Breaking the Fourth Wall: Dynamics of Fan Fiction Production

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingBook Chapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Online reactions to the popular television show Sherlock are passionate, opinionated, and, thanks to the speed of social media, very immediate. It is perhaps no surprise then that reaction to a stunt at a recent series launch generated its own newspaper headlines. The stunt in question involved the show’s lead actors, at the behest of the event’s host, reading explicit fan fiction aloud to the audience. The online response was swift and outraged, mostly aimed at the host for not only failing to elicit permission from the author to use her work, but also for enabling the transgression of the ‘fourth wall’ – a notion that suggests fan fiction is to remain a ‘private’ affair. Privacy in this instance does not refer to the arena of distribution or specific location of construction. It is a conceptual privacy wherein fantasy (and the fan fiction in which it is played out) is differentiated from the reality of the fiction that inspired it. Yet the online publication of most fan fiction offers it as an easily accessible source of material for distribution by fans, and it is appropriated by mainstream media as tangible ‘evidence’ of a celebrity’s fame. Although the public nature of fan fiction is not an unfamiliar concept, there was distinct discomfort when the stunt was deemed too public, when fantasy came close to actualization and the fourth wall was broken. Yet what exactly does the fourth wall demarcate: The line between actor and fanfic actor/character (most fan fiction inspired by visual media will incorporate the physical attributes of the actors into the work), between actor and character, or between ‘official’ character and fanfic character? This chapter explores some of these questions in light of the current technological milieu within which private thoughts can and are publicly expressed with instantaneous speed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiving in the Limelight
Subtitle of host publicationDynamics of the Celebrity Experience
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781848883963
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Fandom
  • fan fiction
  • fourth wall
  • media
  • online

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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