1. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel stupid asking this

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by spklvr, Jun 25, 2011.

    I really feel like I should know this, but as it turns out, I might not. I wrote this sentence and put a question mark behind it, but then I wondered if that was right, as it isn't really a question.

    Never mind that the sentence is a bit odd out of context :p
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Well, It is a question, just a rhetorical one. Usually, when a sentence starts with 'why' it's a question.
     
  3. Ashrynn
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    Ashrynn Active Member

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    Use your question mark.
     
  4. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yup. Anything phrased as a question should have one. However, I have seen even published writers leave them off if the sentence comes in the middle of a larger chunk of text, and adding the question mark would break up the sentence. It always bugs me. I'd just rephrase to avoid it. :p

    Like... "He naturally looked like a villain, so why not embrace it, when otherwise he would be stuck working on the fishing boat for the rest of his life..." - because by the time the sentence ends the question was so far back and so irrelevant to the thrust of the sentence it seems silly to add the ? at the end, or whatever. Probably bad example anyway. I've had a couple of drinks :p
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Although in that case it didn't begin with "why" :)

    Because it's rhetorical it's up to the writer whether to use a question mark. If there's a question mark then the character is asking themself the question. If there's a full stop then it's flat, resigned. And if there's an exclamation mark then it's a realization. There's a bit about this on Whitesmoke.
     
  6. Ashrynn
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    Ashrynn Active Member

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    I'd just use it, looks more appealing >.<!

    Oh by the way, when I read your question the first thing that came to mind was:

    "There are no stupid questions...just inquisitive idiots."

    Not calling you that, just saw the title and that phrase came to mind!
     
  7. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    It comes across a little weird to me, as well.

    I think it's the sudden address to the reader, I guess? "so why not embrace it" just seems to be talking directly to the reader, but not quite breaking the fourth wall.

    "He naturally looked like a villain, so why shouldn't he embrace it?"

    Something like that. Still, question mark is GO!
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree, you could definitely put a question mark after it, especially if it is the end of the sentence. And since we are all gathered here today, ;) what does that expression "breaking the fourth wall" mean? i have seen it come up in writing discusions a couple of times...
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Properly speaking, "breaking the fourth wall" is when the author or one of the characters speaks directly to the reader.

    It's also used when, for example, the characters are aware they're just characters in a story.
     
  10. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    It comes from the television business. On sitcom sets (think Ray's living room in Everybody Loves Raymond), they build three walls and there's just a stationary camera that shows the "whole room". The fourth wall is the screen.

    Now, have you ever seen those cheesy moments in television or film where a character looks at you and says something, or winks, or makes a joke that the rest of the cast "don't hear"? That's breaking the fourth wall. It means that the character is actually directly addressing the fact that the screen is there, instead of just the rest of the room.

    Alternatively, look it up. Wiki it.
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nope, a rhetorical question doesn't have to have a question mark. If you want to get all linguistic about it, it's because, although structurally it's a question, functionally it's not an interrogative.
     
  12. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just as Islander and cruciFICTION said.

    For examples I'd suggest going to TVtropes and searching it. It will give you a bunch of shows/books/movies/anime/cartoons that use this.
     
  13. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Technically, you're a few generations off.

    The concept of the fourth wall originated with live theater at least a century ago - long before any of us were born. The fourth wall being where the audience was viewing the world of the characters. The actors presume the fourth wall to be there for their performance. They 'break' that fourth wall when they speak directly to the audience.

    Since so much early theater migrated to television, it is not uncommon to see the ploy used in television series' like 'Everybody Loves Raymond'. Jim Hutton was masterful with this in the 'Ellery Queen Mysteries' program back in the late '70s/early '80s. It was, in fact a standard with that program. But television was not where it began. Television only borrowed it.

    It subsequently has migrated to books as well.
     
  14. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    a) Would it even have been referred to as the fourth wall then, though?
    b) Did they even have the other three walls then?
    c) I'm leaning towards that being a different device; you know, a soliloquy. I mean, if you're talking about them actually speaking to the audience, sure, but thinking of plays like Macbeth, there are times when the fourth wall seems to be "broken", but, really, it's just a soliloquy.
     
  15. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    a) Yes. Absolutely. And was.
    b) Yes. They - those old timers of 1900 and before were actually quite masterful carpenters and built some pretty impressive stage sets. And, even in the time of Shakespeare stage sets were constructed and, yes, there were those other three walls and novice actors were instructed about the presence of the invisible fourth wall.
    c) & d) A soliloquy is not breaking the fourth wall. It is a different device entirely. Rather than a character going outside the perameters of the make-believe world, he or she turns more introspective and speaks more to him or herself than to an audience.

    E) The first reference to breaking the fourth wall probably originated somewhere in the mid- to late-1800's. (A bit after MacBeth was laid to rest in his bloody grave.)
     

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