Humans do this quirky thing when faced with a story. They willfully suspend their disbelief. I'm exceptionally good at it, and it makes me wonder if it's a trait of writers.
It's pretty important to fiction writers. And critical to readers if they're going to be entertained. So... what is "suspension of disbelief"?
I like this definition, written by Dr. Wheeler of Carson-Newman University:
and willingly setting aside our beliefs about reality in order
to enjoy the make-believe of a play, a poem, film, or a story.
Perfectly intelligent readers can enjoy tall-tales about Pecos
Bill roping a whirlwind, or vampires invading a small town in
Maine, or frightening alternative histories in which Hitler
wins World War II, without being "gullible" or "childish."
To do so, however, the audience members must set aside their
sense of "what's real" for the duration of the play,
or the movie, or the book."
And on this page, Dictionary.com , it's defined: "a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment"
It takes this to enjoy a series like "Twilight" even while knowing that sparkly vampires aren't real. And in the Wizard of Oz, we know that the flying monkeys aren't real, but they've been terrifying viewers for decades.
It allows the reader/listener/viewer to step away from reality, and "play along" with the proffered fiction.
What makes it work? I'll give you my guess, based on being a reader, and a viewer. I have to relate to the characters. Even if they're aliens, there has to be some characterization that is a hopelessly human. For a book or a movie, if I'm not emotionally invested, it doesn't matter how fantastic the world-building is. It doesn't matter how wild the plot is. I need to feel the story through the emotions of the characters.
One last note. I'm the audience the studios look for. I get so deep in suspension that when the movie's over, I feel disoriented. I'll step outside and be shocked that it's still daylight--that it must be later because I was in the movie's fictional world for so long. I won't know which way to turn for the exit--I've lost track of which side of the cinema I'm in.
Please tell me that someone else does that too... :-)