Even if I didn’t write paranormal stories, I’d still get plenty of practice suspending disbelief by playing Santa Claus every Christmas. I’ve been at this for the better part of 20 years because my children are spaced just so: right as one child was about to stop believing, along came another to carry on the tradition.
This holiday season, for the first time, I can honestly say I’m ready to end the ruse. Unfortunately, my youngest is totally unaware that there might not be a Santa. He is an absolute reality that she sees no reason to question.
That’s the level of suspended disbelief I aspire to in my fiction.
Granted, it helps that Santa speaks to the youngest members of our society. Their unjaded senses are predisposed to possibility, which includes Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy right along with Narnia, Hogwartz and Eragon. But similarly, when most of us write, we aim for an audience as well: readers with open minds, willing to absorb plotlines that seasoned minds might resist. Finding them isn’t as easy as drawing a line around the “age of wisdom.”
For example, my oldest son stopped believing in Santa at six. Yes, six. He simply asked why Santa’s writing looked like mine and washed his hands of the whole notion. I was crushed. Yet, this wisened little soul grew up to love reading fantasy. Harry Potter landed on our bookshelves at his bidding. Likewise, he devoured the Goosebumps and Animorphs series and was my faithful companion during the Twilight Zone marathons on the SciFi (now SyFy) Channel. If I judged him by his early Santa humbug-ness, I might have missed out on sharing my favorite genre with him.
My second son held on to the Santa mystique several years longer. He didn’t want to run the risk of missing out on his Wish List by saying he didn’t believe. His tactic was to mail the letter – just in case. He, the pragmatic child, is also an avid fantasy reader.
Then, yes, there’s the youngest, who is utterly immersed in pretense. Whether its dolls, her journal, movies, books, or Christmas, imagination rules in her life. And while I’m tiring after two decades of the Santa charade, her reaction to half-eaten cookies and a Wish List fulfilled is priceless.
My “perfect” reader could be found in each of my kids. Whether it’s someone unshakeably logical looking for escape, or a person who thrives on Outer Limits, or the reader persuaded by a review who timidly approaches Stephen King’s latest, there’s room in my genre for all.
The trick to not tiring myself or my readers, I think, is crafting believable characters, and well-placed plot twists that keep us equally engaged. Do I have a 20-book series in me? That I don’t know. But I suppose I can put my experience at the Santa gig to good use in the quest to suspend disbelief, retain readers and create that magic sparkle in my little girl’s eyes.
Do you have a magical childhood memory? Santa, Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny or creatures under the bed? I’d love to hear them!