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Thread: The Fourth Wall

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  1. #1
    Aver0n 2o11
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    The Fourth Wall

    In TV, they call it break down of the fourth wall if an actor turns around and looks directly at the camera thereby connecting directly with the audience (something you're not meant to be doing when you're acting). Or if through dialogue, they talk about the show/movie and are very aware that they are in a show/movie.

    What are you guys's opinions on the literary equivalent where the writer/narrator talks to the reader directly, draws attention to the fact that the reader is holding a book and that he is telling a story.

    Also what about when a character or narrator refers to themselves in the third person? Do you get annoyed by that or do you think it's cute (neither are the desired effect, lol)

    The funniest version of something like the fourth wall in Children's books (that I've seen) is on the blurb of the "A series of unfortunate events" books where the blurber is telling the reader "don't pick up this book it's too sad, just don't do it" and of course the reader finds himself wanting to read the book due to reverse psychology

  2. #2
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    Averon,

    I call this sort of thing a "dear reader." I've read it done well and read it done poorly. "The Tale of Despereaux" is one of my son's favorites and one of mine. The narrator spoke directly to the reader throughout the book and it was charming. I've not studied this, but I suspect the author has to have a strong narrator and use the technique repeatedly to make it work. In a first-person story, I suspect it could work even easier. My first novel was first person and I had a few passages in which the first-person narrator spoke directly to the reader in second person, the "you" business. I liked it, but I did go 'round with my editor about it. It's tricky, but can be supercool.

    I don't know what you mean with the second question.

  3. #3
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    It isn't break down. It's just break.

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    If you want to see it done well, find a collection of the classic Burns And Allen Show. Every episode contained a small segment where George Burns would come down to the edge of the stage and talk directly to the audience for a moment. In fact, he once asked his guest, Jack Benny to do it for him because he had other things to do. Most of the times I've seen it done in books were in books either from the Victorian era or imitating it with an omniscient narrator who likes to make comments directly to the audience. It's not popular today, but I'd not say that you shouldn't do it. At most, I'll quote Tim Gunn of Project Runway: "Make it work."

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    I watched Night of the Hunter the other day, one of the best movies ever made. There's a moment near the end where Lillian Gish looks into the camera, just for an instant, then continues. Just divine.

    Or that bit at the end of Pretty in Pink where Duckie gives one look at the camera. Perfection.

    Ferris Bueller. Lots to talking to camera.

    Going back, if you've never seen the original "Alfie" it's a treat to watch Michael Caine. You'd think he was looking straight into your eyes. He's probably the best I've ever seen.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Avonne Writer's Avatar
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    Funny Averon, because as soon as you said it, A Series of Unfortunate Events popped into mind. I loved it. Many YA authors have done it also. I've never read a book where it was not done well, or was out of place. I personally enjoy this type of author.

    Joe-though i was very young, I used to really enjoy the Burns and Allen show. George was my all time fav for many years.
    Last edited by Avonne Writer; 06-01-2011 at 11:56 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Frank Baron's Avatar
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    Two of my favourite sitcoms regularly feature this concept, The Office and Modern Family. Done well, as these two shows do, it adds a fun dimension (and gives the writers lots to play with).

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    I just remembered that moment at the end of Psycho when Anthony Perkins is in jail and looks into the camera. Brrrr. Chilling.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcJiu...eature=related

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