''Hey, I Was Using That 4th Wall!''

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by ophelia, Jan 15, 2008.

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  1. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    Do you ever have "conversations" with your fanfic characters in which they know they're fanfic characters, and that you're a fanfic author?

    I have a phase of character development in which I "interview" my potential "cast members," and we come up with ground rules for one another. I find that our relationship goes much more smoothly if I do this. The fact that it is an utterly mad and delusional thing to do is quite irrelevant.

    The odd thing (well, one of the odd things) about this phase is that while the characters have definite preferences and opinions, I don't know beforehand what they're going to be. I'm regularly quite surprised by characters' reactions.

    The "best" conversation I ever had was probably the one in which the character killed me. This was a character from a different fandom, and to be fair, he has canonically killed the producers of his own show . . . on his show. I should have known that talking to him would be a bad idea. The conversation went something like this:
      Me: Hello, I'm a fanfic author. I'm sure the other characters around here have made you familiar with my work. I was wondering if you'd be interested in working together on a project I have in mind.

      Him: No.

      Me: . . .

      **He drew his sword and pointed it at me in a highly-menacing way**

      Me: We would, of course, only do work which you're--uhh, comfortable with . . .

      Him: You . . . control me? Let me show you what I am "comfortable" with. **Swing-O-Death with the sword**

      Me: Erk! Well see, killing me . . . killing me is actually off the table . . .

      Him: **General murderous behavior** No, it isn't.

      Me: But--you can't. I'm real, and you're not.

      Him: Oh, is that what you think. **Condescending murderous behavior** The moment you started talking to me, you entered my world. We live by the same rules here . . . or we would, if I weren't a supernatural creature of unthinkable power, and you weren't . . . nothing in particular.

      Me: . . .

      Him: The only thing that stops me from killing you right now is the fact that you've resorted to authorial fiat, and are forcing me to act out of character. And we can't have that, now can we? **Truly frightful murderous behavior**
    At that point I decided he was right, and let him behead me. Then he wiped his blade on my body and sauntered off. And uhh . . . that was it. He never responded to any of my attempts to talk to him again.

    I must admit, I didn't see that one coming. Usually I just get, "You're not going to do ________ to me, the way you did with character _________ are you?!"

    I think this guy deserves an award for "Best Murder Of An Author By A Leading Character" or something like that.

    Anybody else ever had unexpected experiences after they let a character "break the fourth wall?"
  2. Jinngerbread Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2007
    star 4
    I guess I'll be the first to admit yes :p It used to be a running joke between a friend of mine who I first learned to write with that the Jedi were living in our house and that one day we were going to hold them hostage in her basement until they cooperated like they were supposed too. :p

    My NaNo novel had several of these types of conversations with me arguing with such characters, because they wanted to be the narrators in my original fantasy, and I was trying to boot them out, without much success. :p

    My hubby even gets in on the act now, to blame Jedi for things that go wrong about the house, like his missing ID badge for work, or if I misplace the car keys, or finding food items that we *know* we had bought, but can't find because we ate too quickly, or something like that ;)

    You're not the only one ophelia, I think it's a rather common thing among writers ;) We never claimed to be a sane lot, did we? ;)
  3. Lilith Demodae Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 1999
    star 4
    The worst it ever got for me was when I wound up begging a heroine to stay alive and she flatly told me that nope, she was going to nobly sacrifice herself, so there. Deal with it or go away...

    It was terribly frustrating, but she wasn't going to change her mind. I've actually avoided talking to any of my characters since then, in order to avoid just that situation again.

    Over the last few years my mantra has actually become 'my characters must never know', the unspoken bit being 'about me, 'cuz they'd kill me dead again and again for the things I do to them'.
  4. star_writer24 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 15, 2006
    star 4
    We never claimed to be a sane lot, did we?

    My husband feels it is necessary to remind me on a regular basis that these people/characters aren't real!
    Hah! He doesn't have a clue does he? ;)
  5. madman007 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 22, 2007
    star 4
    Breaking down that fourth wall is my favorite thing to do to bring my own character or an existing SW one into a whole different perspective. I tend not to overdo it because overuse seems to get tedious. One of my stories deals with this directly, in fact.

    Stranger Than Fan Fiction

    Check out how I tear down that pesky fourth wall.
  6. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    Nope, never had a character talk to me or tell me what to do. I've had to change things because it wasn't in their character to do what I'd written but that's about it. I've talked to people who have had the experiences you are talking about but not me. Oh, well.
  7. Quigonjecca Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2007
    star 3
    Yes, many, many times has this happened to me! I have written some fanfic where the characters are characters and they know I'm the author, but they never really talked to me. However, I was trying to explain writing to a friend the other day, and this is what I said.

    "It's like you're typing, and watching a movie at the same time. Your character jumps over a cliff, and you're like 'no! you can't die!' and then he dies, and then you get angry at his uncle who provoked him into jumping off the cliff, and have to kill him off too. But then your character miraculously isn't dead after all, and you feel awful for killing off his uncle. You had no idea any of this was happening."

    And honestly, a lot of times I am writing, and stories take a completely different turn. Things I didn't want to happen, end up happening, and things I wanted to happen turn out differently then I expected.

    I'm going to have to try the interview technique... :D
  8. mavjade It's so Fluffy Fanfic & New Movies Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Sep 10, 2005
    star 5
    I can't say they have ever talked to me, though I wouldn't be surprised if they did.

    A lot of my OC's started out as RPG characters, so I've played out their personalities in many situations, but I wouldn't say they are aware of me... more like I become them. I use the same techniques to write a character as I do when I'm getting into character for a play.

    Though there have been times that I wanted a character to do something and they just refused and no matter how hard I try they will not do what I want, so I guess I really have in an argument with them, I just never thought that they might be aware of me! Maybe they just thought I was a higher power trying to take free will away from them! :p

    I like the idea of interviewing them!!
  9. JadeSolo Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 20, 2002
    star 6
    Never had this experience. Instead, I tend to become my characters. Or do they become me? [face_thinking]
  10. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    My characters have usually lost the power to shock me once I start writing, and I rarely have the experience where they just take off running on their own. (It has happened however. These are the "people" I spend half my editing time trying to override, because mostly they're awful storytellers.)

    There's just this transitional period between when I'm doing a very basic character outline and when I'm fully ready to write about "someone." Apparently, during that time my subconscious knows the character while my conscious mind doesn't. This is actually one of my favorite stages of writing, because I get to just sit back and "watch." :p

    Sometimes I take a new character along with me during my daily routine, just to see what they'll say and do. This is often pretty interesting, since the vast majority of them are from worlds that are nothing like mine. I've seen them hang out the window of my car like dogs, have panic attacks in post offices, and fits of kleptomania in home-improvement stores, among other things.

    Not that long ago I took a child character "to school with me" (I work in an elementary school), and he loved it. He had to explore everything, grab everything, climb on everything, and generally make it a Very Good Thing that he was imaginary. :p I couldn't have stood having him in the room if he'd had a solid body to knock stuff around with. He actually liked it so much that he "didn't want to go home." There's no equivalent to elementary school where he's from. I actually felt bad for the poor, nonexistent little thing. :(

    That exercise was actually somewhat useful from a fanfic perspective, since I know who that kid grows up to be, and it's not immediately obvious that the adult character was once a curious, trusting little boy. Just an extra layer to add underneath, and to maybe let readers catch a glimpse of now and then.
  11. Commander-DWH Shiny Costuming & Props Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 3, 2003
    star 4
    Strangest thing any of my characters have done to me is offer to write a paper for me. I'm not even kidding. I was sitting in DeCafe with a notebook, knowing that I couldn't leave until I'd written something down for my philosophy paper. I stared at the blank page for a long time before two of my OCs came around and said that they'd argue the point for me. I figured I'd let them, just to see how the debate would play out, and I could put it into a more respectable form later. However, they did such a fantastic job that I ended up including most of the text in my paper. I actually wrote very little of that paper myself, since Leiraya and Kylan really ran away from me with that one. :p But hey, they got me an A, so I won't complain too much. :D
  12. DarthBreezy Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 2002
    star 6
    I gave up trying to tell my characters "How it is" a long time ago. It started with Kampher and Schurke who were meant to be, for want of a better word, *thumb my nose at the stereotypes* - I wanted to write 'gay' characters as just characters, and show that it is possible to have characters involved in SSR's and not have a story degrade into a smut fest.

    They had other ideas...

    I knew Schurke was a flirt, and so secure in his sexuality that he could tease his straight freinds, I knew that Kam was in love with her lover, and all was well with the world.

    I didn't know that Schurke had always loved Kam, and I surely didn't expect them and their family (now at three generations!) to become the center of what's been termed "the Breezyverse", *toot toot* and crossing over into at least five other authors stories! /*tooting*

    I've discovered that these people know their lives better than I do, and sometimes it's better just to shut up and let them tell their own tales...
  13. HyperionRising Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 15, 2007
    star 2
    I haven't actually done this, but I read about the exercise in Worlds of Wonder, a book on writing scifi and fantasy by the guy who wrote the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles."

    One of his characters tried to kill him, too. He "barely escaped with [his] life."
  14. DarthIshtar Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 9
    My favorite conversations fall into two categories.

    Category 1: "Dude, what's your damage?"

    There is one overarching issue with this particular category. It is the source of the title.

    You see, I have permission to write backstory for the wonderful series called Pink 5. Whatever plots I have to come up with have to be a skewed perspective of the original trilogy or EU and further a plot of something else without meaning to. So I get ideas of what to do n a story. Then the character, Stacey, starts arguing with me about whether or not she would REALLY do that. Well, because I only get these approved based on the critique of the wonderful Trey Stokes, I PM him and apprise him of what I think and he either agrees with me, agrees with my Stacey or gives me a very tangential plot to work on. ANd then, of course, there is the time that I get it all worked out, only to have him go "Um, by the way, you haven't seen this part of the movie yet, but that's a spoiler! Please don't write that, funny as it is." Not only that, but I can never get my characters to agree on who should be telling the story. This is how I have a story written from Chewie's point of view about Han and Stacey having an argument. Or Wedge Antilles' perspective. It's complicated.

    I also have characters who second-guess me constantly. Arguing about characterization, giving me very twisted plot bunnies based on innocuous scenes, etc.

    And then there's Category 2: "Not if anything to say about it I have!"

    This is where my characters take active opposition to me. This weekend, I was enjoying a very nice sleep and all of a sudden, my version of Palpatine came and made me have an extensive dream about his love story that I'm writing and wouldn't leave me alone!
  15. MsLanna Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 2005
    star 6
    They argue with me, and are me at the same time.
    I think that is where 'not a sane bunch' comes into play.:oops:
    But I like to play with the fourth wall. I have a series of viggies in which the characters are semi-aware of them being in a story. For a humour piece, i even had them say things like' this is complete nonsense we're doing, but if we don't we'll have Lanna down our backs....'.

    Not to forget there are actually some scenes where authors have dinner with OCs (even if they're somebody else's) Starting here and spread through the following pages of the thread.
    i love playing with the fourth wall!:D
  16. LilyHobbitJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 29, 2005
    star 5
    I do this constantly! Characters have taken up permanent residence in my head and fight/argue all the time. If I get irritated by something the Obi-Wan in my head is always trying to calm me down. And then there is the fact that since I've written LOTR/HP and SW stories simultaneously, they all have long winded arguements that give me a headache. And of course they are all begging for attention at the same time.

    They can be a bit of a problem for me when I'm trying to write though. But then there are also times when they've given me all new ideas for stories.
  17. Luton_Plunder Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 15, 2006
    star 3
    Hah, I do something similar to this but have never actually 'interacted' with my own OCs. I'll happily sit down for hours and role-play as them, however. In fact while Im at work driving around all day, there can be little else to do but this :p Some of my favourite moments have come out of me just play-acting scenes out loud. One of my earliest one-posts and entire character was built in exactly this way.

    I think I'm a product of a film and television generation. There's nothing more powerful for me than to envisage how my characters would look and sound if they were on screen. So while I never actually interact with them, I generally have watched them on my own mental TV for hours and hours :p
  18. Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Apr 7, 2002
    star 5
    I'm in a couple roleplaying games on InsaneJournal, so I've got a "meta" comm where I communicate with my characters . . . It reminds me sometimes of Jeff Dunham's "Arguing With Myself".
  19. DarthIshtar Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 9
    And, then of course, there's the infamous "head space" that I'm always hearing about from Mia. RPers, I think, have a very good grasp of this.
  20. ardavenport Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2004
    star 4
    Not verbally. All the characters I write use passive/aggressive method. They won't go where they don't think they should because they have the ultimate power that goes beyond life and death -- Darth Writer's Block. If I put a character in a cool scene that they would never get into the whole story outline comes to a crashing, steaming halt. If the scene / planet / other characters / whatever aren't fully fleshed out and ready to react to, then the next scene doesn't happen and the characters just sit there until things are fixed. Characters are very demanding.

  21. DarthIshtar Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 9
    As for unexpected experiences post-4th-wall, well, there was the incident of my first story here. I had it all planned out, a 30-page mushy tribute to how adorable Luke and Leia are as brother and sister. Well, then Darth Vader wanted to have fun with the story, so it turned into a 220-page epic war crimes trial fic. Leia was supposed to get killed and Luke was going to turn to the Dark Side. Luke liked the Dark Side idea, but Leia wasn't too jazzed about dying, so instead she survived, started dating Han and started doing the whole Yoda-training thing. 180 pages, four near-death experiences and Han being shirtless and screaming later, the story ended at 400 pages. That's where it got out of control.

    And don't get me started on the fic I'm working on now.
  22. Golden_Jedi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 10, 2005
    star 4
    I've had the unnerving experience of literally feeling someone reading over my shoulder as I typed... Then an amused "Tsk, tsk, sweetheart, that's not it...".

    After a few sessions with my shrink, I discovered this apparently happens quite often to writers...
  23. Thumper09 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 9, 2001
    star 4
    Heh, there's no such thing as a "4th wall" around my house. :p I don't actually talk aloud to my characters, but I love writing crazy little scenes where I'm interacting with my OCs in the "real world" and they know they're only fictional characters. They take full advantage of that fact, too. They've pestered me at work, about work, at home, at a concert, during cross-country drives, the list goes on. They sleep on my couch, play ping-pong tournaments on my ping-pong table, and get upset at me when I do something bad to them in a story. My favorite "interaction" was when I was stuck on a plot point and I told an OC to figure it out for me and finish writing the story he was in. It was the first time I ever wrote a story about writing a story. :p

    -Thumper
  24. Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Apr 7, 2002
    star 5
    I think all writers should have a shirt that says "I do what the voices in my head tell me." :p

    I don't think I've ever had a fourth wall there. At least, there's always one character in a fandom that won't let me have one, and they'll take up residence in my head and refuse to get out. When I started writing Supernatural fanfic, Dean Winchester was in my head 24/7, even making snarky comments about stuff around me.

    . . . I realise how insane that sounds to anyone who isn't a writer. :p


    Dana
  25. leiamoody Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2005
    star 4
    My characters and I don't talk to each other enough. They come around every so often and drop hints about their backgrounds or things they like to do, and that requires me to go back and alter the bios I've written up for them. Sometimes those same details also inspire a potential story idea. Again, they confound me, and make my blood pressure go up just that much more than normal.

    At the Casa De Weirdo, I've got characters that come and go, talking of Michaelangelo (blatant T.S. Eliot reference!).They also talk amongst themselves, but very rarely do they let me into their convos. Irritating, lemme be honest. I've spent the last twenty years (literally, I started writing my first SW fanfic in 1988) working with these scenarios and these characters in one form or another. I know the interdimensional portals only open up every few months or days or weeks or whatever, but they can still send a message in a bottle when I'm really stuck.

    Most writers have characters...I have people who live somewhere else.

    This is the biggest problem I've had with my characters. Unlike many of you normal (read: functional) writers, I've had to wait until someone popped up on the screen and revealed themselves to be the perfect simulacrum of the character I already had written down on paper. It's only been in the last freaking DECADE those faces have finally been sent down to me from Heaven or wherever controls all the chaos inborn with the fiction writer.
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