'Once upon a time'

Some people may be familiar with the phrase “suspension of disbelief,” but I first encountered it in a screenwriting class many years ago. We learned that it means the writer must ensure that the early moments of a film, or any drama, lead the viewer to temporarily reject what he or she knows to be factual and true in order to accept the claims of the story.

To me this was simply an explanation of something we find ourselves doing all the time: putting aside truth for fiction, if only for a couple of hours. We enjoy it in the theater and we so often accept it as entertainment. In order to enjoy stories, the audience makes the semiconscious decision to put aside its disbelief and accept the presented premise as being real for the duration of the story. Hasn’t the opener “Once upon a time …” worked forever in this role?

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