Saturday, October 17, 2015

Three Levels of Story: Diegetic, Extradiegetic and Metadiegetic

As some of you know, I'm an English major. Sometimes I learn some pretty interesting things about books, and today I want to share a concept I found interesting. This is the idea that there is the potential for three "levels" of a story:

Diegetic: This is the world that the characters themselves "know" about. Everything that happens on this level happens within the story itself.
This is a pretty simple level to understand. It's probably what you think of when you first think of a story. On this level you'd have Hogwarts, the Katniss/Peeta/Gale conflict, and essentially any main plot points. You might also refer to this as "Intradiegetic".

Extradiegetic: This is one level removed from the story. This is the stuff that surrounds a story world.
This level is something we all interact with but rarely think about as part of the story. This level includes things such as the cover of a book, the epigraph (quote/text before book starts), author's notes, photos, possibly even the narrator (if they don't exist in the story world) and anything that would be part of a book's material franchise (e.g. games, journals, companion guide books etc.).

Metadiegetic: This is a second narrative in the story. Sometimes this is seen as the story within the story.
This level is a bit more complicated, and I will admit to being quite undereducated on this level, but I want to give you a sense of it. This article talks about the three types of links between two narratives within one story:

1. A direct link between events
Example: the Manon story-line in the Throne of Glass series or Lemony Snicket's personal story-line as he narrates the Baudelaires' lives in The Series of Unfortunate Events.
2. A thematic link between the events 
Example: Think a WWII story that follows a soldier, someone on the homefront and a nurse that never meet but are all going through the same war-related issues.
3. A secondary narration where "narrating merges with the present situation"
Example: the shared narration of Allegiant between Tris and Tobias.

For further understanding on this I'd suggest taking a look at "2.4.1 Embedded Narratives" section of this article.

All of these levels are ones that I was previously familiar with, but had never had names put to them. By having them explained in class, it made me more aware of the different elements of the stories I was reading. I wanted to share these levels with you so that you could be more aware of them in your own readings and in the way you write your stories. This post is on the shorter side but it's packed with some big (and somewhat confusing) ideas. Let me know what you think and if you have any questions in the comments!

Reading: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Listening: The Wonderlands album by Jon Foreman
Watching: endless Buzzfeed videos


  1. These are really interesting! I don't believe I've heard of them, but this really puts some stuff into perspective. Thanks so much for sharing. ^ ^

    1. I'm glad it helped you see the big picture! Thanks for visiting SOI:)

  2. I never had names for these before. This is so interesting. I think I get the basic concept of Metadiegetic, but I'll have to check out that article. It's such an interesting idea. You can pick up some really interesting facts in college/university, can't you?

    1. Even when I was writing the post, Metadiegetic was stumping me a bit. I would definitely do further reading on it, because it can be quite complicated. University is definitely been mentally enriching!

      Glad you found this interesting!

  3. Amazing post dear! You have a wonderful blog:)
    What about following each other on Instagram, Bloglovin, Twitter?:)

  4. Huh, I've never considered thinking about books like this, but I like the idea that things like the cover are part of the book even if we don't usually relate them to the story! Thanks for the lesson, Sunny!

  5. The cover bit was definitely one of the most interesting bits for me!

    Glad to be of service:)


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