Friday, June 03, 2011

Breaking the Fourth Wall


Yeah, reader, I’m talkin’ to YOU.

I’ve always been fond of well-crafted breaks in the fourth wall.  I suppose that’s how my current work in progress happened.  It’s first person, with break-out meta-reference throughout.  I love the style—it flows off my fingers and onto the page very naturally.  But done wrong?  Yeah… beyond bad.

That said, I am letting my small crew of beta-readers (who will all go to heaven and get brownies) tear it apart this month before I put my head down, bite the bullet, and do my own ripping and cutting.

Terrified?  Who, me?

Let’s face it, this kind of device is easy for authors to love; but it’s also perilous for us to over-use.  It must-must-MUST be done with a delicate hand.  So I am trolling around for any good examples of the style.  I figure if I read it done brilliantly that rhythm will infiltrate my brain before I pick up the proverbial red pen.  The best examples I can recall on the fly? Jane Eyre, of course, has that famous “reader, I married him!”  Lemony Snicket, too, but I’m yearning for more adult books at the moment.  I’ve picked up Philip Reeve's Larklight

Suggestions welcome and deeply appreciated!

1 comments ]:[ Add your comment:

Alan Ryker said...

The Things They Carried is conscious of its own literary fiction/non-fiction nature. O’Brien really starts to play with that toward the end. That happens a lot in faux-memoires. Definitely in Brett Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park. Maybe in JG Ballard’s several faux-memoires, but I don’t remember clearly. Not in his real one(s?).

The division of American Pastoral at about the 100 page mark.

There’s a pattern there. Definitely check the post-modernists. I don’t know if it’s been done much since them. House of Leaves is very self-conscious and conscious of the reader, at least the portions written by Johnny Truant.

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