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Breaking the 4th Wall (1 Viewer)

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Llyralen

Senior Member
I usually like it when someone writes with a style of breaking the forth wall. It can be very charming and fun, like Farris Bueller’s Day Off, for instance. It can feel refreshing since it’s not often done. It can feel like a conversation or interview with someone where they do all of the talking... but does it help you BE inside that story yourself?

What are your experience of reading a narrator who breaks the forth wall? Is it charming or annoying? Is it okay for the opening? Okay throughout? Can you still feel like you are experiencing all of the MCs emotions just depending on the rest of the writing? Or does the narrator’s voice kick you out of the story firmly into the audience chair? I want to step up the emotional connection so that readers feel what my MC is feeling.
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I usually like it when someone writes with a style of breaking the forth wall. It can be very charming and fun, like Farris Bueller’s Day Off, for instance. It can feel refreshing since it’s not often done. It can feel like a conversation or interview with someone where they do all of the talking... but does it help you BE inside that story yourself?

What are your experience of reading a narrator who breaks the forth wall? Is it charming or annoying? Is it okay for the opening? Okay throughout? Can you still feel like you are experiencing all of the MCs emotions just depending on the rest of the writing? Or does the narrator’s voice kick you out of the story firmly into the audience chair? I want to kick up the emotional connection to the reader of a short story written in second person and flash back so that readers feel what my MC is feeling.

The first thing that came to mind is the scene in Annie Hall, when Woody Allen talks to the audience and pulls Marshall Mcluen from behind a billboard to prove the guy behind him is wrong. Hilarious! Is that the type of thing you mean? If so, I think it could be very effective, depending on the tone. Is your short story serious or light-hearted?

 

Llyralen

Senior Member
The first thing that came to mind is the scene in Annie Hall, when Woody Allen talks to the audience and pulls Marshall Mcluen from behind a billboard to prove the guy behind him is wrong. Hilarious! Is that the type of thing you mean? If so, I think it could be very effective, depending on the tone. Is your short story serious or light-hearted?


It’s the one that starts with the “merciful” murder and then she flashes back to 3 days before showing you everyone she met with and chronologically walking you up to the point of murder again. I just read it through. It’s almost in 2nd person where she is talking to her reader and telling them her observations and opinions about who she meets and what she does. She even says things like “Ladies, listen up because...” or “Men, if you want to know..” And I’m not sure if that jumps people out of the story or not, or if that style is annoying to many? But there is more telling than I want in most of it, so I will have to re-write a lot... but that’s okay, at this point it is short. Also there are lots of emotional words and I want to try getting the reader even in closer like your thread about showing emotions without words.


i guess breaking the forth wall is using 2nd person point of view? Lol.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
It’s the one that starts with the “merciful” murder and then she flashes back to 3 days before showing you everyone she met with and chronologically walking you up to the point of murder again. I just read it through. It’s almost in 2nd person where she is talking to her reader and telling them ab She even says things like “Ladies, listen up because...” or “Men, if you want to know..” And I’m not sure if that jumps people out of the story or not, or if that style is annoying to many. ? Is it for the opening? Okay throughout? Annoying? Can you still feel like you are experiencing all of their emotions just depending on the rest of the writing? Or is it annoying? Your thoughts? But there is more telling than I want in most of it, so I will have to re-write a lot... but that’s okay, at this point it is short. Also there are lots of emotional words and I want to try getting the reader even in closer like your thread about showing emotions without words.

So as I recall that was a really great idea but with a dark theme. But you wanted to give depth and redemption to the MC, in that she was a very caring person. I'm thinking of how well it worked in the House of Cards, that was dark. Sorry, I can't think of a work of fiction that has this. Perhaps you can direct me to one.

But I definitely think you can make it work. It wouldn't put me off, if it was done well. But I guess you could say that about almost anything. But I'll try to answer your question. As a reader, anytime the author tries to get me closer to the inside of the MCs head, I appreciate it.

 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
Maybe once per novel/play you can break the fourth wall.

If done well, it's always surprising but still feels right.

I tells me the narrative is "real" and grabs my attention. It's an excellent literary trick to be used sparingly.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
As far as scriptwriting is concerned, one of the famous examples is the TV series Moonlighting, where it was common for Bruce Willis to turn to the camera and speak to the audience. They did it well.

I do it in my WIP. It's first person, and a first person narrator tends to speak to the reader. I do it more directly a few times, so (for example, when he goofs up) I occasionally have him challenge the reader to decide if they could have improved on his performance, or he asks for sympathy, or gives advice:

I eased the door open enough to peer through the opening. I saw nothing but carpet and closed doors. Of course, I couldn't see into the elevator alcove, and the corridor bends about forty-five degrees there. I left my shoes in the corner of the landing and headed down the corridor. When you see this in a movie, the indomitable hero sneaks along with his back to the wall, in a crouch. Here's a little secret for the next time you have to take the part of indomitable hero. That's a dumb thing to do. You're just as visible, as good a target, and you only have one way to move, which makes your movement predictable if you have to dodge something. Just walk down the middle of the hall and stay sharp. Don't crouch. If someone sees you, they might laugh behind your back. The last thing any indomitable hero wants is to have someone laugh behind their back, whether they know it's being done or not.

But if I'm writing in third, no, I wouldn't do it that way. I'd have it in spoken or internal dialogue, if I included something like that at all. The availability of a device like that is one of the reasons to choose between first and third, along with POV limitations (or lack thereof), and the voice you'd like to use. If I'd written the above in third, I'd have done something like:

Cay eased the door open enough to peer through the opening. He saw nothing but carpet and closed doors. The corridor bent about forty-five degrees at the elevator alcove, so he couldn't see if anyone was hiding there. He left his shoes in the corner of the landing and headed down the corridor. He looked at the right wall and amused himself thinking of movies where the indomitable hero sneaks along with his back to the wall, in a crouch, and thought 'what a dumb tactic that is'. He'd be just as visible, as good a target, and only have one way to move, so any movement would be predictable if he had to dodge something. He decided to walk down the middle of the hall and stay sharp.

In that voice, I don't think I'd try to work in the joke at the end.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
It might happen a lot more with 1st person POV than I thought. It happens whenever we have a narrator’s voice. We assume first person is talking to the reader, I think. It’s like when Lemony Snickets stops us and asks is we want to go on. “Gentle reader watch and you will now see...”. It happens less in movies and plays. It often does liven things up some. There’s a “taking you into my confidence” feel to it and I think the ones that are most enjoyable make you feel that you are being interacted with. Like “The Monster at the End of This Book?” Who didn’t giggle their head off turning those pages. I enjoyed that with my parents and with my kids as a parent.

I love Johnathan Stroud’s hilarious Bartimaeus books where the 4th wall is broken by footnotes. Brilliant and hilarious!
 

LadySilence

Senior Member
When used at the right time, I think it's wonderful.However, I agree, one must not overdo it.


Personally I like it, I would like to use it, if the story allows it.
 

druid12000

Senior Member
It might happen a lot more with 1st person POV than I thought. It happens whenever we have a narrator’s voice. We assume first person is talking to the reader, I think. It’s like when Lemony Snickets stops us and asks is we want to go on. “Gentle reader watch and you will now see...”. It happens less in movies and plays. It often does liven things up some. There’s a “taking you into my confidence” feel to it and I think the ones that are most enjoyable make you feel that you are being interacted with. Like “The Monster at the End of This Book?” Who didn’t giggle their head off turning those pages. I enjoyed that with my parents and with my kids as a parent.

I love Johnathan Stroud’s hilarious Bartimaeus books where the 4th wall is broken by footnotes. Brilliant and hilarious!

The movie 'Deadpool' used it to great effect. They even co-opted the final scene after the credits from 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' where Ferris is telling the audience to go home, the movie's over. A Superhero wearing a terrycloth robe, poking his mask clad head out of a bedroom, is a great visual :grin:
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I just wrote this 4th wall breaker:

"This time I felt less insecure. If you're parsing semantics, 'less insecure' is by no means the same thing as 'more secure'. Not even close."
 
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