthetic distance. If the author then jars the reader from the reality of the story, essentially reminding the reader they are reading a book, the author is said to have "violated the aesthetic distance."
"Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" is a poem by William Wordsworth, completed in 1804 and published in Poems, in Two Volumes (1807). The poem was completed in two parts, with the first four stanzas written among a series of poems composed in 1802 about childhood. The first part of the poem was completed on 27 March 1802 and a copy was provided to Wordsworth's friend and fellow poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who responded with his own poem, "Dejection: An Ode", in April. The fourth stanza of the ode ends with a question, and Wordsworth was finally able to answer it with seven additional stanzas completed in early 1804. It was first printed as "Ode" in 1807, and it was not until 1815 that it was edited and reworked to the version that is currently known, "Ode: Intimations of Immortality".
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to fiction:
Verisimilitude is the "lifelikeness" or believability of a work of fiction. The word comes from Latin: verum meaning truth and similis meaning similar. Language philosopher Steve Neale distinguishes between two types: cultural verisimilitude, meaning plausibility of the fictional work within the cultural and/or historical context of the real world, outside of the work; and generic verisimilitude, meaning plausibility of a fictional work within the bounds of its own genre.
Fiction is any creative work, chiefly any narrative work, portraying individuals, events, or places that are imaginary, or in ways that are imaginary. Fictional portrayals are thus inconsistent with history, fact, or plausibility. In a traditional narrow sense, "fiction" refers to written narratives in prose – often referring specifically to novels, novellas, and short stories. More broadly, however, fiction encompasses imaginary narratives expressed in any medium, including not just writings but also live theatrical performances, films, television programs, radio dramas, comics, role-playing games, and video games.
Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction involving magical elements, typically set in a fictional universe and sometimes inspired by mythology and folklore. Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became fantasy literature and drama. From the twentieth century, it has expanded further into various media, including film, television, graphic novels, manga, animations and video games.
Romantic epistemology emerged from the Romantic challenge to both the static, materialist views of the Enlightenment (Hobbes) and the contrary idealist stream (Hume) when it came to studying life. Romanticism needed to develop a new theory of knowledge that went beyond the method of inertial science, derived from the study of inert nature, to encompass vital nature. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was at the core of the development of the new approach, both in terms of art and the 'science of knowledge' itself (epistemology). Coleridge's ideas regarding the philosophy of science involved Romantic science in general, but Romantic medicine in particular, as it was essentially a philosophy of the science(s) of life.