I went to see Deadpool 2 at the weekend and it got me thinking about fourth wall awareness in my own writing, specifically in creative non-fiction that's based on my own life.

According to the first site linked to above, fourth wall awareness is:

The ability to be aware that one's Universe is fictional, and potentially use this to act in otherwise impossible ways within their fictional universe.

When I make myself the focus of a piece of writing, it's pretty clear (mostly) that the events are set in 'reality', but what if they're not? I mean, imagine that this universe is just a kind of play that is being staged for the benefit of beings from a higher dimension. If that were so, then it should be possible to break the forth wall on my own experience here.

But I'm not entirely sure if I can make this work. Perhaps I would just create a contradiction in terms somehow.

So my question is: what techniques could I use when writing a piece of creative non-fiction about myself that would enable me to effectively break the fourth wall and yet still make the piece viable to its readers?

Research: It's not at all relevant to my needs, but this question is a wonderful collection of thoughts around breaking the fourth wall: Can a writer joke with the reader without breaking the fourth wall?

  • 1
    Breaking the fourth wall makes an assumption about who is on the other side of the wall. It's virtually always a contemporary reader/spectator anchored in "true" reality. If you want to direct this break towards some non-human aliens, that's for sure will be creative, but you would have to execute it right.
    – Alexander
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 16:56
  • You've hit the nail right on the proverbial, @Alexander - the ways in which to 'execute it right' are exactly what I'm asking for in this question. I'd regard it as a favour if you'd work your thoughts up into an Answer and post it here. :)
    – robertcday
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 17:14
  • 1
    Spoiler alert! Deadpool apparently breaks the 4th wall in Deadpool 2. I never would've guessed. :)
    – raddevus
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 18:00

3 Answers 3


My best guess, would be to say that, given the context, you just allow those who are capable of breaking said fourth wall in your work to be aware of the foundation of your non-fiction universe existing around them like you said.

As in, on rare occurrences, they are aware that this is the author reflecting on his memories as though it where a fictional work. Understanding they are still elements within a book, whether the events are fictional or not is perfectly fine in my opinion, "breaking the fourth wall" is still a perfect term and practise to make such a work entertaining.

I'm sure you had ideas in mind to begin with, but simply knowing these people from your past who'll be you're characters makes gauging there reactions to spontaneous events more organic, and thus all you have to do is decide if it is just you (if you are the main character, I was just assuming, lol) or everyone (in perhaps something a context sensitive manner) that is allowed to break the fourth wall.

Having never seen much of Deadpool, and only hearing comments from others around me about it, I can only hazard guesses as to the contents within the movie that has inspired you, and what you are trying to achieve. So I think the best move would be, since it's resonating in your mind still, that you maybe look at the movies use of the technique and measure it against what you have planned out so far. Maybe even watch it a second time if you feel there is something you could learn from doing so.

Simply thinking for a moment, when using it in this manner, asking questions such as. How often did Deadpool break the fourth-wall? How often did other characters respond? Would you have done it more, less, or was the movie perfectly executed in that regard in your own opinion? Lines of fiction and non-fiction isn't the issue in my mind for this, in writing you can do as much of something as you like, fact or fiction. Not knowing you well enough to make a judgement call, the best thing I could say, is a lot of humour could be derived in fourth wall breaking in terms of things that you, the author/presumed narrator are including that focuses on regrets, dwelling, and regardless of whether you're over it or not, things that creep in from your past and cause you to think "I can't believe I said/did that"

Sorry if this seems like a long read, but in the end it's a difficult one to hammer out perfectly, since humour is very much subjective for everyone, but since your idea does sounds interesting enough in concept, I couldn't resist trying to help. I hope that in then end, your project comes together for you in way that you're satisfied with. Good luck


The fourth wall has someone on the other side. Typically, it's a contemporary reader/spectator anchored in "true" reality. If you want to direct this break towards some non-human aliens, that's for sure will be creative, but has to be executed right.

A popular alternative to a "generic reader" is a "concrete reader (listener)". The story is started as a narration (like, for example, "The princess bride" is a fairy tale that is read to a child). Then, during the course of the story, narrator can routinely break the fourth wall and discuss specific concerns with his/her audience.

However, a young boy is still a much more conventional audience than aliens. You may need to stop often to explain some trivial things, which can turn out either boring or amusing, I think you just have to try and see.


You're going to have a hard time with this. The only time I've seen it work was in Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions. He entered the story in a restaurant wearing sunglasses so the characters wouldn't notice him sitting in the corner.

The problem is, writers think about themselves and about writing, but the readers are only interested in the story. I have seen uncreative advertisements about an ad copywriter sitting around uninspired.

Some take "The medium is the message" too literally.

You can only get away with things like that by being extremely honest with the reader. Vonnegut had his character act like a real person would act if they found out they were a fictional character.

A big problem when things happen that are impossible, is that the characters immediately accept this new impossible context. Don't make that mistake. Like in zombie movies, everyone immediately acts like it's normal that dead people are walking around.

Someone asked Bill Gates what he would have most wanted to ask if someone from the 21st century came back in time to 1981 to show him what Microsoft will become. He said, "I'd only want to know one thing. The hell with everything else. I don't care about anything else. How is time travel possible?"

The last words of Vonnegut's story were haunting. When the character realized the author had the godlike power to give him anything he wanted, he begged repeatedly, "Make me young! Make me young!"

If you're going to break the 4th wall, you'll have to make it exceedingly real.

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