Breaking the Fourth Wall

I’m always a little envious of authors who successfully break the fourth wall.  Not that I’ve ever tried to do it, but I obviously find it tempting.

The fourth wall is the barrier between the movie or book and the audience. When a movie character, such as Deadpool or Ferris Bueller, speaks to the audience, the fourth wall has been broken. More of a classics fan?  Mel Brooks and Monty Python both famously break the fourth wall.  And, yes, I consider Monty Python classic. When the narrator addresses the reader in a picture book, the fourth wall has, once again, come down.

One of the newest picture books to do this is There’s a Dragon in Your Book by Tom Fletcher, and it starts on page one.

“Oh, look! There’s an egg in your book! It looks ready to hatch.  Whatever you do, don’t turn the page….”

Young readers are led through turning pages, blowing on the pages and flapping the book like dragon’s wings.  Judging by the bent pages and sticky finger prints on the back cover ::shudder::, these instructions are undertaken with enthusiasm.

Other ways to break the fourth wall include the narrator in A Series of Unfortunate Events speaking to the reader, readers being told to push buttons or shout out various commands.  Anything that speaks directly to the reader and brings them into the story breaks the fourth wall.

Hmm.  I’m wondering if pop-up books are thought to break this wall since the reader engages in the act of moving whatever tab, slider, etc. needs to be moved.

Attempting to break the fourth wall is a bit chancy.  When done well, it is hilarious.  When done poorly, it is painfully awkward, functioning only to pull the reader out of the story or the audience out of the film or play.

Still, it is really tempting to give it a try.