There's a scene in the movie Trading Places in which the two rich guys are explaining commodities to Eddie Murphy, telling him that pork bellies are tied in with bacon, which might be used in a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Murphy turns to the camera, as if to say, "Do you believe these people?"
He broke the "fourth wall" which is that imaginary barrier between the film and the audience.
I've always thought stuff like that was fun. You see it in movies and on television a lot, even on stage, so why not in books?
Well, because some people consider it a "rule" that shouldn't be broken. Those people with "literary" tattooed on their foreheads who break out in hives if a comma is used improperly. You know the type. I once got a rejection from an agent who loved my book, but turned it down because I broke the fourth wall. The horror!
Upon reading said rejection letter I immediately put my wrists out, waiting to be handcuffed by the editorial police who would surely break down my door at any moment. I would be hauled away to literary jail and forced to deal with my seventh grade nun who would make me write "I will not break the fourth wall" thousands of times. (Oh, I can see from your cringe that you went to Catholic school. Sorry for the flashback.)
To me, occasionally talking to the reader makes the reader feel part of the story. Like I'm sitting across from the reader in a coffee shop and telling that person a story, but occasionally stopping to include the person. I see you nodding, so you're getting it.
In my new book "Boss Girl" my main character Sydney likes to talk to the reader. Sometimes she catches the reader rolling her eyes, or shaking her head, so she has to stop with the narrative and explain herself.
I used this technique a lot as a television reporter when I was doing feature stories. I did this little on-camera thing in which I'd give a "come closer" gesture to the camera. The photographer would zoom in, I'd drop my voice and let the viewer in on a little secret. It was my way of connecting with the viewer on a personal level, as if I was having a personal conversation with the viewer. I was simply following a concept in television known as "talk, don't read." Many broadcasters can read a teleprompter, but the best ones "talk" to the viewer. I'm just doing the same thing with my novels.
So if you pick up one of my books, please be aware that I'll be occasionally talking to you and not simply telling you a story. Because there's no need to put up any kind of wall between authors and readers. Ah, I see you agree! Here's a sledgehammer, take the first shot.