Breaking the fourth wall

general
opinion

#1

Hi everyone!
First, I’ll give a very short definition from Urban Dictionary of “breaking the fourth wall” for people who have no idea what it is:
“The fourth wall” is an expression stemming from the world of theater. In most modern theater design, a room will consist of three physical walls, as well as a an imaginary fourth that serves to separate the world of the characters from that of the audience.
In fiction, “breaking the fourth wall” often means having a character become aware of their fictional nature. This can range from your character advising you to “Press X” in a tutorial all the way to Psycho Mantis reading your memory card and mentioning the other games you’ve been playing. However, the most direct violation of the fourth wall would be a character openly acknowledging they are in a video game or even directly speaking to you, the player, instead of to your character.

I remember, a while ago, I fell in love with an app that I can’t mention here, but I think I’m allowed to describe it (as briefly as I can): It’s a sort of visual novel/messenger app where you’re texting fictional characters and following a story through “chat rooms” and dialogues you unlock. The story happens in real time and lasts eleven days. The protagonist (whom you’re controlling) is thrown into a private group chat by accident and talks to five main fictional characters: one of which occasionally breaks the fourth wall, discreetly, rarely, and for very short amounts of time. It gives a whole new dimension to the story and is really well thought out. This app’s concept is quite difficult to explain, especially to people who might’ve never heard of it, but I find it really unique and as I said, I fell in love with it.

Now, I know that Episode is very different from this kind of app and I’ve seen a few people talk about how they absolutely despise it when characters in Episode stories break the fourth wall. I personally would love it if I found an Episode story that did it well (which I don’t think I’ve found to this day) and I just find the concept of breaking the fourth wall very interesting.

Some people generally hate it while some people generally love it…
Some people, like me, love it only when it’s really well thought out and is used with true purpose in the story, even for comedic purpose like in the case of Deadpool. Since this is very subjective, I’d like to start a discussion about breaking the fourth wall (I will sometimes refer to it as “btfw”).

  • What’s your stance on btfw? Do you love it, hate it, or like it only in an ideal context?
  • Have you ever made any of your characters break the fourth wall?
  • Have you read any stories in which characters break the fourth wall? What did you think of it?
  • Ever read an Episode story in which characters break the fourth wall in an interesting way? If so, could you share which story that was?
  • What makes or breaks the usage of btfw, in your opinion?
  • Do you think there are any rules to follow in order to break the fourth wall well?
  • Do you think Episode is a good app for stories in which characters break the fourth wall? Or do you think it’s just not the right medium for this?

I’d love to know your thoughts.
Enjoy the conversation!


#2

Moved to Creator’s Corner :slight_smile:


#3

Hi Ryan! :slight_smile:

Are you sure this thread belongs in Creator’s Corner? It has nothing to do with “script errors, directing tips, or Episode’s writing language”.

If it doesn’t belong in Community > Episode Fan Community, shouldn’t it then be in Community > General Chat at least?

My apologies if I’m bothering.


#4

I forgot all about psycho mantis. :joy:
I was weirded out when that part happened.

Breaking the fourth wall usually catches me off guard. It really depends on the genre for me. For example, a really deep fantasy story. A character is about to be executed but, suddenly they say something cheesy; breaking the fourth wall. That’s a no for me.

If the story was a comedy and the author was sporadically inserting crazy, weird lines in here and there. Breaking the fourth wall in a story like that, I’d be completely fine with.


#5

I honestly never witnessed that moment, but it sounds pretty intense :’)
Were you weirded out in an “whoa, that’s creepy but kinda cool” type of way or a “this sucks, I’m out of here” type of way?

So would you say that breaking the fourth wall should mainly stay within the comedy genre? How would you feel about a psychological thriller or something more dark using that kind of technique?

I don’t know what games we’re allowed to mention in this forum so I’ll modify the names of these games and hope that you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, just ignore this :sweat_smile:

Have you played Lowkey Lowkey Miniature Club and Overtale? I haven’t, but I hear they’re great examples of fourth wall breaking in a non-comedic way.


#6

I like breaking the fourth wall with comedies because it highlights how it really isn’t serious and just for some fun. However if it was an intense drama where a character is about to die and they break the fourth wall by saying something like “why are you watching my last moments you psychopath? Yes you reading this” then it kind of takes away the moment and breaks the flow. But for comedies I feel it works perfectly.


#7

As a theatre geek, I love this concept. I once saw a local play called the Crumble, and the writer really brought this method into the fore front. It’s was amazing. It was all about a small, impoverished family living in a house that was falling apart. And even though the house was part of the set, they had an actor portraying the house. He was the voice of the crumbling home, calling out for love and care all the while watching as the family goes through their hardships. He would speak to the audience directly and it was just the right move for this story.

I touch at this a bit with one of my MCs. When you make a certain choice, she will look forward at the reader and make a snarky remark. Just that, nothing to exciting.
I would be very interested in seeing Episode authors attempt this in a aggressive way.

I know a lot of readers don’t like this because so far all this method is been mainly used to narrate/set up the story in the beginning. I personally also dislike that.

I am really ineterested to see if this will motivate authors to give it a shot. I think it can be very good for our writers community. Being introduced to different forms of writing and story-telling.


#8

That sounds like such an interesting play! I would’ve loved to see it. Not only did they break the fourth wall, but they had a house, an object, literally voice its emotions and desire for love and care. All this talk about the fourth wall makes me want to go see a play right now.

I remember a story like that on Episode, I think it was called “Life through his eyes” or something like that. I really liked the MC in that story and those annoyed remarks he’d make during dressing games. I’d also love to see some of the best Episode authors break the fourth wall is a serious and more upfront way.

Do you think that’s the only reason why a lot of readers on Episode dislike fourth wall breaking? I also dislike the way a lot of people on Episode generally use it as of now but I’ve seen some people who seemed more than repulsed by the mere mention of breaking the fourth wall. Maybe they just need someone to prove them that it can be an amazing story-telling tool if used correctly? Do you see yourself ever taking on that challenge? (:


#9

It was more of a cool weird out. If that makes any sense. It was unexpected but, I liked it. The metal gear series has a lot of surprising scenes. I thought the breaking of the fourth wall in this instance was unique and creative.
In the case of a thriller, maybe it could be used to lighten the tension. It really depends on how the author does it. It could really end up as I said cheesy or have a really neat outcome.


#10

I guess I agree with most people here in that I like it if it’s done right.
I’ve seen a few episodes that break the fourth wall to like explain why they’re eating a pizza instead of the food on their plate and it’s sort of like an inside joke you share with a character.
One episode I think does it well is Dirty Sexy Teenagers - Bella breaks the fourth wall for every intro and talks to you


Dear Readers, what do you DISLIKE about some stories that you read?
#11

Hate breaking the fourth wall the ones I’ve read ruins the flow of the story. But if done right it could be ok.


#12

I always ‘break’ the fourth wall with my stories. I’m more of making fun of myself. For example, 'Seriously? I’m cheating on my boyfriend with my best friend, how cliche is that? or "The chosen one? At our school? I wonder who that could be eyeroll"

I wouldn’t say the character is ‘hopping out’ of the story, more of making fun of me - being the author.