A friend recently called reading a “fictional dream.” I totally agree. I liken it to the writer casting a spell upon the mind of the reader, which the reader welcomes.
Incongruities or just plain dullness can break the spell. (In science fiction, it’s most often crappy science. In fantasy, it’s often internal inconsistencies.) Then, no matter how good the setup or the storytelling, it’s hard to stay engaged.
Verisimilitude (following the thinking of Karl Popper) is critical at that point, making possible what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called the “willing suspension of disbelief.” While the suspension takes place in the reader’s mind, it is the responsibility of the writer to maintain the “spell” not waking the reader from the “dream.” J. R. R. Tolkien called it an “enchantment” which “produces a secondary world into which both designer and spectator can enter.” As distinguished from “magic” which “produces, or pretends to produce, an alteration in the Primary World” (from his essay “On Fairy Stories”).
I want to lose myself in the story. I want, for a short time, to be transported to a different time or place and be totally involved in the story.
“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C. S. Lewis