"Willing suspension of disbelief" is a phrase stolen directly from a high school English teacher who pulled it out anytime anyone scoffed at a passage in mythology or the bible that screamed outlandish. Anyone who attended Central Catholic in Portland, Oregon will surely recall the phrase. Unless I'm the only one who recalls what English teachers said with precision, which is equally possible.
I bring it to mind right now because I think that there is this part in the brain of every writer that believes, against all logic, that anything is possible, including imaginary characters.
Now, before I go on, if you have little onlookers who believe in everything magical that Christmas has to offer, please do not scroll down while they are in eyesight. I do not want to be the one to crush the beauty of belief.
I willed myself to believe in Santa until I was 12. When I was in seventh grade, my science teacher chuckled aloud to the class about how his third grade son still believed in Santa, with a tone of belittlement. Logically by that point, I knew there was no such thing as Santa, but I wanted so badly to maintain the magic of Christmas morning that I refused until that moment to acknowledge that my stockings were filled by my parents. For years, I recognized Santa's handwritten replies to my notes as my dad's writing, and I doubted very much that elves built toys with brands that could be found at any local department store, but it was more fun to believe.
If I'm perfectly honest and truthful, I still wake up every Christmas morning looking for proof in the bottom of my stocking that a fast-flying jolly old guy snuck in a little something extra.
To be even more honest and truthful, I find myself believing more in Santa than any other reason most people celebrate Christmas. I guess I'd rather willingly suspend my disbelief for literary fairy tales than religious conviction. That probably sounds odd to a great many people.
That said, the willing suspension of disbelief is part of what makes writing so beautiful. If I can imagine it in my mind's eye, I can will it to exist. It is part of what makes daydreaming such an enjoyable pastime!
writercize: Write a short story or dialogue in which a "normal" person comes face to face with an imaginary character.
Use any one (or more) of the following: Leprechaun, Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, mermaid.
Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about a leprechaun.writercizer sample response:
At first, I didn't even notice the tiny green footprints criss-crossing my walls. I thought that the sickly green glow that the room had adopted was a result of switching to those new energy friendly lightbulbs, an unfortunate side effect of dialing into the eco wave of home ownership.
Then, one morning, I was sitting down over my bowl of Lucky Charms and noticed a quick movement out of the corner of my eye. I leaned down to pick up my shoe, ready to pounce on any spider brave enough and stupid enough to interrupt my mealtime, when I saw that the movement stopped in place, and was literally pulsating and trembling in place.
I walked over to the wall, leaned my head in nice and close, until there was no more space between my nose and the wall than a birthday balloon leaking helium, and there was a shaking little, tiny green man with a teensy trail of light green shoeprints trailing behind him.
He looked straight into my eyes, and asked with a wink, "D'ya tink ya could spare a crumb for a little man, me lady? I's been a-runnin- nonstop fer days and me tummy's rumblin'. The name's Connor. Pleased ta meet ya."
"Connor? Sure, have a bite. Did you come out of the Lucky Charms, Connor? Am I dreaming? I am, aren't I? This is one of those dreams within a dream. Which really isn't good because I have a presentation at work today, and I can't be late. Wake up. Wake up. Wake up!" I shouted as I tugged out a string of hair.
"Yeow! That hurt. Connor, is this real? Are you for real?" I asked the little man, rubbing the sting on my head.
"Give me a crumb, and ye shall see fer yerself," he replied.
I stuck out my hand, and he crawled aboard. I carried him over to the table and watched him eat three crumbs of cereal, take a sip of milk from a splatter on the table, lick his lips, wipe his mouth with his sleeve, and look back up at me.
"Now, that's more like it. Believe me now?" he asked.
"Yes, I guess so."
"Well, then. Good, because you and me are gonn'ta be spendin' quite some time together. Yer Granddaddy sent me along to look after ye, said ye's been havin' some trouble focusin' and rememberin' tings, so it's now me job to sit on yer shoulder and prod yous along to a good bit of Irish luck. Shall we get started?"
I nodded, slipped the little leprechaun onto my shoulder and headed for the door.
As I opened it, he tapped me and said, "And another ting. Could ye pick up another cereal at the store after work? That cartoon Leprechaun on Lucky Charms doesn't do me kind any favors, always runnin' around lookin' fer gold at the end of the rainbows. Silly tought - barrels of gold at the end of rainbows. Gives people high expectations of what we can really deliver, y'know? I tink a nice flake of oatmeal'd be just the right ting to wake up to every morning."
"Sure, little guy. Whatever will make you feel most at home" I replied. Then I looked up to the sky and waved to my Granddaddy as I do every morning, then added a little kiss.
"To the moon, Granddaddy. To the moon and back," I smiled.