1. helltank
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    helltank Member

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    Breaking the 4th wall?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by helltank, Oct 22, 2010.

    I like breaking the 4th wall(meaning the character talks to the reader directly). It's fun, unique and can convey the character's personality. If the character is a tough-talking gangster who has no time for scientific theories, instead of saying,"So then Dr.Spencer explained how nuclei can divide, causing binary fission and allowing them, and by relation the cells, to surive." he would say,"So then the Doctor rambles off some scientific mumbo jumbo about how cells give birth." Notice that even though cells don't give birth, he says give birth. This can show that he's an idiot when it comes to science. The first example would be more suited to an ambitious college student attending a lecture.
     
  2. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    If I may... I don't think that's really an example of the narrator directly addressing the reader. That's just the narrator displaying his personality. Breaking the fourth wall would be more like:

    "So then the Doctor rambles off some scientific mumbo jumbo about how cells give birth... Or something like that. You know how these science guys are."

    With that little addition, the narrator is actively acknowledging the reader's existence, as opposed to just impregnating the narrative with his own personality... Okay, maybe impregnating isn't the best word to use, but I'm tired and don't feel like coming up with a better one. :)
     
  3. helltank
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    helltank Member

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    Sorry. I had to eat dinner when I wrote that, so I kind off rushed through. But anyway, what do you think about breaking the 4th wall?
     
  4. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Saturating?

    I like to call this style of narration "subjective point of view". I don't know if there is a better term for it.

    About breaking the fourth wall - nah, it takes away the story's believability. I would only do it for stories that were very experimental or philosophical, or maybe humorous purposes.
     
  5. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am sure it has purposes but I am not sure if those purposes are all too frequent. A rare brief joke acknowledging the character's fictitious nature could be funny.(Notice I said rare) But I don't know if addressing the audience is really an effective tool most often. But if you wanna try it out, go ahead, it could work really well for you.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In the film "Horse Feathers", Groucho Marx in the middle of a scene turns to look directly into the camera and says to the audience, "Look, I have to stay here, but there's no reason that you folks shouldn't go out into the lobby for 20 minutes until this thing blows over." Very funny, and unusual at the time, but in a novel this kind of thing would just be narration, and happens a lot more often.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    King indulged in narrator intrusion in one chapter of Under the Dome. Truly awful and cheesy. It stuck out like a bad cliche. I would grab my copy from upstairs and flip through to find it, but frankly, why bother.
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's a little burlesque for my taste. It happens and I feel like I've been goosed.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've read plenty of good books that use this technique - where the narrator speaks directly to the reader. Most of them have been older works, and it seems like this was a more accepted technique in decades past. I've also read some really bad works that use the technique.

    So it comes down to this: if you can do it well, then go ahead and do it. If not, avoid it.

    Not much help, is it? :D
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It seems to me that the "narrator directly addressing the reader" is what happens generally in first-person fiction. In Moby Dick, "Call me Ishmael" is directly addressed to the reader. The Catcher In The Rye is directly addressed to the reader.

    Breaking the fourth wall would only be an issue, I think, in third-person fiction. I don't approve of it, except, of course, in comedy. In comedy, pretty much anything goes.
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    But you do see it done effectively in 3d person. Take, for example, what I consider to be the best novel of all time, "The Brother's Karamazov." Dostoevsky's narrator addresses the reader directly, though the work is in third person. I've seen this done effectively in a number of third person stories, though as I said above many of them are older works.
     
  12. Ruth Jacobs
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    Ruth Jacobs Member

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    I've done a short paragraph of this in my first novel - I think. I appreciate that's vague but I'm a novice so I'm not sure. I don't say "dear reader..." It's a backflash the protagonist has after a scene in which she experiences something horrifc. What she is reminded of is worse. It starts with a short paragraph in third person (the novel is in third person limited) and the character takes over the second paragraph describing what happened to her and what she thinks about it.

    I originally wrote it in third person but tried it in first and to me it is more emotionally charged this way. The event and one other that is mentioned is foreshadowing for something that happens later in the novel.

    I'm only at first draft stage so I'm not sure whether I'll leave it in after all the editing.
     
  13. Cyrano
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    Don't put it in there for the sake of putting it in there. If it fits, use it. If not, don't change around your entire story so it will. Plus, like some people have already said, it can come off as a gimmick, especially if its out of place and used awkwardly.
     
  14. helltank
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    So, the most common response is:Okay to use if you're changing the story around it, otherwise don't, except in humor. In humor anything's okay.
     
  15. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    In writing everything's okay. When it comes to your work, you are God. If it works for your voice and in that situation, use it.

    If it's strictly a "Hey look at me, not too many people do what I'm doing!" kinda thing, I personally would be a bit put off by it. If however you are disregarding literary traditions to better serve your story, then as an artist you are obligated to ignore the few dorks who get all pissed off when they read such things.

    So I guess I'd say, if it's done in service to your work, there is nothing that I'd tell you not to do. If it's done to draw attention to yourself, it will probably be lame.
     

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