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From Beyond the Fourth Wall

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"And so that's my story.
I hoped you liked it...
If you're wondering how you could thank me enough, we could mosey over to the kitchen?
What might you have in
your fridge?
Any fish? Salmon?
Tuna, perhaps?"
Hobbes, attempting to invoke this trope in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series

Sometimes a character needs help, and sometimes that help comes from a highly unexpected place - us, or the author. When something like this affects the plot from outside the work in a very definite and obvious way it can be said to have come from beyond the fourth wall. For example, when an audience member tosses the hero an item that helps save the day, or the author nips into their own work to lend the characters a boat (or, inversely, a character sneaking into our world to steal one). The author may even step directly into a work in order to assume a role of some sort; if this is the case, they often have Author Powers and can manipulate the fabric of their fictional universe. Of course, it isn't always good things that come from beyond the Fourth Wall, the author could add something dangerous 'to make things more interesting' or for some other reason.

Sometimes related to No Fourth Wall, though only in cases where the interaction directly alters the work in a physical way. For examples where the fourth wall is internal and the story affected is a Show Within a Show, see Intrepid Fictioneer. Related to Deus ex Machina, though far less subtle. Could be considered a Super-Trope of Author Powers and, occasionally, Creator Cameo. Not to be confused with Refugee from TV Land, Audience Participation, or Clap Your Hands If You Believe. Really not to be confused with regular examples of Breaking the Fourth Wall, if a character simply talks to the viewer, it is not this trope. The Player Is the Most Important Resource is when the characters acknowledge the player's actions are what's directly helping them.

Instances, where the main character is portrayed as the author of a work (such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time), alternate realities and dimensions, references to Real Life events (such as 9/11), and anything else where it is not clear that something from our world is directly intervening in the plot (in a way that is Breaking the Fourth Wall), do not count.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Love Hina Again OVAs have Ken Akamatsu, the mangaka (writer and artist) of the original manga, lending some of the girls money, as well as a boat. This is, in both respects, a textbook example of this trope. note 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Last Action Hero features a boy who travels into films. The major theme of this film is how different the film world is to our own. This is a borderline example but it counts because he is an audience member affecting the outcome of a film.
  • In The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Boris and Natasha steal a map from the Lemony Narrator.
  • At one point in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a monster that was chasing the heroes disappeared when, "suddenly, the animator suffered a fatal heart attack!"
  • In The Baby of Macon, Cosimo de' Medici acts as both an audience member to the stage production as well as a character. He occasionally steps onto the stage and interacts with the characters, influencing the plot. Because he is an aristocrat, it makes sense that the players would adapt the play on the fly to whatever Cosimo suggests. The film is all about the interaction between various layers of reality in an artistic work.
  • Reality (2014) does this in-universe. The director of the film Reality plays in interacts with her within his own show. At some point in becomes unclear whether we are seeing that film, or the life or Reality, the actress.

Note: First person "this is a true story" narratives do not count; the effect must be portrayed as being from an outside influence.
  • Inkheart explores this in great depth.
  • The Dark Tower: In Stephen King's series, the characters meet Stephen King to discover his impact on their lives and get him back on track writing the series.
    • Another example from the series: At a particularly climactic moment, a character runs into a bathroom and finds a sticky note on the mirror that says "Here comes the Deus Ex Machina!" from, you guessed it, Stephen King. Not as the character Stephen King (who's also in the story), but literally as himself.
  • In Peter Pan, there are moments where J.M. Barrie himself comments on the story, once even going so far to consider telling Mrs. Darling of the imminent return of her children, only deciding not to at her insistence.
  • Vonnegut does this in Breakfast of Champions.
  • The NeverEnding Story is all over this trope, with Bastian's influence all over the mid-to-late part of the book.
    • Also, in another interpretation of Beyond The Fourth Wall, the characters in the titular book get Bastian to solve the big problem... by beginning to read the book from the beginning, as they read 'skoob dlo rednaerok darnok lrak', followed by Bastian's discovery of the book. This is slightly frightening and confusing to Bastian... but not to a reader, who would look back and know what they actually were reading...note  Due to this, they are infinitely encountering themselves reading the book, and Bastian has to break the loop.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inversion: an Australian movie theater ran a trailer for a movie in which two people Meet Cute and go on a picnic and one takes out a gun and shoots ... a zombie in the audience, because the whole thing is an ad for The Walking Dead.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons Adventure WG7 Castle Greyhawk. One of the dungeon levels has the author of that level being omnipotent and interacting with the PCs as they explore the level.

Note: Please note that Audience Participation is something different! If the audience is simply interacting with the cast (such as in Peter Pan) it doesn't count!
  • Stephen Gregg's short play S.P.A.R. essentially is this trope padded out to 40 or so minutes.
  • In the Doctor Who stage play (and audio adaptation) Doctor Who and the Daleks in the Seven Keys to Doomsday, the two companions, Jimmy and Jenny, are (supposedly) theatregoers who have come to watch the play. Close to the beginning, the injured Doctor calls for help; they run to him, and become part of the action.
  • Jon English was somewhat known for playing the Pirate King in a production of The Pirates of Penzance. In this performance of "O Better Far to Live and Die," he ends up sword-fighting with the conductor halfway through.
  • Cirque du Soleil examples:
    • In "O", the Crusty Caretaker Le Vieux summons an "audience member" to read the show's opening announcements, then sends him further into the Magical Land that the theater turns out to be — to become the show's protagonist.
    • In Varekai, a pair of "ushers" (male and female, and actually the show's clowns) who appear in the preshow are dragooned into the story by the forest creatures as the show begins. They proceed to cause havoc during the show by trying to show off their dubious "talents" — and the female usher even makes off with the hero at one point!
  • At one point in A Very Potter Musical, Ron is complaining about their current situation, including the fact that he's starving... only to be cut off by a member of the orchestra getting up from his seat, coming onstage, and handing him a snack.
    Ron: And I don't have a snack, and...
    Band Member: (politely taps Ron on the shoulder and hands him a bag of candy)
    Ron: (amazed) ...Oh my God, thank you.
    Band Member: (silently nods and walks back to his instrument)
    Harry: ...Hogwarts is amazing.
  • In Alain Maratrat's production of The Magic Flute, when Papageno asks for wine, he gets the glass handed to him by the conductor. The singers are allowed to improvise the next line, with there being variations of it such as "Maestro, you are a wizard!".

    Video Games 
Note: While almost all video games would seem to count, since you are playing the character directly, this is not the case for the same reasons that first person "this is a true story" narratives do not count. The effect must be portrayed as being from an outside influence.
  • The ending of Earth Bound. You, personally, deal the finishing blow to the final boss.
  • This trope is central to much of One Shot. To the point that some puzzles require you to search your computer for a relevant file. To say nothing of the fact that the game knows your name...
  • In Enchanter, you can summon an Implementor (that is, one of the developers of the game), who will make a comment about "fixing bugs" and then disappear.
    • Spiritwrak, a fan-made sequel set in the same universe, has this as a puzzle solution; at one point you need to travel to the developer's room and delete an obstacle from the game.
  • The Impossible Quiz has a few puzzles which require manipulating the program window.
  • Black Lodge 2600 is an Atari 2600-ish game with graphics, audio and gameplay mimicked from the era. You interact through your on-screen player character. Near the end you are given a clue you'll need a white arrow to solve the final room. It's your mouse pointer.
  • In the first Metal Gear Solid, you are told that you need to find Meryl's codec number so you can get in contact with her. Where is this codec number found? The back of your CD case.
  • The Last Half of Darkness games likewise use in-case supplemental documents as part of the scenario, and the later games even use markings on the CD itself as one of their clues. Also, Shadows of the Servants's Mind Screw ending reveals that Mira "summoned" the protagonist and others to the mansion by putting the video game on the market.
  • The main concept of Skylanders is that the characters were thrown out of their world and into ours, and that by using the Skylander toys the player can send them back home.
  • In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, the path to the Golden Ending requires the player to get the Big Bad's genie out of the way by swapping his lamp with a duplicate; obviously, this means you need to find out what the real lamp looks like. The real lamp only appears in a single cutscene...which Alexander doesn't see because he's busy Faking the Dead, meaning this puzzle runs entirely on "out-of-character knowledge". Lampshaded when Alexander shows the fake lamp to his ally Jollo, who asks how he knew what it looked like and Alex replies that he just had a "good feeling" about it.
  • In The Stanley Parable, the story is structured so that, while you can hear the Narrator, Stanley (the person you're playing) isn't hearing his own narration. Or, at least, he isn't supposed to in the Narrator's story, although the Narrator begins addressing Stanley directly once you send the story Off the Rails. (He also refers to the player as "Stanley" most of the time, even while breaking the fourth wall.) Thus, when the Narrator reveals to you (the player) a code to a locked door that you subsequently have Stanley input, it counts for this trope. The Narrator also becomes surprised at this, assuming Stanley had just pushed the right code in at random.
  • This is a huge part of the premise of Ciel nosurge and Ar nosurge. The player is directly connected with the games' universe and intervenes in the main characters' lives, for good or for ill. Other people can be connected too, and their intentions might run contrary to the player's goals...
  • A minor instance in the original Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, where after the fourth mission for GDI, the player's Electronic Video Agent is severed from GDI's global command structure, and attempts rerouting through various hubs - every one of which fails until it eventually finds a successful connection through Las Vegas, then the home of the game's developer Westwood Studios.
  • In the climax of Death end re;Quest, Ripuka indirectly reveals that the "God of Death" that the Ludens keep referring to is not male protagonist Arata, but you. If the conditions for the True Endings have been met, Arata quickly realizes that his suspicions about his world being just like In-Universe MMO World's Odyssey have just been confirmed, and he directly petitions your help. If you agree to help him, the party is given a Heroic Second Wind and finally manage to defeat Ripuka. Your aid also appears to help the party take down final boss Iris.
  • The Big Bad of Kirby: Canvas Curse is so powerful that Kirby is impotent. A paintbrush she summoned turning against her is the only reason he can do anything and even then it has to bypass the fourth wall and get help from the player to effectively fight its summoner.
  • Duck Hunt of Super Smash Bros. at first appears to just be a duo, the dog and the duck, and this is reflected in the character's European name of "Duck Hunt Duo". However, the Japanese original and the American localizations instead make it clear that the character is actually a trio, the third member being an unseen NES Zapper wielder who shoots at the screen during Smash attacks and various special moves.
  • You shoot a Rabbid out of your Wiimote in Rabbids Go Home.
  • Inverted in Unbound Saga, an action game set inside a comic book. Your character is well aware that he's a comic book character, and wants to get out and oppose the comic artist who puts them in. The stages are even shaped like comic book panels, with you jumping out of one panel and land in another.

    Visual Novels 
  • The epilogue of Virtue's Last Reward strongly implied that the player (not the main character, the player) was a mysterious mental presence named "?", who would figure greatly in the sequel Zero Time Dilemma. Needless to say for those who played that game, this didn't happen, and Word of God later explicitly stated that that epilogue was non-canon.
  • In Ever17, the extradimensional entity, only known as Blick Winkel, which ends up solving the main conflict of the story, represents the reader.

    Web Comics 
  • In Bob and George The Author actually has to resurrect one of the characters here.
  • In Drowtales, Kiel is constantly being swarmed and talked to by black masses of demons, which are in fact the readers. Through their eyes the readers of Drowtales see the world and they are for all intents and purposes the living fourth wall.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Haley the rogue actually leaves the comic to steal a giant diamond out of her character bio, causing said diamond to actually vanish from the page and leaving a note reading "I.O.Me One Big-ass diamond", which is still on the page.
  • Homestuck:
    • Andrew Hussie literally breaks into the webcomic through his "Fifth Wall", which he designed to separate him from the other omniscient narrator, Doc Scratch, in order to force the story to progress.
    • It's then inverted when a group of characters break through the fourth wall in order to get to another universe. Yes, that means "our world" is a Void Between the Worlds.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Dan gives Grace a plush squirrel which then shows up in canon.

    Web Original 
  • The flash series Animator vs. Animation sees a flash artist pitted against their animated creations.
  • Dream SMP: Technoblade was the first content creator to bring his stream chat into the SMP's canon; it's explained to the other characters as Techno Hearing Voices. Since then, about 40% of the cast have had their stream chats canonized in some shape or form.

    Western Animation 
  • Popeye:
    • In the short "How Green was my Spinach," Bluto has destroyed all the spinach in the world. We cut to a live-action child watching the short in a movie theater, who reaches into a grocery bag and pulls out a can of spinach and throws it into the film.
    • "A Date To Skate" features a gag where Popeye realizes he left his spinach at home, and has an audience member throw him a can.
    • Another Popyeye short, "It's the Natural Thing to Do," starts with Popeye & Bluto fighting in Olive Oyl's backyard. Olive gets a telegram:
      Cut out the rough stuff once in a while and act more refined. Be like ladies and gentlemen. That's the natural thing to do. (signed) Popeye Fan Club. P.S. Now go on with the picture.
    • An in-universe example occurs in "Popeye's Premiere", where Popeye give a can of spinach to himself on the movie screen.
  • Looney Tunes:
    "Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Well anyway, I finawwy got even with that scwewy wabbit!"
  • Invoked in the pilot episode of the Beetlejuice cartoon. BJ directly addresses the audience, explaining that it's the anniversary of the day he met his Morality Chain Lydia, and that he needs to buy her a present for the occasion. He then adds that he's flat broke, and proceeds to press himself up against the inside of the television, asking the kids watching the show to give him all their money. Of course, since the kids have no way of giving him any money, the trope is ultimately defied.
  • This is practically the premise of Winky Dink (also known as "Winky Dink and You"), where certain segments presented Winky in a dilemma that the kids had to solve by using crayons and a sheet of cellophane to draw on their TV screens.
  • An episode of The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper called "The Y-Files" has Casper's friends and settings melting away and it turns out that paint thinner is being dropped on the sleeping animator's drawing desk.
  • The Mighty Mouse cartoon "Goons From The Moon" has alien cats abducting all the mice in Terrytown. The radio reporter (a mouse caricature of Walter Winchell) comments "there's only one mouse who can save this situation!" Cut to an animator's table where the animator's hand draws Mighty Mouse in flight atop a missile. (The artist stops drawing briefly, causing Mighty Mouse to chime in, "Hurry up! I've got a job to do!")
    • The cartoon "The Cat's Tale" has a mouse-traumatized cat telling the hero's origin and his subsequent battle against a giant cat. The cowardly cat then tells us how he'd show Mighty Mouse a thing or two, only for the animator to draw Mighty Mouse floating right behind him. The cat runs off in fright.
    • In the Bakshi episode "Mighty's Wedlock Whimsy" (billed as a cautionary tale), Mighty Mouse is getting married to Pearl Pureheart. But he's getting cold feet just as he's about to take his vow, just stammering "I... I... I...", then it cuts to a pencil drawing of him on an animator's table. The animator cops out and can't go through with it. It ends with the cartoon characters at the wedding all laughing as everything is up in flames.
  • In the Donald Duck cartoon "Duck Pimples", Don is being harassed by the characters of a mystery novel, who accuse him of stealing a pearl necklace. He is saved when the book's author appears to declare his innocence and reveal the real culprit (although he has to look it up in his own book to do it).
  • This is a central idea in many children's TV series, gaining prominence after its use in shows like Blue's Clues, Dora the Explorer, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, where problems are supposedly solved by the interaction of the preschool-aged viewer.

Alternative Title(s): Beyond The Fourth Wall