Breaking the Fourth Wall: Writing, Sci-Fi, and Speculation

Ever since I decided to become a writer and publish a book, my stories have been all about breaking the fourth wall. No matter who the characters are, what the genre is, or what the story is about, the plot is centered on a main character who is seemingly trapped in reality. Leo from Netherworld is given the Knowledge that another world exists, and he does all he can to break free of the suffocating misfortunes of life on Earth and visit this planet.  Finley from Fiction’s Lie (yes, I just recently changed his name) must travel to the world he created in his fantasy novel to save his characters and reason with his hero who has gone renegade.

Breaking the Fourth Wall_ Writing Sci-fi and Speculation - Tea with Tumnus

I’ve tried writing just fantasy and sci-fi, but there is only one world. I’ve tried writing historical fiction, but there is only one world. I’ve tried writing contemporary fiction, but of course there is only one world—the world I know as well as I’ve been alive. I couldn’t finish those stories, and at first, I had no idea why this was the case. I love writing because I get to not only create different worlds, but I get to set rules and limitations for those worlds. There is always time and space travel involved. There is always a transferral from the trappings of harsh reality where people demonize imagination to a place that seemed to be born from the treasure chest of imagination itself. There is always a connection between the real world and the fantastical world in the stories I continue to write. I’m drawn to that aspect in fiction, which is why I have been inspired by favorite stories such as Narnia, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, E. T., and Stranger Things, the Marvel movies and even Percy Jackson.

Why am I drawn to stories where the fourth wall is broken? Why do I love reading and writing and viewing stories where that is not just the foundation of the worldbuilding, but also the narrative, the plot itself? Why do I love stories where characters discover a new world that offers them a sort of the freedom that the mundane cannot?

Because, in a way, I relate to these types of stories. I’ve always fostered a fascination for the otherworldly, the weird creatures, the stunning, beautiful, antirealistic settings, and sometimes I wish I could just travel to different worlds—either worlds I’ve created or worlds from beloved books and movies. What is impossible in this reality can become possible in these other worlds. I’ve always loved the paradox of time and space travel because you can do anything with that, anything at all. Yes, our knowledge of the fantastical, of the otherworldly, of the extraterrestrial is so limited, that our options as to what we can imagine and explore and experiment about those things in fiction are as infinite as the universe itself. That’s why I love writing fantasy and science fiction—the ideas you could have are pretty much limitless. And writing about different worlds and creatures and magical realms can teach us lessons about reality that reality cannot (but that is a topic for another post).

Another reason why I think I ponder over and dream of other worlds is because I believe in a God that created the entire universe and I am fascinated with His creation of the cosmos. Sometimes I wonder if He did create other worlds with intelligent life forms that are kind of like the worlds we make up in our stories today. Where did our imagination for these fantasy and sci-fi stories come from? Why do we find other worlds awesome and inspiring, and why are they at the center of today’s most popular books and movies? Were we created with a yearning for the fantastical, for the heavenly, because we are spiritual beings created by a heavenly Holy Spirit who has left His imprint on us when He made us? Perhaps we have fostered that yearning for the expanse beyond our own planet Earth into coming up with our own, and so now we have Narnia and Middle-Earth and the Wizarding World and Asgard and Gallifrey. And the characters we write about in most of these stories break the fourth wall, as Harry did when Hagrid took him from Privet Dr. in London to Hogwarts. When the Doctor took Rose from her mundane life on Earth into his TARDIS that could take them to any time, any place in the universe. When Lucy found a wardrobe that took her to the magical world of Narnia, and when we attempted at communication between humans and visiting aliens in Arrival. 

Perhaps we wish we could break the fourth wall, somehow, and it shows in the stories we create. And maybe that desire comes from more than just simply valuing escapsim and our mundane, everyday lives.

As for whether other worlds and creatures do exist as well as our Earth? That’s a controversial topic, but it is one I’d like to touch on briefly. Most Christians don’t believe other worlds or that the extraterrestrial exist, for obvious reasons: Jesus came to Earth to die for us. The Bible involves what only happened on Earth (and in Heaven) and not on other worlds. And that’s true, but the Bible never said that other worlds and creatures in the universe don’t exist. We don’t know yet. But God can do anything; we can confirm that just by looking at the night sky.

For now, I don’t know if other worlds exist, though I can speculate as to why God has given me this fascination of the otherworldly, of the extraterrestrial and the magical unrealistic. I don’t know for sure what God wants me to do specifically with my writing, particularly in the sci-fi and fantasy genre. I don’t know how the gospel will show in my stories and my characters without sounding preachy.

But I do know I was created to create. And for now, I just write.

 

What genres do you write, and what topics do you explore in your writing? Why do you write the genre you are writing in, and what are your thoughts on the topic of breaking the fourth wall? I know the existance of the otherworldly and the extraterrestrial is a controversial topic, and I’d love to see your thoughts below in the comments!

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12 thoughts on “Breaking the Fourth Wall: Writing, Sci-Fi, and Speculation

  1. YES! Speculative fiction is one of my favorite genres to write and read. One of my favorite sci-fi series, the Ender’s Saga, at one point has a human Catholic community living right next to an alien community, which I found fascinating. I like it when books not only explore the question “What does it mean to be human?” but also the question “What does it mean to be sentient?”

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    • I loved Ender’s Game, but I need to read the next books in the series! I like the idea of incorporating a familiar religion in a sci-fi series, that does sound fascinating. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term “sentient” before, so I had to look it up. XD I feel like books that explore what it means to be sentient, or to humanly perceive and experience feelings would have really deep POV and character development. I’ll have to look more into that aspect of writing!! Thanks for reading and for the thoughtful comment!

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  2. Nice post! I am also a Christian writer, and I’ve thought about the concept of other worlds/other habitable planets. My thought is, if there are other worlds/habitable planets out there, maybe we’re meant to carry the word to them.

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    • Thank you, and that is a GREAT thought!!! I don’t know what kind of theology you follow, but I’d like to expand on that: Jesus told us to spread the gospel to the four corners of the Earth. Perhaps we will eventually do that, though not everyone will believe and accept the faith. Maybe by that time we will have scientifically advanced enough to discover and travel to other worlds and God may tell us to spread the gospel to the other worlds via special translation technologies … or Ford Prefect’s Babel Fish. XD
      Anyways, I really like that thought, and it definitely got my mind going! Thanks for reading and commenting Bethany!

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  3. I relate to so many things in this post! I too often wonder if God created other worlds that we just don’t know about. I think a lot about the spiritual realm, and how closely connected we are to it, even though we can’t always see it. I am fascinated by the concept of dimensions, and how in reality there are actually types of other worlds right in front of us. It’s easy to get into a certain pattern of thinking, but a “common sense” outlook on the way the world works is not necessarily more valid than a fantastical sounding one. Even if the details are wrong, exercising our imaginations with stories about other worlds and magic helps us to continue to explore the spectacular, and to remember that we can’t ever put God in a box. We should constantly be exploring the complex world before us and our minds, in our attempts to know God better. Fantasy opens us up to believe things that we can’t understand. It reminds us that the world is far more vast than what we can see in our limited viewpoint.
    I struggle with not wanting to sound preachy when I write as well. I hope that I just let the stories inside me come out, and that God will shine through them. I don’t want to force anything. I don’t want to write as if I have everything figured out, because I don’t. I know the basics and those won’t change, but there is so much that we don’t know. I can never stop exploring. I think that’s a pitfall that we as Christian writers fall into a lot. We just want to push the gospel message, rather than instilling a yearning for truth into our readers. We should write to open people up to new possibilities, to make people want to explore and question the common sense they’ve been following all their lives. That’s what I love about books. They challenge you and let you see the world through different eyes.
    Awesome post!

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  4. This post was awesome, and I love how you delve into the ideas most people, especially Christians, would dare to talk about. I’ve also been thinking about these similar topics as of late, and I wonder at times whether the idea of other worlds existing is possible. But most get pretty debatable over it; maybe because of how both exciting and scary it sounds. That aside, I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s more fascinated with fantasy/sci-fi novels more than contemporary.

    I don’t know why that happens, but it does. XD

    I hope to look into themes and meanings in story as a topic. And into deeper looks in genres as well. 😀

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  5. Such a great post! I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of going to other worlds. I may or may not imagine myself in books/ movies as I go through them. One interesting thing about breaking the forth wall is that it adds humor, brings out more possibilities, and gives the reader more to noodle on.

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