That’s Diegesis, not Diogenes

Potential b/w ad for Nuclear Dragons, prepared by Jim McPherson, artwork by Ian Bateson 2013

Potential b/w ad for “Nuclear Dragons“, artwork by Ian Bateson, 2013, rendered grey for b/w reproductions

Front Cover Ad for "Nuclear Dragons", art by Ian Bateson, 2013, text and ad preparation by Jim McPherson, 2013

Front Cover Ad for “Nuclear Dragons“, art by Ian Bateson, 2013, text and ad preparation by Jim McPherson, 2013

On-page lynx:

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As also per here, here or here, in his preamble to “Nuclear Dragons“, Jim McPherson wonders:

How much back story is too much back story?

Somewhat later he concludes:

As near as I can make out, short of eliminating [back stories] altogether, there are a number ways of dealing with [what back story hasn’t been chopped out in the editing process]. Character companions, parentheses, footnotes and/or an addendum come to mind. [For “Nuclear Dragons”] I’ve chosen parentheses.

While the reader can skip them as he or she pleases, I’d recommend perusal. Especially when in comes to “Nuclear Dragons”, I do some of my best work in parentheses.

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Front and Back Covers for "Nuclear Dragons"; artwork by Ian Bateson, 1980/2013; text by Jim McPherson

Front and Back Covers for “Nuclear Dragons“; artwork by Ian Bateson, 1980/2013; text by Jim McPherson


Here’s an interesting distinction for writers to make:

Diegesis is a style of fiction storytelling which presents an interior view of a world and is:

  1. that world itself experienced by the characters in situations and events of the narrative
  2. telling, recounting, as opposed to showing, enacting.

In diegesis the narrator tells the story. The narrator presents the actions (and sometimes thoughts) of the characters to the readers or audience.

… By contrast, mimesis shows rather than tells, by means of action that is enacted.

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Furthermore …

Artwork from Phantacea Forever & 40 Days by Ian Fry circa 1990

Artwork from Phantacea Forever & 40 Days by Ian Fry circa 1990


Diegesis is multi-levelled in narrative fiction.

  1. The extradiegetic level … is the narrator’s level, the level at which exists a narrator who is not part of the story he tells.

  2. The diegetic level is understood as the level of the characters, their thoughts and actions.

  3. The metadiegetic or hypodiegetic level is that part of a diegesis that is embedded in another one and is often understood as a story within a story, as when a diegetic narrator himself/herself tells a story.


Best response for writers whose friends/critics admonish: “Show me, don’t tell me” therefore isn’t: “it’s a bloody book. You read it. You don’t watch it”.

Try instead: “It’s a doggone diegesis, not a mangy mimesis”.

[BTW, Diogenes was a cynic, from the Greek kynikos, “dog-like” and that from κύων, kyôn, “dog” (genitive: kynos)]
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Helios on the Moon, front cover of Phantacea Three, art by Richard Sandoval, 1978

Artwork from the “Helios on the Moon” side of pH-3, which was a flip book; Richard Sandoval, 1978


As for Diogenes, according to tradition, during the time of Plato and Alexander the Great ‘… he wandered around Greece carrying a lantern and searching for an honest man’. As for why he did that, one theory is here.

For what it’s worth, here’s a quotable line from the article linked above:

‘Alexander found the philosopher looking attentively at a pile of human bones. Diogenes explained, “I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave”.’

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