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So I'm watching the Netflix show House of Cards with Kevin Spacey. Excellent show by the wall, I think everyone here should give it a go.

If you've seen the show then you know that Spacey breaks the fourth wall on many occasions and talks directly to us, the viewer. Very much the same way that Zach did in Saved by the bell.

So it got me thinking how awesome that would be for the main character of a book to do that. Just talk directly to readers about the situation he's facing.

What do you guys and gals think? Can it be pulled off or is that just pushing the line too far?
 

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I'm sure it can be done and some readers would like it. I don't like it in movies, it kind of ruins it for me. But I am only one of an endless supply of movie watchers/readers.
 

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I'm going to give an answer that sounds ... glib ... but it's true. If it works, it works, and most people won't care. If it doesn't work ... it doesn't work.

I wouldn't do it as a trick. Do it because the story NEEDS it.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off did it as well.
 

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A lot of writers do this in first person books. In small doses, it's very effective. In larger doses...less so. ;)
 

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I actually found it really distracting, but I love Kevin Spacey and for him, I was willing to wait it out. I think that's the rule with writing, too -- it would take a lot of charm and/or an author/narrator I like and trust to make it work for me. It also seems to me that this happens in first person already.


(aside: Kevin Spacey notwithstanding, a few episodes in, I needed to take a break from the show -- too many antiheroes at once for me without a palette-cleansing.)
 

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KevinMcLaughlin said:
A lot of writers do this in first person books. In small doses, it's very effective. In larger doses...less so. ;)
Exactly this. It also depends on the framing of a story. If the first person narrator is writing/telling their account for someone's benefit (an essay to explain what happened, like in The Gallagher Girls, or a police confession or a letter to someone) it can work very well. But too much of it can get irritating.
 

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Rashaad Bell said:
So it got me thinking how awesome that would be for the main character of a book to do that. Just talk directly to readers about the situation he's facing.

What do you guys and gals think? Can it be pulled off or is that just pushing the line too far?
It happens often in books. It's especially popular in children's books. But a couple nonchildren's books that do this (off the top of my head) are Good Omens, and Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff. (And I'm not double checking this, so I'm really just crossing my fingers that I'm not remembering incorrectly! Don't shoot me if I am!)
 

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I haven't seen HOUSE OF CARDS yet, but plan on giving it a go. Generally, I adore breaking the fourth wall when it is done well. There's a single look in HAROLD AND MAUDE where Harold eyes the camera and makes a gentle nod that is priceless.  

Literarily, my fav time was in JANE EYRE when she proclaims, "Reader, I married him." It isn't the first time Jane addresses the reader but it is (to my mind) the most effective). And, it is the line in the book that is the most memorable--at least to me.

So, I think it can be done, but it can also be overdone. To me, it's most effective done sparingly. As a reader, I like to be included but I don't want to participate in the story.
 
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