April Theme: Breaking Through Writer’s Block
by Breaking the Fourth Wall
By Marcia Thornton Jones
When a fictional character directly addresses the audience, it’s known as breaking the fourth wall. The term comes from theatre in which the stage represents three physical walls and the fourth being the invisible barrier between the actors and the audience. Actors typically perform as if they cannot see past the imaginary wall to the audience. When an actor does look past the fourth wall to acknowledge the audience, it’s known as breaking the fourth wall. Examples in which breaking the fourth wall is featured include the movie FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF and the television series, THE OFFICE. Books like the SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS also break the fourth wall by directly addressing the readers.
I’ve never allowed my characters to break the fourth wall, but in celebration of April, the fourth month of the year, I thought I might give it a try. The next time I hit a stumbling block while writing, I’m going to let my character break through the wall—the fourth wall—by turning around and explaining to me the following four things.
- How she feels about the scene, her situation, and herself
- What she knows that I don’t know
- Why she believes the scene isn’t working
- How she thinks the scene should be written
I won’t leave these character explanations in the story, but maybe, just maybe, allowing my character to break the fourth wall will help me get past the walls that are blocking my forward writing progress!