1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    How can I suspend disbelief in the thriller genre, the right way?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ryan Elder, May 6, 2016.

    When it comes to writing, a lot of times readers will tell me that a situation is unrealistic. Mostly police or legal situations, and they have a problem with that.

    However, lots of movies have unrealistic police situations, and the viewers like it and do not care, as long as their is suspense, right?

    In my current story for example, a man has taken people hostage, and the readers did not like how the police brought in the man's girlfriend to attempt to talk him down, cause they said it is unrealistic that the police would bring her in a situation like that. But I wanted the girlfriend there to do more with her character, for other parts of the story, especially the ending.

    Now one movie I can think of that many people loved with an unrealistic hostage situation was Cell 211. In that movie, the government offered to pardon the leader of the hostage takers, if the leader killed his owned men and saved the hostages. That is actually what they wanted him to do, and he is pardoned.

    Now that situation is not realistic and the cops would probably not do that in a real life hostage situation, but the movie was a hit in Spain, and won the Spanish Academy Award for best picture. So the viewers clearly didn't care that it was unrealistic, or against police policy.

    So how do you write a story like that, that discards realism for the sake of drama, and people will accept it, and not be bothered by it?
     
  2. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    Well frankly how you describe Cell 211, I would be disappointed when I come out of the cinema door.

    I wouldn't buy the fact that police brings her in. If you want the girlfriend to be in there, I would place her there before the situation starts (man doesnt know his gf is there). I don't know what kind of location it is, but maybe girlfriend hides when the situation starts and as the hostage moment goes on, man finds out she is there. Finds her somehow, I don't know.

    But police putting her in there is something I wouldn't buy. I buy if they let her talk through phone to this man, and even that is bit stretching it. Police don't put people at risk, when there are already people in need. It just doesn't happen, de facto.
     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well I can't put the gf there under other circumstances without it coming off as a big coincidence, or how she would know where to go, before it starts. Even the man didn't plan to take hostages, in that specific place, it just ends up that way, after unforeseen circumstances play out that get him to that destination.

    What I could do is have the gf have a police radio scanner and listen in on where the cops are going to, and she can just maybe get there first? But she doesn't have a siren on her car, unlike the cops, so is it believable that she would get there first, before the police get there and move her away?

    One movie that had the wife of the hostage taker talk to him was The Negotiator (1998). But that's just it though. How do you make the audience suspend disbelief, rather than limiting yourself to telling a completely realistic story?
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2016
  4. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    The posts here are interesting. Let me offer my reactions.

    I have not seen Cell 211 but the premise sounds really interesting even if it is far-fetched. Turning the tables on the hostage-taker is an interesting twist, and as a writer I think it would be fun to play with that.
    This makes me think about the movie Leon The Professional. The police are portrayed as drugged-up loose cannons. I can see a cop in that circumstance create the situation of Cell 211. All it takes is one rogue policeman with authority to stir up something like this. The real law enforcement folks will probably not buy the story but how many of them will read it?

    So now if I look at your police-call-the-girlfriend situation it doesn't sound nearly as far-fetched. A police captain desperate to try anything (perhaps someone he knows is being held hostage) to save the prisoners may stray from normal procedures.

    It sounds to me like you are obsessing too much over the reaction of one reader. You must remember that you won't be able to please everyone. Some folks will be more cynical than others. HaridaArch above doesn't buy your story but I would probably not question it if it were written well. Every reader has a different level of 'buy that'. Even if I know the premise is hopelessly implausible if you make it entertaining enough I will probably still like it (case in point for me below).
    [​IMG]
     
  5. bdw8
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    bdw8 Member

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    It seems like the main difference is that Cell 211 is asking the audience to suspend disbelief for a moment and giving them a very cool dilemma and action sequence as a result, whereas in your case the audience gets a bit of clich├ęd dialogue. The audience won't care about suspending disbelief as much if they get a unique, funny or otherwise interesting sequence out of it... But you can't ask them to suspend belief simply for convenience, lazy writing, or to give them something they could have come up with themselves. They're paying money to go on a journey they couldn't have come up with themselves.

    As far as believability, as things are presented here, Cell 211 is still more believable. I've heard of crazy stories about ex-gang members (who've committed heinous crimes) being given a brand new identity in exchange for divulging the names of the leaders in their gang. Cell 211 takes this a bit further, but not much.

    The police taking his girlfriend to talk him down just seems much less likely to happen... Is she willing to help the police? Yet, her boyfriend is a hostage-taking criminal?

    Maybe this is his first offense, and she's been sticking things through to help him. Maybe she previously heard him mention this venue, and when she hears that this venue is shut down due to police activity (perhaps via a traffic report on the radio), she tries to call him -- but he doesn't answer. Then, she realizes that it's him -- so she rushes to the crime scene on her own accord, at which point it's much more reasonable that the police would have her talk to him.

    Or, maybe that morning she senses something's wrong, so she goes to the police to tell them about her boyfriend's plan. She can feel very conflicted about this decision. (Perhaps he follows her, and when he realizes she's going to the police, he quickly puts his plan into action.) While she's there, the police get the call. Maybe they ask her to come along. Or maybe she follows them. Or, perhaps more realistically, they keep her at the station and patch her over the radio to talk to him from the safety of the station.
     
  6. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks for the input. I thought that Cell 211 was more far fetched than the police giving crooks new identities because, in Cell 211's case, the police getting a crook to turn on his own can endanger the hostages more.

    Well you say people are less likely to be buy into an unrealistic police move, if it's a cliche that doesn't do anything much for the story, if I am reading this right.

    But when the police bring the gf in to talk him down, she runs into the building, picks up a gun, that her bf has and helps him in the hostage situation, which the police did not see coming, nor the boyfriend, since he wanted to keep her out of it, and keep her safe.

    I was also thinking she would end up killing one of the hostages, or come close to, and the police would blame themselves for bringing her there, to help originally. But I haven't decided if this hostage dies or not yet.

    So wouldn't the police accidentally motivating a new hostage taker to join the party, and make things worse, be giving the story a new sequence out of it, and not so cliched as a result?
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2016
  7. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    Bringing the GF down to the hostage scene to try to help may not be 'police procedural' but I could swallow it given sound reasoning in the story. That you have her joining the hostage situation as an accomplice...now I'm having trouble believing your story.
     
  8. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    What if the police brought her down to ask her questions? While asking her to talk the guy down seems unlikely, using her to get information so that the proffesionals can talk him down seems pretty reasonable.
     
  9. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use pegs to suspend my disbeliefs.
     

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