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Today I had an English exam (Egyptian GSEC English exam)

There was a passage about science fiction writing that said:

Association with real-life events helps the author maintain the suspension of disbelief without which, the story becomes unrealistic....

So here what does the word which refer to? Does it refer to the suspension of belief or to the association with real-life events?

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    Association with real-life events helps the author maintain the suspension of disbelief. Without that suspension of disbelief the story becomes unrealistic. You could understand the reference as meaning Without that association the story becomes unrealistic, but this would be a bit perverse (though it's not obvious to me it would represent any significant difference in meaning anyway). – FumbleFingers Jun 8 '17 at 12:23
  • The antecedent of "which" is the nominal "suspension of disbelief". – BillJ Jun 8 '17 at 16:38
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Which here is a relative pronoun.

Relative pronouns work more like conjunctions than actual pronouns. They don't really have an antecedent but kinda-sorta "pull in" an entire previously expressed phrase and let it fill a subject or object slot in a following phrase.

I told John that I didn't like it (allows "I didn't like that" to be object of "I told John X")

I couldn't ever find out what Bobby's problem was (allows "Bobby's problem was" to be object of "I couldn't ever find out X")

My cat ran away which meant that I didn't have to buy food. (which allows "My cat ran away" to be subject (X) of X meant Y, and that allows "I didn't have to buy food" to be object (Y) of "X meant Y*.)

In your example:

Association with real-life events helps the author maintain the suspension of disbelief without which, the story becomes unrealisti

Which is allowing "the suspension of disbelief" to be the object of the preposition without.

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