The Fourth Wall

For those who are not writers or in theatre, the title may confuse you. We’re going to stick with writing for this post. So what exactly is the fourth wall?

In writing, the fourth wall is that level or “wall” that separates a writer and audience from the characters. In other words, the fine line that keeps reality and fiction from blending into one another. Several writers do not cross the fourth wall or break it down, but I have met a few who do. When the fourth wall is intact, the writer and the characters do not intermingle or converse with each other, nor do the characters converse with the audience. Doing so can make us writers look a bit crazy, I suppose, but in all honesty, writers are a crazy bunch to begin with, since we all have some level of schizophrenia with an outlet going on. That’s what I call it, anyway. I mean, really, we have all these voices in our heads. Writing is how we get them out. And to be honest, when we have them tweeting with one another, we’re really talking to ourselves anyway, right? However, that’s not much different than having the dialogue in the book. The only difference is that it is in real time. This is why it seems odd, and because they can talk to you, the audience.

I recently broke down this wall. Why? Because it seems to help in getting to know the characters better. For instance, Shawn – one of my vampires – recently came to Vegas with me. I know, that sounds insane, but wait for it. He tweeted his little heart out during his stay and had a blast with the Wookies and me. And yes, he did converse with me. I don’t think I have to tell you how incredibly difficult that was without Splitweet available to me. It takes a lot of time, especially from a cell phone. However, in the car ride on the way home, I let Shawn take over from my phone for a while… when I had a signal. In fact, he took it right out of my hand and taunted me with it. Now, the question is, do I really believe Shawn was in the car with us and stealing my phone from me? Absolutely not. I do know the difference between reality and fiction, and while I always say that I have one foot in the door of the world I do not currently inhabit, I do not fall completely into the world I’m in at that particular time, either.

Yes, I have blended the two worlds a bit.

Yes, it is weird.

It will always be weird to me, no matter how often I do it. I don’t think it’s much different from what J.R. Ward does with her interviews of the Brotherhood, though. She steps into their world, instead of bringing them into hers. I happen to do the opposite. Either way, her characters are as real to her as mine are to me, and as real as LeStat is to Anne Rice.

My MC (main character) for Nemesis has also spoken with me on occasion. That was during the time where I had to write the query letter and synopsis for the MS (manuscript), and having Nemy out on Twitter and talking to people, as well as to me, helped me through that process because it’s a difficult one. Her character has really come alive, and I don’t mean in the living, breathing sort of way. Many people think that Nemy is modeled completely after me. This is not entirely true. Yes, she is a 6ft tall Italian girl, but most of my heroines are tall because I don’t see a lot of that in books. Us tall girls need someone to look up to, as well, you know. Nemy has a helluva lot more backbone than I do, too. Her father is a mafia man, whereas mine is just… well, we won’t go into that. While I do have some tattoos, Nemy is practically covered with them. Nemy has also found her damn Prince Charming, the bitch. In essence, Nemy really is her own person. She has a different personality than I do. Yes, I have worked as a bartender and I have been to strip clubs before, but I have to tell you, the first bustier/corset I’ve ever worn was quite recently in Vegas. It’s not a comfortable article of clothing for me, but Nemy is quite comfortable in them. Nemy is a product of some of my experiences, yes, but at the same time, she has several of her own to work with for the story. Quite simply, Nemy and I are not the same person. No more than Kylie and me, or Nadira and me are the same, or even Armen and me. They are all unique in their worlds, as am I in mine. *I am a snowflake*

But I digress…

I think the first time I ever breached the fourth wall was during Nemy and Shawn’s fight on Twitter—the Monday Night Brawl. I spoke to one of my first-ever created characters, Kylie, who announced the entire event. I also spoke with a friend’s character during that event, which I found amusing, as it was all still new to me. That was the first time I had ever had a multi-character-from-several-different-books event, and man was that a pain in the ass, although quite entertaining. I’ll probably never do one that big again, but recently a few of the boys had a poker game. Other writers’ characters popped into that one as well, which made it even more entertaining as well as interesting.

So why is it called the fourth wall and not the third or second wall? The term originated in theatre and is an “imaginary wall” through which the audience watches the events taking place onstage. Breaking the fourth wall is used for dramatic or comedic effect, but also “reveals to the audience that the characters know they are fictional” (Wikipedia, Fourth Wall). You can read a bit more on that site.

So there you have it.

I just thought I’d give a little insight on the inner workings of one specific point of the writer’s mind, which can be a pretty damn scary place at times. So when it comes out into the open, now you’ll know that there may be a slight possibility that the writer isn’t inherently insane… so to speak. Now, the characters on the other hand, might be a completely different story.
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22 thoughts on “The Fourth Wall

  1. Forcing characters to interact with others, outside their carefully crafted little world, is a great way to break down that Fourth Wall. Tweeting, collaborative writing, even making them talk to characters in other genres/books, it's all great exercise for us, the writers, and delicious growing pains for our babies.You did a great job explaining it. Thanks for sharing your experiences. ~Pia

  2. I run my characters' dialogue through my head while I'm working, driving, watching TV, gardening, falling asleep, breathing… Some conversations work and I use them, some don't and I abandon them.You won't ever find me tweeting from characters–I still find it strange and it's just a little to close to acknowledging my latent schizophrenia–but if it works for you…

  3. Please tell me someone laughed, at least a little, at the *I am a snowflake* thing!Pia – Thanks for adding a bit more.Shadows – LOLSharon – I know it makes you uncomfortable and that's fine. It's not for everyone. And yes, your character development is awesome! I have to get dialogue down immediately because my memory is so bad these days. Twitter offers me that opportunity, even from my phone, so that works quite well for me.

  4. Quick question…maybe the characters arent modeled after yourself..maybe they are characters you would somehow hope to be? does that make sense? when i use my imagination and plot out dreams and fantasies i always make my character a semblance of myself…just more…interesting?? cause god knows..im a boring gal. LOL

  5. Hayley – you hit the nail on the head with that one. I would LOVE to be Nemy. LOLSharon – LMAO! As long as SOMEONE freakin' laughed because I was ROFLMFAO.

  6. OMG this was great! Ok let me first say to everyone that commented.. If people think using your characters to RP on twitter is crazy then I can only imagine what you all must think of me! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Role playing with the characters you have all placed out on Twitter! There are some that are my favorites.. (you know who you are) *wink* Anyway.. Thank you my Jinx for writing this.. And as always I am available to your characters ANY time if you need to play! Bring on the fun and the straight jacket. Just leave my hands free so I can type! Oh and to hell with the 4th wall.. Send your characters over to my house to hang out! Even more fun to be had! Love to all the writers who let me play with their characters! MWUAH!!!!

  7. Shit, I just had to comment. Hi, my name is Xan, and I'm a character. I've been in existence for ten years now. I'm happy living outside the fucking box, thank you very much. My writer lets me play with people, real and imagined, gave me my own blog and Twitter id so I could fuck around. I love the people I talk to (read: fuck with) everyday. I like Jinxie G just fine, and Wookies Girl is just the bees knees to this vampire.I'll bite you anytime, just don't bite me. Yeech, human teeth.Laters!X

  8. I see nothing wrong it. In high school, I created a world of comic strip characters. It was my dream then to become a comic stripper. Through the development of the characters, two supporting characters stood out the most. I found these characters in my head more often and they were always making me laugh. I ended up switching them to main characters. Their presence often provided unique ways of looking at things and offered more material. Obviously, their POV was mine, but having them alive in my head made them real. By making them real it gives you the opportunity to breath more life into your characters and makes for better writing. In other words, I don't think you're crazy; it sounds perfectly logical.

  9. "I don’t think it’s much different from what J.R. Ward does with her interviews of the Brotherhood, though."It's not a bit different. I was just talking to Shawna (@writermomof5) on the phone about this. Readers love continuity. Readers fall in love with certain characters and LOVE seeing short stories, interviews, or tweets about them past the story. That is just a fact. You wanna know why readers love it?The same reason we love reading a book. It. Is. Fun. It's like being a kid again. Using your imagination, being in your own world. Short stories, interviews, tweeting, anything that connects us to the characters we love takes away the stress of real life.Not to mention I get to exercise my clancy crush….. *swoon*

  10. Hmmph! Hey Jinxie_G!I got my start writing in RPs and loved doing it. I still keep a copy of most bios, those that weren't trashed by computer crashes. Thanks for mentioning SplitTweet people who know me too well, will roll their eyes for sure if they happen to catch this. lol.Yeah, I love writing and role playing. Maybe try it again sometime, the rp that is. Good luck with your characters, I enjoy interacting with them too when I can.

  11. The big thing here is that we are all snowflakes *gag* and everyone approaches his or her writing as fits best. The only time anyone else has any right to judge is if you are writing about a serial killer and figure you need to experience the act to write about it. I love that you shared this idea with me and have played off several of my characters, allowing me to find even great depth and exposition. And you know the only reason Shawn wasn't in that car with you is because it was daylight out.

  12. Pingback: When Fiction Meets Reality… by N.L “Jinxie” Gervasio « The Raven’s Beak

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