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Okay for those who don't know what this fourth wall is, I've quoted the version of it that I'm thinking of from wiki.

Film and television

When speaking directly to the audience through the camera in a film or television program, it is called "breaking the fourth wall."

The technique of breaking the fourth wall can be seen in various television programs, especially situation comedies such as the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, in animated cartoons such as those featuring Bugs Bunny and Huckleberry Hound, and in films such as Alfie, those of the Marx Brothers (where Groucho frequently speaks directly to the audience) and Bob Hope. Although prominent in comedy, it is also used in dramatic presentations as well: Eugene O'Neill's play Strange Interlude is one example where a character speaks his innermost thoughts directly to the viewer. Television shows that target preschool audiences have used the concept of breaking the fourth wall extensively, especially since Blue's Clues pioneered the idea in 1996.[citation needed]

What I'm curious about now is, how to impliment this tool for humor or well...wait, what has it been used for besides that? XD Anyway I've seen it used in Naruto a couple of times, though they are more or less hinting at the fourth wall rather than breaking it.

What I want to do is use this (not very often) fourth wall to ever so slightly have characters either talk to the reader (if you've seen the ernist movies or Blues Clues you'll know what I mean) or notice the 'people' reading the story and being aware of them.

8/12/2010 #1

I've seen this in a few fics, but it's not very common. With authors who do break the fourth wall in their stories, I usually see them put it in parentheses. Although I don't think it works too well when it's not used in a film/tv show/play, but some people can pull it off and have it be good.

8/12/2010 #2

I was thinking of having it more along the lines of the 'character talking to the audiance' bit. Just some small stuff like "hey, what's that face for?" and the characters starin out a window like they've seen the reader there XP

8/13/2010 #3

There are several ways of breaking the fourth wall in writing, or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we break the illusion or take the reader out of the story. Some are humorous, but there are also other ways and intentions beside hunour that will make the author use this device.

The most common, and possible least obvious, is the comment. It is not always possible to notice, but it is when the narrator comments on something. The narrator can also address the readers directly for a moment, or allude to something that has not happened, or will not happen.

The last can be used to build tension. I use that in my story:

Little did either of them know what their actions would later lead to, nor what sufferings they would cause by them. But the course of our actions is seldom clear to us and even the farsighted can seldom see to the end of all things. The One alone knows, and He is silent. But I digress.

Here there are different levels of breaking out of the story and different levels of addressing the readers, but the break from the normal mode of narrative is easy enough to spot. The narrator is suddenly stepping forward with a very clear voice, something that does not happen all that often. The story is written in 3.person, so the use of 'I' is very distinctive, but the break happened before the narrator actually used the word 'I'.

To have the characters speak directly to the readers, will in most cases, I think, not work as well in writing as it does in theatre. In the theatre they will actually see the audience, but it is impossible for them to see the reader. The actor can pick one in the audience to interact with, and it will be real, but in writing it can only be another layer of illusion that is potentially very confusing.

8/13/2010 #4

I was thinking of just seemingly having the characters actually aware of the author, not the reader, but the actual author who wrote the story. For example one of Jack(the main character in the story I'm writing now)'s thoughts is going to be something like this.

Man what a day, I don't know who you are but if you can hear me pleasedon't make the day any worse than it is now. I've got the whole story ahead of me for christs sake.

The reason I think that might work is because in Zoids New Century Zero at the end of one of the episodes (forgot what episode it was) goes. "Don't get me started now, we've got the whole season ahead of us!"

with some sarcastic emphasis on the phrase Season. It Hints that they're aware it's a tv show because the three characters seem to look directly at the 'screen' before disregarding it and returning to their moaping.

8/13/2010 #5

It can work used that way, I have just not seen it myself. Not in a way that works. That does not mean that it is impossible though.

There is a book that plays with this concept: Sophie's World by Jostsein Gaarder, but it is made a theme in that book, not just a passing gag. And the characters does not actually speak to the author, but about him.

8/15/2010 #6

I don't mind reading stories that break the fourth wall but when the author writes about herself talking to fictional characters for about a quarter of the story, that really ticks me off.

8/16/2010 #7

In addition to addressing the reader directly, having the story's characters acknowledge that they are in fact just characters in a story is another way to break the fourth wall. This can be an interesting trope to play around with (e.g., in a comedy story, begin with a scene of high drama in which one person blows his lines, the director screams "Cut!" and a humorous argument ensues).

Bertolt Brecht is a playwright who frequently broke the fourth wall, and his plays are pretty heavy stuff, so should you be a particularly brilliant writer you might employ it in serious stories as well as more lighthearted ones. (Granted, Brecht used it for philosophical effect, but hey, maybe you want to write some Aristotle fanfic. Be my guest.)

I wrote a couple of chapters for one of my stories in which the characters were just the actors who play their respective parts in the anime. I was satisfied with how they turned out, but it loses its effect if it's overused.

9/12/2010 #8

I've used it once to complete a story although there was no conversation between the characters and the readers...just the acknowledgement of their existence. I then added a final chapter and had to write in a prelude to tie it in with the broken fourth. The entire thing should be edited out of the story and will be if I ever repost. I like how it turned out though. I think it can be a very powerful tool in writing but it has to be done very carefully. You want it to compliment the story rather than detract from it. I don't know if I've seen it done successfully (or unsuccessful for that matter) in non-comedic works in fanfiction. I always think of Robin Goodfellow when I think of the broken fourth wall but that story was written for stage. (It's funny how my mind jumps to Shakespeare as a 'writer' as opposed to a 'playwright'. )

You've given me food for fodder and I feel a plot bunny stirring...

EDIT: I think one way of approaching this is to keep you, the writer, in mind as an observer while you write the story. You could then become an invisible character, always there and only showing up at those moments where you are invited into the story.

9/13/2010 . Edited 9/13/2010 #9

I've read stories where they've done that and it was quite funny. "Will this fanfiction never end!" When another bad thing happens to them. Or "Oh, boy, not another badly written supervillian." Or. "No, he's not really dead, folks. He comes back in chapter 5. I read ahead."

Although, it's easier for the narrator to break the barrier in writing than it is the characters because you can come up with: "Well, you know how fanfiction is with it's impossible coincidences, here's another one."

5/29/2012 #10

I've tried breaking it in several stories that are now on FictionPress.


- (Main character) "You know.... I hope the writers do a better job next time."

- (2nd Main character) "Hey writer.... don't do a chapter about me this time." *looks at other character* "Why not do one about him?" *other character is stunned* "No! no, no, no, no! PLEASE, no! Don't... don't you start typing! Don't press the 'enter key'--" *chapter title pops up*

4/3/2014 #11
I have written a narrative ACD Holmes poem, with many specific fics referenced in it ( ffnet authors involved were all credited and permission given) There are many different ways of using this idea in a fic.
4/3/2014 #12
Golden Panther

Here are my examples of Fourth Wall Breaking from a story that has been well received:

Tina grabbed a knife from the table and aimed the tip at Panchito's neck.

"Eat the chicken," Tina said, "or I'll send you to-"

"Don't say KFC!" Panchito shouted, "There've been way too many references already."

Tina paused for a second: "Really?"

"Si," Panchito answered, "This writer really needs to have an original joke or at least a better one or something."

Tina looked at the rooster, "What in the world are you talking about?"

"The writer who's writing this," Panchito started to say but stopped mid-sentence, realizing that he would never get it past her rather thick skull, "never mind just forget it."

This one is Breaking Fourth Wall/Self Insert:

Donald and Jose, who knew only little Spanish, looked over to the right, as if a camera was there.

"Hey writer!" It was Donald.


"Subtitles por favor." Jose asked.


So, what are you guys doing here eh?

"Oh, okay," Donald said, "thanks."

No problem, now can I get back to my work please?

"Sure Señor ..." Jose started to say, "what the hell is Nothing Really Specific?"

It's a pen name Jose, just forget it, you obviously can't handle breaking the forth wall so I'm going to just stop right about here.

"Wait," Jose said, "I'm not finished I still want to-"

Jose was getting on the writer's nerves. So if the parrot doesn't stop talking the writer will kill him off. Very violently.

"Shutting up now." Jose said.

Here's one of my favorites:

Hey Panchito.

The rooster rolled his eyes and looked up at the roof, "I already told you I'm not talking to you anymore!" He shouted.

"Panchito, who are you talking to?" Jose asked.

Panchito ignored him, acting like Homer Simpson, pretending to strangle me.

"Panchito!" Jose said, trying to get the rooster's attention.

"What is it Jose?" Panchito said with a rather annoyed sigh.

"Who are you talking to?" The parrot repeated.

"The voice in the sky." Panchito said.

"God?" Jose asked.

"No, no, no, the voice! He's telling our story!" Panchito said.

"Right!" Jose said, smiling, thinking to himself, "Wow, he's lost it."

4/3/2014 . Edited 4/3/2014 #13

There are also some stories where breaking the fourth wall is mandatory. Such as any Hyperdimension Neptunia story. That series is KNOWN for breaking the fourth wall. They actually 'literally' broke it in the first episode of the anime. -_-

So I think context matters a lot as well. With certain story categories a certain amount of fourth wall breaking, smashing, obliterating, and otherwise, is expected. While other story categories... not so much. Breaking the fourth wall in say, a Fate/Stay story is probably gonna raise a s*** storm of epic proportions, not only because it doesn't belong, but because the purists will probably try to hunt you down and burn you at the stake.

4/4/2014 #14

I just finished reading a book recently that completely broke the fourth wall and it was a very funny romantic comedy called "Tangled" by Emma Chase told in the first POV of the male protagonist. The writing was very conversational, exactly as if the protagonist was talking directly to the readers as if he were right in front in you. He would often refer directly to the reader by using "you" and even doled out some sideline "advice" and comments and questions directly to the reader, like:

"And another thing—I've heard my sister and her little friends have their chats too. Some of the things that came out of their mouths could've made Larry f***ing Flynt blush. So don't act like women don't talk just as much as us guys do…because I know for a fact they do."


"Yes, I went to Catholic school. You're surprised? You shouldn't be. My profanity has a certain religious flavor that can only be learned through a lifetime of Catholic education."
4/4/2014 #15

It's actually a plot point in one of my favorite movies, Stranger than Fiction, involving the use of the phrase "Little did he know." What I love about it is that it's an in-universe instance; the movie itself doesn't break the fourth wall with the audience, but a book being written in the movie does with ITS audience. (Sort of.)

4/4/2014 #16

I break the wall a lot, and definitely not for the sake of humor.

4/4/2014 #17

I remember once playing around with this in my story "Wind-Up Eggs and Paintings", which had Pit getting prohibited from breaking fourth wall in any means - otherwise he'd shatter anything fragile around him (like a glass full of ice cream). I tend to cringe at use of it though, unless it is really well-done, or contributes to the story in some meaningful way instead of trying to force a laugh from the reader - as it is able to shatter the illusion if not used well in the context of literature.

4/5/2014 #18

I was going to start a new topic but surprise! Found this instead.

Would it be okay to use it this way in the middle of the story? I mean, without actually breaking anything. (Note that this is an omniscient narrator)

(...) Light Pokemon, like Cottonee or Castform were dragged, against their will, towards foreign places... a complete mess, anyways. Today, none of this happens! Why? Arceus might know.

Oh, I'm sorry. These are historical facts, but now the only thing that matters is what's happening... and what happened.


We're about to explain it! Be patient, ugh...

What was I saying? Oh, right! (...)

For those who might want to read it, the original, Spanish version is here:

Algunos Pokémon ligeros, como los Cottonee o los Castform eran arrastrados contra su voluntad hacia lugares recónditos… en fin, desastre por todos lados. ¡Y ahora nada de eso sucedía! ¿Qué ocurrió? Solo Arceus sabe.

Lo siento, esos son hechos históricos, y ahora lo que importa es el presente y lo que pasó.


¡Ya lo van a explicar! Qué impacientes...

¿En qué estaba? ¡Ah, sí!

5/19/2016 #19
war hippy fatigues
Would it be okay to use it this way in the middle of the story? I mean, without actually breaking anything.

I personally think the kind of back and forth dialogue between the narrator and the author(?) feels kind of juvenile.

5/19/2016 #20

Lucas fairly infrequently (maybe once a chapter if he does it at all) breaks the fourth wall in my fic.

In chapter one he comments about being 'one step older to teaching kids how to catch caterpie' which is a reference to the old man in the games that usually does this. This isn't as severe I'll admit, but the way he says it seems like he's aware that it's a trope in a series of games.

When discussing Team Helix's plans for their ultimate weapon the others are unsure that an organisation would use it for evil. He lists off the names of the previous villainous organisations in chronological order, then states that somehow a single kid managed to tear down the organisation every time just like he and sarkany are doing with Helix.

5/19/2016 #21

I used to really abuse this technique, but I think I've gotten better now. I remember being proud of this line of dialogue from a cartoon fanfiction:

"Paulina?" Sam crossed their arms. "She's the kind of shallow popular girl stereotype you'd only find in cartoons."

5/19/2016 #22
(...) Light Pokemon, like Cottonee or Castform were dragged, against their will, towards foreign places... a complete mess, anyways. Today, none of this happens! Why? Arceus might know.

Oh, I'm sorry. These are historical facts, but now the only thing that matters is what's happening... and what happened.


We're about to explain it! Be patient, ugh...

What was I saying? Oh, right! (...)

I urge you not to do this. Most people find it very cringey.

5/19/2016 #23
Most people find it very cringey.

I certainly cringed myself while writing it (thought it was just me), though the question is still in the air. I'm new in this 'dimension' stuff.

5/19/2016 #24

I've nudged at my characters' dysfunction a few times, but I'm not sure if it constitutes a fourth wall break or self-awareness.

I had a scene where two characters were talking about a girl and one said he didn't find her attractive and the other asked, astonished, what was the matter with him. He replied, "You really want to go down that road? Because it probably won't ever end."

My current chapter's draft has a part where my couple is talking about angry impulses they'd acted on and he thinks, Almost like we're unstable people for some reason.

Fourth wall talk makes me think of the soap opera Passions that broke it often. Like when one of the characters said, "ugh, I'm stuck in this soap opera love triangle!" I miss that soap because it knew it was a cheesy soap opera and poked fun at itself.

5/19/2016 #25
Emerald Palace
This topic reminds me of 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead'. Man oh man was that the most confusing piece of lit. I had the misfortune of analyzing back in school.
5/19/2016 #26
I've nudged at my characters' dysfunction a few times, but I'm not sure if it constitutes a fourth wall break or self-awareness.

You need to consider whether it fits with your characters' personalities or not, but in real life a lot of people use "look at all my issues" as a way of bragging about how special they are.

It's also a form of "you can't fire me, I quit." "Look, I know I've done some bad things, I've admitted it, it would be completely unreasonable of you to hold it against me (or to expect me not to do it again)."

5/19/2016 #27

I let my omniscient narrators nowadays incessantly address the "dear, gentle readers" directly. This is rather the normal mode, and the story feels like an interruption.

My author address serves for information and agitation rather than humour.

5/20/2016 . Edited 10/2/2016 #28

I usually find 4th wall breaking most effective for comedy. There are soft ways to do it, too, that don't explicitly have the writers or characters addressing us, the audience.

The most recent good example of this I could think of would be the entire third episode ("Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Beast") of the new X-Files. It's a funny episode all on its own, of course, but h4rdcore fans of the series were probably laughing their entire way through every second of "hidden dialogue" in that episode. I know that scene with Mulder fumbling his gun in the graveyard reduced me to tears, that might have been the most direct 4th wall reference to the fandom.

5/20/2016 . Edited 5/20/2016 #29
I personally think the kind of back and forth dialogue between the narrator and the author(?) feels kind of juvenile.

Same. Of course there are exceptions by very skilled authors, but in general, it's kind of patronizing and not very funny at all.

However, I find that, if done well, breaking the fourth wall can work when the narration is in first person, and the story reads like a character talking to the reader about events that happened in his/her past, like LMRaven described. Like in The Name of the Wind. Though in this case it's mostly used for explaining something or foreshadowing rather than humor.

I sometimes insert little inside jokes in the dialogue, like other people are describing. I make it as subtle as possible so it reads like normal dialogue if you don't know the fandom very well. But if you do and can catch the reference, it takes on a whole new meaning. That's not really breaking the fourth wall, though.

5/20/2016 #30
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