Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness

I didn't feel the need to appear before now, because I knew I'd face big shouty demands like this as soon as I broke the fourth wall. I think I might have to retcon everyone and go back to nice peaceful anonymity.

In fiction, Webcomics in particular, the Fourth Wall is sometimes nonexistent; sometimes it is so solid that you can lean on it. This is a sliding scale of how solid the Fourth Wall is.

From most solid/hardest, to least solid/softest (Note that promos and the like do not count for this scale):

Completely Solid Fourth Wall

Visible Fourth Wall

  • Soliloquies, Asides, and the like, as long as the audience is not directly acknowledged. The characters behave as if they were characters in a story, but they don't know who might be watching. (You talk to the audience in a soliloquy, yes, but only because the conventions of the theater say that doing so means that you're actually just thinking out loud at the audience.)
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall
  • Aside Glance/Comment

Semipermeable Fourth Wall

  • A Narrator (but not a Viewpoint Character) who speaks directly to the audience, but whom the characters do not know about; but only if the narrator's announcements amount to more than "Meanwhile", "see Issue #7", or other scene setting.
  • Fourth Wall Mail Slot: where, outside of the plot, the characters respond, in character, to reader mail or reader content — if it is the only break in the fourth wall.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: a segment of the show where characters often lecture directly to the audience, sometimes acknowledging the unrealism of that episode's events.
  • From Beyond The Fourth Wall: The creator of a work, the audience, or you, personally, interact with characters (in a way that isn't Audience Participation). Such as by lending the characters a boat, or money. Can happen in reverse too.
  • Fourth Wall Observer: One character has full Medium Awareness, and the others write it off as him/her being insane.
  • In a video game, the characters are aware of the context of the game just enough to explain a concept of the game to the player, but do so within the context of the story. Common in Justified Tutorials.
  • Clear Breaking the Fourth Wall happens, but at other times, everything works as if the characters are not aware of being fictional; the breakages are basically implied not to be canon, even though they may happen in the middle of the normal action.

Nonexistent Fourth Wall

  • Medium Awareness: the characters may directly acknowledge the mechanics of their medium and/or that this is just a show, but these acknowledgments don't actually affect the plot and/or the characters never acknowledge their fictionality.
  • Full No Fourth Wall: The characters acknowledge their fictionality directly.
  • Noticing The Fourth Wall: The characters become aware they are fictional in the most terrifying way possible; the knowledge that they're only real in someone's imagination and will cease to exist when the story ends is used for existential horror.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Things inside the story, we are warned, can attack the reader.

Beyond No Fourth Wall

  • Mind Screws sometimes goes beyond No Fourth Wall, to imply such things as the viewer being a fictional character, so this entry is for them.


No examples; there are plenty of subtropes for them.

  • Well, maybe a brief comparison of Bob and George and 1/0, to explain how the scale works:
    • The characters of Bob and George know they're in a Web Comic, but it only sometimes directly impacts the plot, and the characters' actual existence is never in question.
    • In 1/0, Medium Awareness is the main plot, and the characters themselves acknowledge and debate their possible fictionality/nonexistence.