Metafictional Device

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Normally, it would just be Paratext, or a basic building block of the fiction. But somehow, something used to construct the work — the font of the text, or the formatting, a cute yellow thought/narration box or a dialogue balloon, quirks of spelling, the edge of the filmstrip — is incorporated into the text, where the characters can interact with it. When this happens, that item becomes a Metafictional Device.

Sometimes this involves Breaking the Fourth Wall; other times, it doesn't occur to anyone to wonder why that pretty thought balloon is visible, and it becomes more of a Strange Loop or Painting the Medium.

Ninja Prop is combining that with Chekhov's Gun.

Left the Background Music On, Panel Break and Harsh Word Impact are related to this.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • This advertisement for GEICO shows that "words really can hurt you".

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Deadpool:
    [Narration]: Do I still think in those little yellow boxes?
    Deadpool: "I'm good."
    [Narration]: Ooh, I missed you, little yellow boxes! What fun we shall have together!

    Comic Strips 
  • The Tank McNamara strips for the week of July 12-17, 2010, show a pitcher who is able to read the thought balloons of the batter at the plate. The batter is concerned about being traded to another team as the baseball trading deadline approaches. Based on the batter's concerns that he can read, the pitcher, whose team is leading by eight runs late in the game, "grooves" one to the batter to allow him to get a home run. In the Saturday strip, the catcher comes out to the mound. The pitcher assumes that he's in trouble for allowing the home run and begins his explanation with how he's heard that the batter was about to be traded. The catcher then tells the pitcher how freaked out he is because he [the catcher] was able to read the batter's thought balloons. Although, oddly enough, no one says anything about being able to read the pitcher's thought balloons.
  • In Peanuts strips of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Snoopy often did this with Woodstock. For example:
    Snoopy: [after punching three holes into Woodstock's speech balloon] Woodstock hates it when I punch holes in his argument.
    • The music from Schroeder's piano also counts. Besides Snoopy, and sometimes Woodstock, interacting with the musical score, a Sunday strip from 1987 has Lucy grabbing the music and wadding it up as if it were printed on paper. After Schroeder untangles the score and puts it back over his piano:
      Charlie Brown: It's none of my business, but to me your music sounds sort of wrinkled.

    Fan Works 

    Film – Animated 
  • Many of the Winnie-the-Pooh movies use the text in the book from which the stories are being told as a metafictional device. It's used so much that it's never really a surprise, but, for example, in one of the movies the text is used as a ladder that lets the characters escape from a pit, and in an older one it's used as a platform to get Tigger out of a tall tree.

    Film – Live Action 
  • In Austin Powers in Goldmember, Austin is reading the subtitles to understand what a Japanese man is saying, and is offended when the man says "Please eat some shit". It turns out that something was blocking the subtitle, so Foxy Cleopatra moves it out of the way to show that what he said was "Please eat some shitake mushrooms".

    Literature 
  • Thursday Next: The footnoterphone, and a number of other things.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Whenever one of the characters on Sesame Street happens to notice the words, letters, and numbers materializing above his head while he talks.
  • Similarly, in The Electric Company (1971), even though Spider-Man's dialog is shown onscreen rather than spoken, the other characters know what he is saying.

    Video Games 
  • In all of the Metal Gear games; if an enemy soldier discoveres where you are, an exclamation point appears over his head for a quick instant. In some of the games, if you shoot the exclamation point, it knocks him out.
  • In the video game Comix Zone, Sketch, trapped in his own comic book, can tear out part of the pages to use them as a paper airplane One-Hit KO.

    Web Animation 
  • Happens at least twice in There she is!! In episode 1 Nabi doesn't understand why Doki is looking at him so intently, until he sees the heart symbols emanating from her, and is horrified (why? Watch the animation). Love hearts in their world also have physical (and sometimes painful) presence. In Episode 2 Doki's thought bubble is pushed out of the way by a friend as she comes into shot.

    Webcomics 
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Lien, a paladin, discovers that a person is obviously evil, because he has a distinctive speech pattern; i.e., the dialogue balloon is black and the text is red.
    • Also, in an earlier one, a sorceress throws a protagonist character out through the edge of the panel.
  • In the webcomic Sword And Sarcasm, it's common knowledge that mysterious invisible beings called the Choral Djinn secretly chronicle all the events of our lives. Part of Herbert's curse is that he and anyone standing near him can hear them. That is, they can hear the comic's caption boxes.
  • 1/0:
    • Ghanny at one point contemplates whether they could use the contents of their speech balloons as tools or weapons. Junior is all in favor of the weapons part, but Tailsteak discourages the idea.
    • Used again when they're wondering about Tailsteak's nationality, noting he must not be American because Ghanny said "colour", with a u.
  • In this Cyanide & Happiness strip, the characters are aware of the limited number of panels and necessity of a punchline.
  • In Keychain of Creation, the Crazy Awesome space, time, and fate-bending abilities of the Sidereal Exalted are represented by having them actively use the comic format against their enemies. In particular, Nemen Yi leaps between comic panels, abuses perspective to hit people at range with a melee attack (think "I crush your head", except it works), and breaks off a piece of the gutter (the border between panels) to use it as a throwing weapon.
  • Roommates:
    • There is the vine/root border in the Such Stuff Dreams Are Made On arc which is a flourish indicating "dreams". Until it attacks that is. Later revealed that they are actually part of the Shadow Child's "body". This is Ninja Prop with an actual ninja.
    • Also, Censor Boxes seem to be real things in the 'verse and the characters can interact with them.
    • One of those characters climbed up a panel to fix his own speech bubble icon once, so it's reasonable to assume that all comic convention stuff is actually "real" for them to one degree or another.
  • A yummy Idea Bulb in this strip of Zero Percent Discount.
  • In this Daughter of the Lilies page, Thistle destroys an echo of the Drath that had latched onto a friend's mind and was feeding on and amplifying their insecurites. She does so by tearing the errant thoughts right out of their speech bubble.

    Western Animation 
  • A great gag in one of the Chuck Jones-directed Tom and Jerry cartoons involves question marks and exclamation points appearing above the characters' heads... which they then seize and use in their fight.
  • Yakko once gets an Idea Bulb, but Wakko eats it, leaving Yakko without an idea.
  • Candace from Phineas & Ferb, in the episode 'Gaming the System' which has her and her brothers transported into a video game. When she faces the giant boss modelled after Bufford, she thwacks Giant Bufford with her health bar, causing him to fall off a cliff.

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