So I know what the fourth wall is. I know the "wall" between an actor and his audience, and I know the mortification of a director if one of his actors shatters that wall (unless, of course, it's called for in the script).
In the world of writing, I wouldn't have thought we'd have a fourth wall. After all, we don't act and perform and strut our stuff in front of an audience three, four, five nights a week. We don't prop one foot on a fake "hill" of green foam and pensively enunciate to the gathered masses: "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more."
Or do we? Do we not write and write and write our aspirations and plot points and daydreams into printed words and weave them into a grandiose work, then fling that work out upon the pages of society? We do our best, then cower in relative obscurity as we ponder what the world thinks of us.
Once upon a time, it used to be that a novelist would write a book, but the only feedback they would receive would be from their publisher. Then after a bunch of years, novelists were more aware of feedback, but the only method of contacting them and communicating your pleasure or displeasure in their work was through their publisher.
Enter Facebook. And Twitter. And LinkedIn. And Instagram. And Google+. And a million other social media groups, chats, forums, websites, etc. Suddenly, that fourth wall is broken, and people can communicate directly with the authors.
Today, on my Facebook newsfeed, I read an article about Indie book publishers, and how they can better market their books. The first comment on the article was from one Stephen King. I clicked on it, and it took me to his professional page; it was the real Stephen King.
Aside from being a little star-struck (since I am of the opinion that Stephen King is one of the better writers ever to grace this earth, even though I'm not necessarily a fan of his most common genre), I was amazed. With the touch of a button, Stephen King suddenly became "accessible" to the hundreds of people who would have accessed that article in their newsfeed.
Suddenly, he became a real person instead of a name on a magazine cover or the binding of a book. He connected, however lightly, with the outside world, and in return, people connect more with him as well.
This has been an ongoing discussion with my editor: how much do I connect with my readers? Do I throw my books out there on the market, then seclude myself while the critics have a hay-day? Or do I reach out to my readers and gain their insights and perspectives on my work, perhaps gaining from my interaction with them?
The weight of our conversation by far has fallen on the side of connecting with readers. Hence, the blog. Hence, the replies to certain reviews on my Amazon pages. Hence, every opportunity I have to break the fourth wall.
It may be too early yet to tell if it's doing any good or not. But, with that fourth wall shattered, I'll probably let you know. :)