I'm wondering how we as readers decide that some fictional event is implausible. Or rather, why we suspend our disbelief-- what makes that possible.
So there are things like time travel which are prima facie implausible. But we "believe" them, at least while we're reading, unless....? What? What triggers our "no way" button?
Recently I started reading a book which had as a heroine a 30-year-old physicist. She was already a world-famous physicist, advising the White House, being considered for major prizes. And she had been a teen mom and had a 13-year-old.
For some reason, this triggered "no way" for me. (The time-travel plot, no problem though!) "There's no way! Teen moms might eventually go to college. But they usually have to work along the way, and so it'll take them 6 years just to get a BS. And a hard science PhD will be at least another 6 years. At least! So she couldn't actually have made a name for herself by 30. Impossible."
Now why did that seem implausible to me when in fact a teen mom getting a PhD by 30 is actually more likely than time travel. (My own mother got a hard-science PhD when she had eight, count 'em, eight children. So I know motherhood doesn't absolutely disqualify you.... but she was 52 when she got the doctorate.)
What's the trigger? I think actually it might be when you KNOW it's wrong. I teach college, have an academic background, and I know how long it takes to get a PhD, and how long it takes to get a name in academia.
I do not, however, know if time travel is possible. I suspect it's not, but heck, what do I know. It's conceivable. While in my mind, getting a hard science PhD and establishing a career by 30 when you were a teen mom isn't possible. I know enough to know that's just the author copping out, wanting to have a nubile young lady, a world-famous physicist, and whole teen mom thing, all in one.
What about you? What triggers your "no way" button?
I'm thinking that paradoxically, the more outlandish the issue, the more likely we are to accept it, just because we won't know much about it. What annoys us is when we DO know something about this situation, and we get a sense of those "clinkers" that don't quite compute in our understanding.
What do you think?
Also what would make this work better? Would acknowledging the unlikelihood help? Like mentioning how unlikely it is?