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Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness

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"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: Where the characters don't know that they're fictional, but they make comments that tease on the fact that they are. For instance, saying, "You watch too many sitcoms" in a sitcom, or "That felt like it went by quickly" after a Montage.
  • Aside Glance/Comment: If a character briefly looks at the screen, or even makes a brief remark towards the camera, this usually qualifies as Visible Fourth Wall. The reason is because it was directed at the audience out-of-universe, but in-universe, it can be written off as coincidence or thinking aloud.
  • Fourth Wall Psych: Where the fourth wall wasn't broken, but we're clearly meant to think it was initially.

Gaps In The Fourth Wall

Semipermeable Fourth Wall

  • A Narrator who speaks directly to the audience, but whom the characters do not know about or interact with; but only if the narrator's announcements amount to more than "Meanwhile", "see Issue #7", or other scene setting.
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: One character has full Medium Awareness, and the others write it off as them 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.
  • Addressing the Player usually falls in the semipermeable state, where the characters acknowledge their role as player-controlled entities but still continue acting on in-universe logic, but can enter the later states if it's used in a metatextual sense (as in Noticing the Fourth Wall and The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You).
    • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: The game characters know full well that they're characters in a video game, but they're still within the player's control. This frustrates them when they feel you aren't moving fast enough/doing the right thing in-game, so they start telling the player to stop dawdling.
  • 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.
    • Scolding the Fourth-Wall Breaker: Other characters admonish a character for breaking the fourth wall, as if it's taboo and they should act as if the fourth wall is solid.
  • Interactive Narrator: The characters and the narrator can have conversations. (Because this is very much a case of Rule of Funny unless we're deep in Metafiction territory, and such scenes are frequently removable from the plot, this trope falls just this side of Nonexistant.)

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 go beyond No Fourth Wall, to imply such things as the viewer being a fictional character, so this entry is for them.

Special cases

  • Fake Interactivity: The characters not only address the audience, but act like we replied. Mainly a special case because most shows using this device engage in full This Is Reality (and thus Completely Solid Fourth Wall), it's just that the audience is implied to be a character In-Universe, which makes its position somewhat weird.

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.