Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Breaking The Fourth Wall

Just yesterday I was talking with a YA librarian about the strangle hold first- person narrators have on children's books. Then this morning I learned that Monica Edinger has a post at Educating Alice called Thought on Newbery: Third Person Omniscient Narration. In it she discusses third-person narrators that she describes as characters or "third person narrators who insert themselves occasionally into the reader’s consciousness." If you follow her referrals to other posts, you'll get to her own Whatchamacallit Narrators and The Personalities of Intrusive Narrators at Fuse #8 Production.

I don't recall the intrusive narrating in The Golden Compass, which Monica mentions somewhere along the line. And I liked the second The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place book, a series Betsy Bird mentions at Fuse #8, very much, though I never got a chance to blog about it. However, while I'm sure there are other exceptions, as a general rule, I am not a fan of the intrusive narrator.

I think of intrusive narrators as being the literary equivalent of breaking the fourth wall in television programs, something else I'm not a fan of. I want the illusion that the fictional world is a real one that I have entered and am experiencing somehow, even though there is no pretence that I'm a character. Breaking the fourth wall and speaking to me directly destroys that for me. If the characters in the fictional world know I'm there, then they know they're not part of a real world, right?

While I'm reading that book or watching that TV show, I want the characters to believe in themselves and not me.

Now, this is not to say I will never use an intrusive narrator. I would just need an incredibly compelling reason that I can't even imagine right now.


MotherReader said...

I've never really thought much about it, but I am a fan of intrusive narrators. But maybe it is mostly because it is a different way of approaching the book than 1st or 3rd, and so less common and still interesting.

Gail Gauthier said...

I think Monica mentions storytelling in one of her blog posts. Some readers may feel that an intrusive narrator is interacting with them the way a storyteller might, and they enjoy it for that reason.