Breaking The Fourth Wall

– This is a compilation of advice surrounding the topic of breaking the fourth wall in your writing. This topic isn’t talked about often, since it’s an unusual technique, but I figured it might be useful to some to cover it, and in interesting thing to propose to writers who feel like spicing it up and trying it out. Happy writing!

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Shifts In Tone

Breaking the fourth wall can be really effective when you want to dramatically shift the tone. It can pivot the tone of the scene to be more comedic or more suspenseful, and it makes that information stick out more to the reader.

Making First Person More Personable

When a character addresses the reader in first person, it makes the reader feel like the character cares about them in some way, or it makes the character more personable to the reader. It mimics a true relationship between the reader and the story, and that can be really valuable to certain stories. 

Divulging Secret Information 

Sometimes the fourth wall is broken purely to tell the reader important information that they could not figure out through anything the characters say or do because nobody in the story can know about it yet. This is a rare situation, but breaking the fourth wall is very efficient when it arises. 

It’s Pretty Much Exclusively For Comedy

Breaking the fourth wall can often result in the reader being shocked or confused, and it’s difficult to pull it off in any other genre than comedy. Be cautious when using it, because if it doesn’t land well, it can make the character seem crazy, or make the reader think the writer made a mistake.

It Can Bring The Reader Out Of The Story

Be careful to not use this too heavily, because this can ruin the fantasy of the story and disrupt the tension/drama. It can become a detriment to the pacing or read awkwardly, reminding the readers that they are, in fact, reading rather than experiencing a story. 

Know Your Readership

Depending on the genre, this can be socially outlawed in writing. I recommend approaching this thoughtfully so that you don’t anger readers to genuinely hate when characters break the fourth wall, especially when it’s done poorly. 

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