From Beyond the Fourth Wall
Sometimes a character needs help, and sometimes that help comes from a highly unexpected place - us, or the author. When something like this affects the plot from outside the work in a very definite and obvious way it can be said to come From Beyond the Fourth Wall. For example, when an audience member tosses the hero an item that helps save the day, or the author nips into their own work to lend the characters a boat (or, inversely, a character sneaking into our world to steal one). The author may even step directly into a work in order to assume a role of some sort, if this is the case they often have Author Powers and can manipulate the fabric of their fictional universe. Of course, it isn't always good things that come from beyond the Fourth Wall, the author could add something dangerous 'to make things more interesting' or for some other reason.
Sometimes related to No Fourth Wall, though only in cases where the interaction directly alters the work in a physical way. For examples where the fourth wall is internal and the story affected is a Show Within a Show see Intrepid Fictioneer. Related to Deus Ex Machina, though far less subtle. Could be considered a Super-Trope of Author Powers and, occasionally, Creator Cameo. Not to be confused with Refugee From TV Land, Mary Sue characters, Audience Participation, or Clap Your Hands If You Believe. Really not to be confused with regular examples of Breaking the Fourth Wall, if a character simply talks to the viewer it doesn't count!
Note: instances where the main character is portrayed as the author of a work (such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), alternate realities and dimensions, references to real world events (such as 9/11), and anything else where it is not clear that something from our world is directly intervening in the plot (in a way that is Breaking the Fourth Wall) do not count!
Note 2: An abridged series you may have heard of is NOT the Trope Namer.
- In Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers Zatanna reaches through the comic panel for the author (or possibly the reader) to help him. He ends up being helped by seven DC Comics writers, including Morrison himself. Later on in the story she asks the reader to help her cast a spell to sort things out. What does the spell do? It welds the separate pieces of the Jigsaw Puzzle Plot of Seven Soldiers together, which couldn't be done without the reader's help, i.e. his interpretation of the plot.
- Last Action Hero features a boy who travels into films. The major theme of this film is how different the film world is to our own. This is a borderline example but it counts because he is an audience member effecting the outcome of a film.
- In the Rocky and Bullwinkle movie, Boris and Natasha steal a map from the Lemony Narrator.
- At one point in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a monster that was chasing the heroes disappeared when, "suddenly, the animator suffered a fatal heart attack!"
- In The Baby Of Macon, Cosimo de' Medici acts as both an audience member to the stage production as well as a character. He occasionally steps onto the stage and interacts with the characters, influencing the plot. Because he is an aristocrat, it makes sense that the players would adapt the play on the fly to whatever Cosimo suggests. The film is all about the interaction between various layers of reality in an artistic work.
Note: First person 'this is a true story' narratives do not count, the effect must be portrayed as being from an outside influence.
- There are a few authors who make a joke of this.
- Inkheart explores this in great depth.
- The Dark Tower: In Stephen King's Dark Tower series, the characters meet Stephen King to discover his impact on their lives and get him back on track writing the series.
- Another example from the series: At a particularly climactic moment, a character runs into a bathroom and finds a sticky note on the mirror that says "Here comes the Deus Ex Machina!" from, you guessed it, Stephen King. Not as the character Stephen King (who's also in the story), but literally as himself.
- In Peter Pan, there are moments where J.M. Barrie himself comments on the story, once even going so far to consider telling Mrs. Darling of the imminent return of her children, only deciding not to at her insistence.
- Dungeons & Dragons Adventure WG7 Castle Greyhawk. One of the dungeon levels has the author of that level being omnipotent and interacting with the PCs as they explore the level.
- Stephen Gregg's short play S.P.A.R. essentially is this trope padded out to 40 or so minutes.
- In the Doctor Who stage play (and audio adaptation) Doctor Who and the Daleks in the Seven Keys to Doomsday, the two companions, Jimmy and Jenny, are (supposedly) theatregoers who have come to watch the play. Close to the beginning, the injured Doctor calls for help; they run to him, and become part of the action.
Video Games[edit | hide]
Note: While almost all video games would seem to count, since you are playing the character directly. This is not the case for the same reasons that first person 'this is a true story' narratives do not count. The effect must be portrayed as being from an outside influence.
- The ending of EarthBound. You, personally, deal the finishing blow to the final boss.
- In Enchanter, you can summon an Implementor (that is, one of the developers of the game), who will make a comment about "fixing bugs" and then disappear.
- The Impossible Quiz has a few puzzles which require manipulating the program window.
- Black Lodge 2600 is an Atari 2600-ish game with graphics, audio and gameplay mimicked from the era. You interact through your on-screen player character. Near the end you are given a clue you'll need a white arrow to solve the final room. It's your mouse pointer.
- In the first Metal Gear Solid, you are told that you need to find Meryl's codec number so you can get in contact with her. Where is this codec number found? The back of your CD case.
Web Comics[edit | hide]
- In the Order of the Stick our favourite rogue actually leaves the comic to steal a giant diamond out of her character bio, causing said diamond to actually vanish from the page.
- And leaving a note reading "I.O.Me One Big-ass diamond", which is still on the page.
- Andrew Hussie literally breaks into Homestuck through his "Fifth Wall", which he designed to separate him from the other omniscient narrator, Doc Scratch, in order to force the story to progress.
Web Original[edit | hide]
- The flash series Animator vs. Animation sees a flash artist pitted against their animated creations.
- In the Popeye short "How Green was my Spinach," Bluto has destroyed all the spinach in the world. We cut to a live-action child watching the short in a movie theater, who reaches into a grocery bag and pulls out a can of spinach and throws it into the film.
- A similar incident occurs in "A Date To Skate".
- Another Popyeye short, "It's the Natural Thing to Do," starts with Popeye & Bluto fighting in Olive Oyl's backyard. Olive gets a telegram:
Cut out the rough stuff once in a while and act more refined. Be like ladies and gentlemen. That's the natural thing to do. (signed) Popeye Fan Club. P.S. Now go on with the picture.
- In the bugs bunny cartoon, "Rabbit Rampage" (a Remake of "Duck Amuck.") Bugs Bunny fights with the animator, represented by a brush that does all sorts of unpleasant things to him. Subverted in that at the end it's revealed to be Elmer Fudd.
- In another Bugs Bunny cartoon "Hair Raising Hare" Bugs is trapped in a Mad Scientist's Big Fancy Castle. At one point, as Bugs is behind a door and a monster is trying to break through, a desperate-sounding Bugs cries out, "Is There a Doctor In the House??" A silhouette, seemingly from the theater audience, stands up and offers, "I'm a doctor." Bugs suddenly relaxes, grins, starts munching a carrot, and asks, "What's up, Doc?"
- Another cartoon featured a villian saying that no one could stop him, not even the guy in the third row. He is defeated at the end and when asked who did it, the guy in the third row responds.
- This is practically the premise of Winky Dink.
- An episode of The Spooktacular New Adventures Of Casper called "The Y-Files", Casper's friends and settings are melting away and it turns out that paint thinner is being dropped on the sleeping animator's drawing desk.