A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789

One shouldn’t read Dickens quickly, rip-roaring through the pages to find out what’s going to happen next. To do so is to lose out on the pleasure of the experience, and the track of what’s happening, fast. Dickens constructs his narratives so that readers are to become immersed in the story, and his language is so ornate and complex that plot points can easily be overlooked. And so it is that the magic of Dickens is in the absorption of the text, savoring each paragraph, each line, for the rich symbolism and the imagery he seeks to convey.

On that note, there seems a strange irony that occurs when considering a novel like the A Tale of Two Cities. University English departments are filled with reasonable people doing reasonable things, studying the art of storytelling, learning about language and critical thinking, all the while furthering themselves as human beings, a rather peaceful affair. But how contrasting it is, the subject matter? The term “French Revolution” comes off nowadays as a modern catchphrase that recalls a certain period in history, but can anyone truly realize the terror of which it was comprised?

The Massacre at Paris. 1792

I imagine members of the notorious 1% of our age reading this book, anxiety meds on hand lest the topic be taken to heart, as some terrifying thing that could happen again. Thank goodness for modern technology and how it protects properties, right? Think Louis XVI and his lovely young wife Mrs. Antoinette would have been brutalized by the common populace had their palace been wired with cameras and lasers, and electric fences and traps, and automatic guns and drones, and whatever else billionaires can afford to protect themselves?

Food provision programs may contribute somewhat to the prevention of uprising in the modern age. The revolutionaries were hungry (though it was only part of the problem). Well, what may be on the horizon for the future of Planet Earth may well have been prophesied by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels (1726), where the flying city-island of Laputa hovers safely in the sky.

Consider the potential modernization of cities in which skyscrapers are connected at heights where the poor cannot access. People could live and work at elevations far above the street for their entire lives while the situation at ground level, its rapidly expanding tent cities, turn from bad to worse.

But I digress. What about the novel? It is most certainly one that has been scrutinized to all eternity, the critical commentary spanning volumes, speaking to the power of Dickens and his imaginative capabilities, with room for plenty more commentaries as the years press forward. It is a novel that couches a domestic story within one of history’s most unimaginable phenomenons, and begins with literature’s most famous opening lines, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Apart from other notable themes and occurrences, the Carmagnole is a thing difficult not to notice. The “collective behavior” of the revolutionaries is chilling, a paradoxical rampage of irony in which the success of the revolution’s onslaught is bound up in a frenzied rage conducted by “demons,” as Dickens terms them. The scene is so frightening because the onlooker is not certain whether to applaud or abhor the group, the picture of humanity as grey as one could possibly imagine. But there is no point in trying to describe what the author describes best:

“But, he was not far off, for presently she heard a troubled movement and a shouting coming along, which filled her with fear. A moment afterwards, and a throng of people came pouring round the corner by the prison wall, in the midst of whom was the wood-sawyer hand in hand with The Vengeance. There could not be fewer than five hundred people, and they were dancing like five thousand demons. There was no other music than their own singing. They danced to the popular Revolution song, keeping a ferocious time that was like a gnashing of teeth in unison. Men and women danced together, women danced together, men danced together, as hazard had brought them together. At first, they were a mere storm of coarse red caps and coarse woollen rags; but, as they filled the place, and stopped to dance about Lucie, some ghastly apparition of a dance-figure gone raving mad arose among them. They advanced, retreated, struck at one another’s hands, clutched at one another’s heads, spun round alone, caught one another and spun round in pairs, until many of them dropped.”

“While those were down, the rest linked hand in hand, and all spun round together: then the ring broke, and in separate rings of two and four they turned and turned until they all stopped at once, began again, struck, clutched, and tore, and then reversed the spin, and all spun round another way. Suddenly they stopped again, paused, struck out the time afresh, formed into lines the width of the public way, and, with their heads low down and their hands high up, swooped screaming off. No fight could have been half so terrible as this dance. It was so emphatically a fallen sport — a something, once innocent, delivered over to all devilry — a healthy pastime changed into a means of angering the blood, bewildering the senses, and steeling the heart. Such grace as was visible in it, made it the uglier, showing how warped and perverted all things good by nature were become. The maidenly bosom bared to this, the pretty almost-child’s head thus distracted, the delicate foot mincing in this slough of blood and dirt, were types of the disjointed time” (Book III, Chapter V).

No cursory glance at a A Tale of Two Cities is complete, however, without honorable mentions to one of literature’s most dastardly villains, the insidious Madame Thérèse Defarge. Having read the novel, the name is enough to send chills up the spine. She is vicious. She is cold-blooded, beyond vindictive. She is cunning and she is hateful. She holds onto her pain as though it were her life-force, the opposite of love in every capacity. We know she is a product of vengeance and the problems of society, where empathy should rise somewhere in our hearts, but her actions leave us no room but to marvel at the nature of her spite. Humanity has passed from her spirit so that she has become the embodiment of evil.

When she is not knitting the names of those who will come to learn the score, her thinking is stoked by the implements of her vengeful desires:

“‘Eh, well! Here you see me!’ said madame, composed as ever, but not knitting to-day. Madame’s resolute right hand was occupied with an axe, in place of the usual softer implements, and in her girdle were a pistol and a cruel knife” (Book II, Chapter XXI).

Our understanding of femininity takes on skewed shapes when we observe the ease with which Madam Defarge is able to commit heinous forms of murder:

“In the howling universe of passion and contention that seemed to encompass this grim old officer conspicuous in his grey coat and red decoration, there was but one quite steady figure, and that was a woman’s. ‘See, there is my husband!’ she cried, pointing him out. ‘See Defarge!’ She stood immovable close to the grim old officer, and remained immovable close to him; remained immovable close to him through the streets, as Defarge and the rest bore him along; remained immovable close to him when he was got near his destination, and began to be struck at from behind; remained immovable close to him when the long-gathering rain of stabs and blows fell heavy; was so close to him when he dropped dead under it, that, suddenly animated, she put her foot upon his neck, and with her cruel knife — long ready — hewed off his head” (Book II, Chapter XXI).

Dickens couldn’t have known the effect his choice of words would have on readers 150 plus years into the future, but it was probably just as harrowing then as it is now:

“‘Well, well,’ reasoned Defarge, ‘but one must stop somewhere. After all, the question is still where?'”

“‘At extermination,’ said madame” (Book III, Chapter XII).

A Tale of Two Cities ends with what is intended to be a thought-provoking denouement that has us contemplating noble actions, what it means to sacrifice for others, and does well at achieving that end; yet the events of the revolution are too difficult to shake. On setting the book down after completion, how one side of human nature has treated another, the aristocrats to the peasant classes and vice-versa, seems to outweigh notions of a happy ending. Instead we are left to ponder how relevant “group think” processes are as the ages come to pass, the relation to and the effects it has on the individual. Without care, the future takes on a sense of unpredictability, and we come to thank the power of literature for opening our eyes to the world around us in ways that the mere documentation of history cannot.


Auto-fiction: The Novel Comes Full Circle

Alex Clark of The Guardian penned an article that I came across in a manner that was entirely coincidental. My blog post about Daniel Defoe had been up for only a few days when, lo and behold, I found myself reading about a new kind of writing called “autofiction.” Clark provides a definition as he discusses the new genre:

“Suddenly this kind of ‘autofiction’ – fictionalised autobiography that does away with traditional elements of the novel such as plot and character development – is everywhere” (Source).

As any person of the writerly type would do, I kept reading to find out what was going on, my curiosity leading the way, and that’s when I connected the dots as to what was happening in my mind. I saw that I was recognizing the characteristics of this new form of writing, and realized that I’d seen it before, very recently, and it had everything to do with Daniel Defoe.

In Defoe’s time other writers had published fictionalized narratives about life as it unfolds, from the perspective of a single person, sans the aspect of organized artistic form. Defoe elaborated on the style to produce what he termed the “private history.” The result of his efforts brought us a voluminous collection of breakthrough novels:

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe​ (1719)
The The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe​ (1719)
Memoirs of a Cavalier​ (1720)
Moll Flanders​ (1722)
Captain Singleton​ (1722)
The Journal of the Plague Year​ (1722)
Colonel Jack​ (1722)
Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress​ (1724)

The funny thing about recalling these works is how their content resembles the first two words of Clark’s definition, because they are, indeed, “fictionalised autobiography.” With regard to “traditional elements of the novel,” well, in Defoe’s time, such elements hadn’t come to exist yet.

When I found Clark discussing Olivia Laing’s novel Crudo (2018), in which he describes how “Crudo slips sinuously between ‘Kathy’ the pre-millennial icon of the American counterculture and a 21st-century woman on the brink of multiple life changes,” and that the “action slides from a luxurious holiday in Italy to Korea, Grenfell, Steve Bannon’s resignation, [and] a priest giving a sermon in Italian ‘in which the word WhatsApp was frequently discernible,'” I couldn’t help but to observe parallels to Defoe’s work.

From Defoe’s time, writers leading up to the current age, from Richardson and Fielding, to Burney and Austen, to Hawthorne and Melville, to Dickens and Collins, to Brontë and Eliot, to Hardy and Wilde, to Woolf and Joyce, to Ellison and Lee, to Nabokov and Vonnegut, to King and Gaiman, and so forth and so on, the novel has been shaped into what we come to expect in today’s reading market.

And yet it is the “market” that concerns us here, because as Clark tells us, according to the frenzy of the internet-driven, social media age, in which publishing professionals are faced with notorious slush piles, comprised of ongoing novice attempts at the literary tradition, “Writers, then, need strategies to meet the darting eyes of those too powerful, or otherwise occupied, to listen to them.” In short, a new trend has developed in which writers are abandoning the classic structure of the novel — character development, plot, etc. — in favor of blending aspects of memoir-styled nonfiction with fictionally created characters to produce a reading experience that feels fresh and different, enabled by the power of its introspective traits.

The quality of introspection is the factor that drove Defoe’s novels into trail-blazing success (though he didn’t live to see much of the rewards). Introspective writing satisfies an innate need lurking within the human psyche, not only because people want to feel like they’re not the only ones experiencing life on life’s terms, but because the nature of introspective writing projects the opportunity for discovery. Imagine, for example, stumbling across your aunt’s diary from a few decades past, a document she may have meant to have kept hidden. Are you not enticed to find out what she went through? It is the subliminal element of attraction that underscores autofiction, to learn the experience of life from a personalized, lived-in perspective.

When the Internet came into the mainstream, not only did the publishing industry change, but we witnessed the curious onset of experimentation, from novels written on Twitter (micro-novels) to among others, the community-driven novel (collaborative fiction), staples in the abandonment of the literary tradition. As we are learning, however, it seems the writer’s ego never truly fades, never wholly recedes into the background. And so it is that they continue to seek that comfort zone in the cabin by the lake, the quietude stimulating as they seek to tap out their masterworks amid the fragrance of coffee as it wafts through the air. On this note, though the stylistic traits of autofiction will come across as modernized, much more intriguing and energetic, in comparison to the olden form that is the private history, it seems that from Daniel Defoe to Olivia Laing — almost 300yrs to the day — the novel itself as a species of writing has somehow managed to come full circle.

To view the matter from this perspective is to contemplate why the elements of character development and plot came about in the first place. There is a reason why Defoe’s private histories are recognized as fundamental novel writing, and so it is that with autofiction, a new kind of writing that is, according to Clark, nowadays to be found “everywhere,” the pleasure will be in not only coming to marvel and enjoy this new literature as it flies off the bookshelves, but to envision where the phenomenon will take us next.

The Amazing Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe (1659-1731) opted for a life of writing after years of struggling as a businessman. For the amount of non-fiction pamphlets he came to produce, in the modern age he would have been a blogger. Add in the scale of his fiction output and the man becomes quite the enigma, especially considering the spark of his imagination, putting his pen furiously to work at the age of 59, which led to the seminal masterwork that is The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719). One peculiar and marveling aspect about the man, it seems, is that he is the only published author known to the literary canon to have been pilloried. Can you imagine? Being pilloried?

Ian Watt situates Defoe as among the triumvirate of authors whose literature participates in the founding of the novel writing tradition, the other two being Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding. Defoe’s work is of particular interest, both for its form, which seems a kind of meandering style that somehow ends up being well worth the read, and for its content which, in two of his novels, concern the lives of unfortunate women.

Unlike the olden medieval tales and their damsel saving heroes, and even in contrast to the amatory and scandal fictions of his day, Defoe’s work comes across as anomalous. Dubbed as “private histories” (and building on a lesser-scale tradition), he goes into copious detail about the daily lives of his heroines, Moll Flanders and Roxana, without so much as a single chapter heading to help digest the material. It seems he had beginning and end points roughly in mind, making up much of the middle based on his worldly experience, and then he set about the task of writing his works in seeming singular fell swoops, staggering for the length in which they came to encompass. At times his paragraphs are so long that it’s hard to imagine forcing a quill pen to perform in such a way, all without the luxury of a backspace button and copy/paste features. Most profoundly, the notion that he happened to stumble into the form — carrying on at length, elaborating on the minutia of daily life, experiencing the ups and the downs of a character — it all speaks to the mysterious manner in which nature itself intermixes with the human mind to produce that which will blaze new trails.

Where the form sneaks up on the literary establishment, the choice of characters and their experiences are equally as innovative. With no relation to the aristocracy, and with the debt that haunted him, Defoe knew well the trials of life. That he applied his ideas of misfortune to the lives of two fictional women is a fascination. Moll Flanders begins by telling us how renowned she was at the prison at Newgate, and that Moll Flanders is not even her real name. The sense of shame is immediate, yet with the enormity of detail that follows, revealing both her good and bad natures, readers are compelled to consider the “why” of it all; Defoe makes it difficult to pass judgment.

And if Moll Flanders entices readers with her escapades as a career criminal, Roxana’s tale confounds us with alternative schemes that are mind-boggling. Again we are presented with a woman caught in the throes of despair, where only a few pages pass before we find her labeling her first husband a “fool,” no less than seventeen times over the course of two paragraphs. She is ranting, for the man’s inability to care for her, which serves to underscore most pointedly how the chivalric days of gallantry are, indeed, long past. Unlike her literary predecessor, however, Roxana employs sexuality instead of thievery to make ends meet, which leads to her from one debasing situation to the next as she makes the effort to survive. Replete with a perplexing relationship with her devoted servant, and the willingness to throw her own daughter under the bus, that Roxana ends with a shallow portrayal of penitence, should come as no surprise. Realism is Defoe’s game play, unconcerned as he is with notions of making the reader feel good, much less the aspects of epic and spectacle.

When we consider how Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey was in production during the same years in which Defoe wrote these incredible works, it becomes a task to comprehend what it is that is so compelling about Defoe. Pope was among the elite, Homer is timeless and iconic; Defoe was not. Yet his lasting impact as a composer of those “private histories” can be traced and even summed up in that which has been threaded into the modern American consciousness, the desire to write the “Great American Novel.” Defoe’s endeavor to document fictionally the lesser known peoples of the world has, in a roundabout way, paved the way and given voice to the thousands upon thousands of writers who followed in his footsteps, shaping and modifying the realism of his style to give us the novels that we know of today.

[Images courtesy of Wikipedia]

Reading The Great Chain of Being

In the back of my copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion (1817), the study questions do more than draw interest to the text, they draw attention to the social landscape of the day. One question asks, “Does Jane Austen ridicule a particular set of people with her wit?” The question is alarming because it situates judgment on the authoress herself, painting her with a bit of conceit.

In our modern age, creative writers are urged to “show” their stories scene after scene, which is a means to allow readers to arrive at their own conclusions concerning subtext. In Austen’s day, marked rules and distinctions between showing and telling did not exist, where it was for our lady genius in her free form prose to stumble upon what literary theorists know as “free indirect discourse,” a form of literary expression that in essence allows readers to know what a character is thinking.

The result of this form bleeds into our initiating question, that people stand be ridiculed as Austen’s story unfolds. We know what people are thinking about others because Austen spells it out. But we can’t judge her for how she sounds in her writing, because the question is as much a historical inquiry as it is a textual study. Austen’s thoughts are a reflection of an English paradigm stretching centuries into the past, in which her psyche functions at the mercy of that very paradigm.

Just before the long eighteenth century, the vestiges of Feudalism lingered with great tenacity. Feudal social structures are likened unto the Great Chain of Being, that unbreakable hierarchy in which all creatures large and small fit in at some level. And I mean UNBREAKABLE! God himself sits at the very top of this hierarchy, and from this point comes the monarchy and nobility, followed by the peerage and on down into the peasant classes and so forth. Wherever a person was born within this Great Chain of Being, society at the time recognized the position as permanent. In 1563 The Statute of Apprentices embodied this concept, “for it assumed the moral obligation of all men to work, the existence of divinely ordered social distinctions, and the need for the state to define and control all occupations in terms of their utility to society” (Source). A peasant couldn’t dream of becoming a baron and a baron wouldn’t think of becoming king unless certain rare conditions were to arise. This understanding of the structure was embedded so deeply that to imagine life otherwise was incomprehensible.

The Great Chain of Being

The Great Chain of Being can be understood even better when we observe the moment in time when it suffered the rudiments of disruption. London trade exploded into the open during the early 1700s, and a new class of people came into being that had people scratching their heads. A person could develop a business based on the sale of goods and become successful. Social mobility had arrived. The middle-class had been created, destabilizing that Great Chain of Being.

Yet the social consciousness created by the Great Chain of Being did not dissipate so easily. Social mobilization was like a shock wave of which its effects took time to deal with. In Austen’s work the aftershocks of this disruption pop up throughout her text like Freudian slips, yet they are to the contemporary reader, a part of fleshing out this glacial force of change.

For example, Sir Walter has strong opinions about social mobility via time served at sea:

— “Yes; it [The English Navy] is in two points offensive to me; I have two strong grounds of objection to it. First, as being the means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction, and raising men to honours which their fathers and grandfathers never dreamt of” (Austen 19).

Obscure birth? His use of the word “undue” comes off as harsh even for the day, and the element of social mobility disrupting the Great Chain of Being is well-defined in the insistence that it could never be “dreamt of.” As modern readers we might ask: Why shouldn’t someone of obscure birth be allowed the chance to come into their own?

The Great Chain of Being is subject to dismantling by Captain Wentworth’s intention to succeed, so as to raise his station in life. This longing is pivotal to the plot in that he had lost his romantic chance with Anne because of his lower level in the social hierarchy:

— “But he was confident that he should soon be rich: full of life and ardour, he knew that he should soon have a ship, and soon be on a station that would lead to everything he wanted” (26).

Personalities and character defects are no match for status when we consider the power Miss Carteret has over her peers in light of her natural place in the Great Chain of Being:

— “Miss Carteret, with still less to say, was so plain and so awkward, that she would never have been tolerated in Camden Place but for her birth” (143).

Birthright has been cemented deeply in the social consciousness so that it is like pulling teeth trying to remove it from the authoress’s mind.

— “But Mary did not give into it very graciously, whether from not considering Captain Benwick entitled by birth and situation to be in love with an Elliot” (124-25).

Even when specific examples fall to the wayside and subtle everyday language is applied do we find the gradation functioning within Austen’s psyche, found in her application of the word “superiority” (emphasis mine).

— “…save as we all are by some comfortable feeling of superiority from wishing for the possibility of exchange, she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated mind for all their enjoyments” (40).

Even inanimate objects are assigned a measure of station in the Great Chain of Being:

— “Their house was undoubtedly the best in Camden Place; their drawing-rooms had many decided advantages over all the others which they had either seen or heard of, and the superiority was not less in the style of the fitting-up, or the taste of the furniture” (131).

In the modern age we don’t go around commenting about the life-cards a person has been dealt, not in the ridiculing sense we hope. In movies sometimes we will find politicians insisting to their children who will marry who, as they revel in the glee of their lack of poverty. And so far as we know, those who’ve been divined to claim standing within that fabled “one percent” probably have thoughts and they make comments about who is who in this world, and where they stand in relation to them. As for the potential of Austen’s work to sound as though she is ridiculing others, at the very least, and from her perspective, her work serves to suggest to the reading public at the time, and in our modern era, that a person does not necessarily have to remain in the situation into which they were born. As Captain Wentworth’s ambitions suggest: How much are you willing to work for a better life?

Serfs locked into the Great Chain of Being by their overlord.


Austen, Jane. Persuasion. 1817. Barnes & Noble, Inc, 2003.

Diegetic vs. Mimetic Writing: Making Sense of the Show-Don’t-Tell Decree

Trying to understand the dynamics of creative writing is like wandering into a briar patch. For a writer who has fallen in love with the craft, if they have not studied these dynamics, they will at some point in time submit a manuscript inevitably to be returned, rejection notice attached, with a potential suggestion to learn how to “show” and not “tell” the story. Depending upon the writer, the level of burning sensation frying the scalp will reach variable levels.

The problem with this particular brand of advice is that it is not altogether wholesome; it is vague and it doesn’t guide a writer toward better writing. What exactly does it mean, to “show” and not “tell” a story?

In technical terms, diegetic writing is the same as “telling” your story. Diegesis is the formative writing style that brought us stories long before that nasty editorial request had ever been made, “showing” and not “telling” a story. The most famous example of diegetic writing can be found in the proverbial famous phrase, “Once upon a time…” Here we are presented with a time locale in which a series of events is about to be recited.

“Once upon a time there lived a King and Queen who had no children. They longed very much for a child; and when at last they had a little daughter they were both delighted, and great rejoicings took place.”
Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault

By contrast, mimetic writing is that in which you are “showing” your story, presenting the world as it is seen to the eye. Mimesis is the writing style that instructors want their students to learn because it immerses the reader into the story’s action; but it is the editors who push for this style because it makes books seem more like television. Consider an example by Robert W. Walker:

“She snatched at the bedside table, foolishly grabbing a handful of wires and turning over her clock and telephone, sending up a cacophony of metallic noise and crying out, ‘Dammit! I want out of this bloody Hell!'”
Pure Instinct (1996)

Whereas diegetic writing makes us feel distant, as though we are being lectured about events that have taken place, mimetic writing makes us feel as though we are eyewitnesses. Mimetic writing allows us to experience a story as opposed to merely hearing about a story, and in this capacity the chances stand that a story will be more memorable, more thrilling, because it tends to affect the senses. And because of the effects of mimetic writing, it tends to assign to the principles of diegetic writing a negative impression. Diegetic writing is boring; mimetic writing is exciting, etc. etc.

In the grand scheme of things, distinguishing between the two is important because it helps both writers and readers in the navigational method of a story. Constructively speaking, one should not be held in importance over the other. Diegetic and mimetic writing are tools for storytelling. Their worth as literary devices lies in how they are applied, the goal being to harmonize the two.

To the modern reader, encountering diegetic writing at the outset of a novel can indicate a boring read to ensue, and this is understandable. Opening a story by going straight into the action is a level-headed maneuver, but depending upon the circumstances, diegesis will need to be inserted at some point in time. This is where the craft of writing needs to be understood in terms of an art form unto itself. But it is here that the argument may be frustrated, because where the fledgling writer may be turned away for diegetic writing, prolifically published authors may be writing in the diegetic form with impunity. The opening lines of the sequel to Stephen King’s The Shining (1980) is a case in point:

“After Wilmington, the daily drinking stopped.
He’d go a week, sometimes two, without anything stronger than diet soda. He’d wake up without a hangover, which was good. He’d wake up thirsty and miserable — wanting — which wasn’t. Then there would come a night. Or a weekend. Sometimes it was a Budweiser ad on TV that set him off — fresh-faced young people with nary a beergut among them, having cold ones after a vigorous volleyball game. Sometimes it was seeing a couple of nice-looking women having after-work drinks outside of some pleasant little café, the kind of place with a French name and lots of hanging plants.” — Doctor Sleep (2013)

King is toying with the language to make the writing seem mimetic, but it is diegetic nonetheless. We are not experiencing a first hand event, a specific scene is not being described, and spans of time are being glossed over so that the reader is distanced from any particular point of action.

Interestingly enough, some of literature’s most famous writers are bound to diegetic writing in ways that render the advice to “show don’t tell” a story perfectly inane. P.D. James, for example, spends a large, very large amount of energy expounding on her diegesis in her Death Comes to Pemberley (2011), and I’m certain editors were more than pleased to publish the work, especially considering how it became an instant hit television series.

What this all means is that at its root, good writing is simply good writing, diegetic or mimetic. The key is to understand how to intertwine the two so that the story makes sense in every way that it needs to be, all the while being pleasurable to read. In essence, to avoid diegetic writing is to risk either rendering a story too long, by having to describe every last scene that leads to the next, or it is to risk confusing readers as to what is really going on.