Characters who Believe too Easily

Considering that I write time travel romances, I also like to read them. Same goes for other types of paranormal romance – shifters, fae, vampires, witches, other worlds, psychic powers, etc. My favorites almost always involve a main character who is initially unaware of his/her paranormal abilities or nature, or who comes into these abilities in the beginning of the book and must learn how to use this special nature or power. But one problem I have with many of these books is that these characters believe too easily. They learn something about themselves that no reasonable person would easily accept, then boom! Hey, I’m a vampire, that’s great (or sucks), and off the story goes, no problem.

I can suspend disbelief to accept, for the time I’m reading, that there are such things as vampies, werewolves, fairies, or time travel. But when a character with no previous experience, no reason to believe, suddenly finds he/she is one of the above and is almost immediately accepting of that fact – well, that’s a little harder to swallow.

The characters believe too easily, and in doing so, are less believable to me.

Grave New Day CoverOne book I recently read where this was handled well was Grave New Day, an urban fantasy by Lina Gardiner. Jess, the main character, is a vampire – but she’s been one for a long time, so it makes sense that she’s with the program. What she finds unbelievable is meeting her human partner, John – who’d died in the previous installment of the series. He’s not a vampire – in Gardiner’s world, vampires can sense each other – but he seems to have some superhuman abilities he lacked before. Add to this the fact that he can’t remember who he is or how he came to wake in a mysterious, underground crypt, and the only understandable course is for Jess to be suspicious. John gradually discovers who he is, but the harder one to convince is Jess, and it takes her over halfway through the book before she believes.

In my upcoming time travel book, Time’s Enemy, main character Tony gains the ability to psychically travel in time after nearly dying in an accident. For the first few chapters, he’s convinced his trip to ancient Mayan times and being sacrificed was nothing more than a hallucination or a bad dream. Even when he travels back two years within his own life, he has trouble believing. Not until he finds the Saturn Society, a group of other time-travelers, does he begin to believe, as he develops the ability to control his travels.

If you read paranormal romance, fantasy or science fictions books dealing with the unbelievable, do you find that many characters believe too easily, and does it bother you? Or is it okay, as long as the story’s otherwise believable and entertaining?

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4 Responses to \

  1. I love it when a blog post gives me something to think about in terms of my writing. I’ve had trouble with this very thing in my writing. You (or I) go to the trouble to plot this nifty story, and we need our character to get with the program so we can get on with the show. You (or I) have to build the reluctance to accept The Power™ into each conflict. And that’s hard. 😀

  2. So true, Catie! It’s a fine line to walk – drag out the disbelief too long, and it not only slows down the story, it can be downright annoying! The trick is striking the right balance. Grave New Day worked in part because there was a lot of action going on while Jess was struggling with her disbelief. Hopefully I did that well in my book!

  3. I guess I’m torn. I absolutely agree with you that believing too quickly is a mood-breaker but sometimes, I think the story is less about self-discovery and more about what a character will do with that self-discovery. Not sure if that makes sense.

    Just the other day, my family watched the first Harry Potter movie again – in preparation for the final film. When Hagrid tells Harry he’s a wizard, Harry is surprised for an instant but then it all makes sense to him, all the ‘stuff’ that’s gone on in his young life points to him being a wizard. If the focus was on his adjustment to that, then it would have taken too much away from the movement of ‘this’ story. The same with Tithe, where the MC knew she was odd and was actually relieved to know she was a fairy. 🙂

  4. That makes sense, Debora. Your Harry Potter is a good example of when a quick belief can work – because there was a good setup for it. Harry had always known he was different, and therefore it was believable for him to accept the reason at an early juncture in the story. There are always exceptions!