1. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    Breaking the fourth wall

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by kingzilla, Apr 17, 2012.

    I understand this is more of a scriptwriting thing, but I was thinking of breaking the fourth wall in the beginning of a new 1st person novel I am making. It will be simply like: "You might be wondering why my blah, blah is like this..." In other words, I want to acknowledge the reader. I have seen previous threads about this, but I only want to use this in the beginning to make a really engaging start. I have seen a couple first person novels that have similar starts. Plus, I am targeting young adults, who genuinely enjoy the fourth wall being broken. What do you guys think?
     
  2. colinbeckett
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    colinbeckett Member

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    Do it.

    Basically, you have to try it to know if it's going to work. If it doesn't, it shouldn't really be a horrendous task to change it back to regular first person. But it's kind of hard to make a judgement if you haven't really written anything.
     
  3. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    What's a great story without a great risk? Try it for a rough draft, and if it works, run it through. If not, fix it up, reshape it, and try it that way. You're working with a fairly uncommon concept, so however you use it will define your book, probably more than anything (could be wrong, depends on the story and writer). I'd say go for it, run with it, but stop and look back on it later on.
     
  4. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    Thanks for the quick responses. I don't plan on breaking the fourth wall to much in the book, but I could see how it could be viewed as a risk. Both of you guys said pretty much the same thing: Do it the first draft and then see if it works. I think that is what I will do. Thanks again.
     
  5. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    It's not even really breaking the fourth wall for a first person narrator to acknowledge the conceit that they are writing a memoir or somesuch.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    but it is, if the writer/narrator addresses the 'audience' [readers] directly...
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I'm 23, and I still enjoy it when the characters break the fourth wall. xD I feel like I'm included when they acknowledge me in some way.

    I think it depends. If the first person perspective is written like a memior, then it's easy for the narrator to halt to engage some discussion with the reader [you]. If it's actually playing out, and not in memior form, it's a bit more difficult.
     
  8. CrimsonReaper
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    CrimsonReaper Active Member

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    I do it in my urban fantasy, but the MC is possibly insane so they have no problem occassionally addressing the people reading their internal monologue.
     
  9. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    I only do it to either look back on something or put enthusiasm on something. I would only do this in a separate paragraph. For example:

    I ran down the gloomy hallway without caring for what was in front of me. All I knew was I wasn't going to be killed by one of those... things behind me.

    I was afraid. You would be too, if you knew death was right behind you.
     
  10. Endovert
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    Endovert Member

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    If you're going to do it, don't just put it in the beginning. Use it periodically. If you have a pattern to it, readers will be fine with it, and you're right, many of them like it. It's a great technique. But if you only do it once and abandon it, it seems like a mistake, or at least incongruous.
     
  11. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    yeah thats what I plan on doing now. Once in a blue moon, I'll put in a small paragraph identifing the reader to put some emphasis on something I wrote earlier.
     
  12. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    Yes, like Endovert said, it's important to let readers know this is a pattern that will re-emerge throughout the story. Have fun :).
     
  13. Jenny Masters
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    Jenny Masters Member

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    It'll actually help you.

    It works too well in The Shawshank Redemption.
    Rent it.
     
  14. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    I always see first-person as the narrator telling the story after-the-fact to somebody (the reader), so I wouldn't consider what you describe as 'breaking the fourth wall.' This would occur if you had characters addressing the reader in dialogue, the omniscient narrator addressing the characters, characters knowing that they are in a book ("Turn the page already, I wanna see what happens"), the characters talk about the author, the author is a character in the book or similar concepts.
     
  15. mootz
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    mootz Member

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    I just read Rule of the Bone by Russel Banks (I'd recommend it) a few months ago. It was a perfect example of this, if I remember correctly. The book basically starts off with the main character saying that everything that happened to him was real and not made up (though it was, of course). The way the author did it it was like saying 'expect the unexpected'. It helped the story, especially because some 'messed up' things happened. It was like a way of giving a bit of levity and not depressing the reader totally. Or, I am just reading too much into it.

    Either way, good book.
     
  16. BytheNine
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    BytheNine New Member

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    Do it, my stories rarely even consider the 4th wall, just make sure it stays the same throughout.
     
  17. sunwave
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    sunwave Member

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    I've read animorphs when I was younger (only the first 14 books, since the rest wasn't translated in my language and I didn't know english back then). As far as I remember, all books start somewhat the same, adressing the reader. Like:

    "My name is Jake. I'm XX years old. This is not my true name, but I will use this name since they are after me. They are everywhere. They might be your teacher, you parents or even your best friends." ETC. Then, they start telling their story of what happened, without ever referring back to it being 'their story'. It basically only breaks the 4th wall in the beginning. I think you can do something like this without it being awkward at all.
    Also, you can address the reader at intervals in the story. It also depends on if the WRITER talks to the reader or the CHARACTER talks to the reader. Having the writer talk to the reader at the start of chapters, for example, can also be efficient without hurting the (or at least my) suspension of disbelief.
     
  18. John Cleary
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    John Cleary Member

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    Break the fourth wall when it serves your story.
    On TV and in the movies it's done so often. A comedian that does it well, in my view, is Miranda Hart.

    At any rate. Go for it, if it moves your story forward.

    John.
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Reader, I married him."
     

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