How to Use Chronology
When writing, establishing a chronology can be relatively easy, especially in fiction, when the timeline of events is completely up to you! Overall, the best way to establish your work’s chro-nology is by creating a timeline of events. Start at the beginning and work your way to the end, being sure not to forget any important dates, events, or occurrences that are relative to your story. After that, you can decide how the timeline fits in with the way you want your audience to un-derstand the story. Ask yourself several questions:
- Is a sense of time crucial to your work?
- If so, to what extent—Historical period? Century? Decade? Specific date and time of day?
- Is the order in which things occurred essential to the plot?
- Are you trying to share a sequence of linked events?
- Are you trying to show a chain of cause and effect?
- Which events in your timeline are relative to the big picture?
- Are any events not important enough to cover thoroughly, but at least need to be mentioned?
In general, you need to think about context when developing a chronology—what about your timeline is crucial for the audience and your work? What can be left out, and what can’t? Ulti-mately, it is up to you and your creativity to decide how your audience will understand the time-line of your work.
When to Use Chronology
Basically, you always need to at least consider chronology when writing, in one way or another. When you are sharing any type of event or sequence of events, the timeline is important in just about every case, across all genres of both fiction and nonfiction.
Of course, it is particularly important to establish a timeline of events when storytelling—that’s how we ultimately develop a plot! Your readers need some perception of time to follow what is happening, and the easiest way to assure that is by putting things in chronological order. Even if you decide to share events out of order, you as the author need to know when and how they hap-pened so that you can share them with your readers and avoid making mistakes with your story-line or characters. Let’s think back to the baseball player example—if the focus of your story is about how a rookie becomes a star, you could still begin by showing him hitting a home run on the field, and later show the steps it took to get him there. But imagine if in the beginning, your rookie character is also shown as being popular because he’s been partying all summer. Only, during all his practicing, he actually missed all the parties. It would be confusing to your readers and show a conflicting character, instead of a hardworking rookie. But this would be avoided if the timeline is well-developed before the story is composed.
Since the theme is about the player’s road to fame, it’s also crucial to show how one thing causes another—the cause is that the boy is dedicated to practicing and sacrifices all other activities over a period of time, and the effect is that he becomes a great player and finally makes the baseball team. So even when “beginning with the end.” you still need to have an idea about the story’s chronology. What’s more it’s just a great starting point when you’re developing a piece of fiction!