Chronicle: what it is, characteristics, types of chronicle, origin, how to write a chronicle and more


What is the sub-genre of the chronicle?

It is one of the most important literary subgenres of the didactic genre, from which, in addition, a great variety of journalistic activities derive if we refer to modernity. The chronicle is a didactic subgenre that focuses on the compilation of historical events that are narrated following a chronological line.

In the literary world, the chronicle is a resource that serves authors to be able to tell a fictional story that has a strong relationship with reality, so that the writer can use the subgenre as a tool for his own literary work. On the other hand, its classification has not been fully accepted, since it is considered a subgenre that can be transformed with the passage of time, the intention and the use given to it by the author.

Meaning of the subgenre chronicle

The term chronicle comes from the Latin chronica, which in turn comes from the Greek chronos, which refers to -time-. Some experts relate it directly to the Greek kronika biblios, which means -books that follow the order of time-. Thus, in the chronicle, the facts are narrated from a temporal order, counting in many cases with witnesses who give their word of the events.

Definition of the sub-genre chronicle

A chronicle is a story whose content narrates a series of events following a chronological line. Due to the type of content it follows, which is characterized by being real, it has been able to participate in productions of various media where its format has also been adapted according to the model by which it is represented. However, the chronicle, following the literary line, may include some fictional elements.

Definition of the sub-genre chronicle

What is the function of the chronicle?

The authors of the chronicle, who are usually called chroniclers, have the intention of describing the events, in many cases obeying a critical view of what has happened. That is why they include phrases and moments focused on the reader or spectator, in such a way that they try to establish a dialogue with the reader or spectator, making him part of what they are telling. On the other hand, the function may vary depending on the type of chronicle being worked on, as we will see below.

History and origin of the chronicle

Although an exact date for the emergence of the chronicle has not been determined, the earliest written evidence we have is from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, where this type of text was known as “annals”. This first form of chronicle consisted of texts that gathered events organized year by year, however, later, in the established chronicle, they would become historical records of facts written according to a time by the author. Thus, the chronicle as a subgenre will arise from the need to include in the texts issues of vital importance for the time as the origin of the world and the origin of the human being, this from the biblical content.

Thus, the chronicle will follow a line dictated by the Bible that triggers in the history of the people who receive Christ and all his life, including the subsequent expansion of Christianity. In its beginnings, the chronicle did not have a defined intention, but focused on presenting a type of chronological review of relevant facts about a specific person, having close ties to biography.

As time went by, the chronicle became present in media such as television, newspapers, magazines and even radio, where the author of the chronicle is the one who writes it or verbally tells it in a section focused on this type of subgenre within the program or specific space, according to the media in which issues related to various fields are told.

Characteristics of the chronicle subgenre

Let’s take a look at the essential points of the chronicle:

Time: the essence of the chronicle and from which it is established that it is the subgenre starting from its very name, is that the facts are narrated judiciously following a temporal order from the moment they occur.

Intention: as we mentioned, due to the modalities of the chronicle, there can be different functions. Thus, we can identify chronicles with a humanistic interest in which an attempt is made to stimulate and awaken emotions in the reader from the facts presented, as well as the social interest, characterized by including criticism of society, pointing out aspects such as power and the conditions of the people.

The author can make a judgment in relation to the facts and comments according to his perspective.

Language: one of the particularities of the chronicle has to do with the language it uses, since it is characterized by being very simple and concrete. Messages, facts and other events are narrated with a direct language that focuses on the use of adjectives and descriptions. It uses verbs frequently and situations linked to a specific space and time.

Narrative structure: due to the order of the content that follows the chronicle, it contains a narrative structure in which it begins with a presentation of the facts, moves to the central axis and closes with the conclusion of the events that can be evident or giving way to a “to be continued”.

Informative value: its informative intention is an aspect that can be present in most of the types of chronicle that we will see below, but it also highlights not only the intention to inform from the format chosen, but also to highlight the aesthetic value in which it conveys the facts and knowledge from a documented narrative.

Parts of the chronicle subgenre

The content of the chronicle may directly include any of the following elements or parts to a lesser or greater extent, as this will depend precisely on the type of chronicle, in many cases. The parts of the chronicle are:

Descriptive presentation: this is the first part of the chronicle in which the focus is on the presentation of the people, objects or particular moment in which the events begin. The intention of this part is to give an answer to the reason for the events and the actions of the characters in the story.

Comments: throughout the story that is being narrated, the author can include different language resources that allow him, in addition to giving continuity to his chronicle, to include his own intervention that gives the illusion of participation in which he adds a commentary on the events that are taking place.

Dialogues: this is an element of great importance, since through the dialogues it is possible to identify ideas, memories, experiences and in general content that nourishes the chronicle from the words of witnesses and participants, where comments from other people are included from direct or indirect speeches.

Direct discourse: in this part, the author resorts to the use of quotation marks to add textual comments or explanations made by the protagonist(s) of the events narrated. This element generates the effect of veracity of the facts.

Indirect discourse: in this part, the author is the one who takes the word of the events instead of the person who lives them directly, hence he/she includes what he/she considers of vital importance and summarizes the events.

Graphics: the chronicle may include other resources besides words, such as photographs of the moment, photographs of the protagonists and the space occupied, graphics, drawings, etc.

On the other hand, the parts of the chronicle vary in the journalistic sector, where it requires a headline that catches the reader’s attention, depending on the format, an introduction of the facts is presented, then the content is developed and closes with a conclusion that may include reflections and contributions from the protagonists or experts.

Types of the chronicle subgenre

Experts have made a primary classification of the chronicle in three fields, from which other types of chronicle are derived. This first organization establishes the following types:

Informative chronicle

The content narrated is in-depth and is presented little by little. It does not have the opinion of journalism itself.

Interpretative chronicle

It is a type of text with subjective dyes in which the author documents himself to explain and give meaning to the social phenomenon of the content he narrates.

Opinative chronicle

It is a chronicle witnessed by the reporter or the author in which he comments directly according to his experience of the facts.

Journalistic chronicle

It can be evidenced in media such as newspapers and magazines, as well as television and radio. Its intention is to expose information in a concrete way without resorting to the use of expressive or fanciful resources. It is a directly written content that lacks emotional or subjective elements. However, the author may include phrases that attempt to generate a response in the reader or viewer.

In the media, particularly, the chronicle has been governed by a classification that distinguishes the content and, in many cases, the focus of the chronicle. In this way, we can distinguish other types of chronicle:

Yellow chronicle

These are stories or facts that are much more subjective and are usually told directly by an ordinary citizen, who takes the voice of narration and begins to tell what happened.

White chronicle

In this case, the chronicle is characterized by having a more objective content in which the voice giving an account of the events is often an authority figure, an expert or professional person in a certain area.

Police chronicle

In this case, the facts narrated are related to criminal actions that serve as testimony for judicial processes for the competent authorities.

Political chronicle

These are chronicles whose content focuses on the narration of events of great importance in the political sphere in relation to decisive figures and events.

Sports chronicle

They are events that took place within the sports field, facing confrontations of this activity and sportsmen directly.

Social chronicle

This type of chronicle focuses on events and social events in relation to events of great importance.

Travel chronicle

They are a type of chronicle that narrate in detail the events of a specific trip, the experience and in general, everything that was lived there.

How to write a chronicle

How to write a chronicle?

Now, after having reviewed all this information, we can move on to writing a chronicle. To do so, we must take into account the following:

Choose the event

The first thing to do is to choose the event we are going to talk about in the chronicle. In general, we can choose any type of event regardless of its context or area, whether it is a sporting, popular, social, political or even any family event.

Establish the central idea 

Once you have chosen the subject of the chronicle, it is time to establish the axis, which will be the central idea or the most important issue on which the story revolves. Although these can be varied, the ideal is to choose the one that has the greatest importance and that may be of greater interest according to the type of audience to which it is addressed and the type of chronicle that is being written.

Fixing a central idea will allow the story to revolve around it and avoid deviating from it. This is key to keeping the reader’s or viewer’s attention.

Choice of sources 

One of the keys for the chronicler when beginning the exercise of writing the work is precisely the selection of sources. Often he chooses a main source that is directly related to the witnesses and protagonists of the events. Subsequently, he may refer to documents such as books, archives, articles and other resources related to the topic at the specific time and place. There is also a third source that may be the effects generated by the events, such as determining changes in societies, effects on the climate, among others.

Start writing 

When you have all the above, it is time to get down to work and start writing the chronicle. It is essential that the main ideas are developed in a clear and precise way to keep the reader’s attention and avoid the loss of attention to the central theme, which is why writing and spelling are essential elements in the development of the chronicle.

Remember that one of the keys to the chronicle is the simplicity of its language, so you can avoid technical words or terms, and put the language in a more colloquial and natural way that the reader can easily interpret according to its context.

To write chronicle, you have to read chronicle, so it is very important that you turn to prominent authors in this subgenre. Read their works and begin to explore all the dimensions of this category that has evolved so much in the literary world.

Most important authors and works of the chronicle subgenre

One of the most important examples of the literary chronicle in particular, is the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez with his work “Chronicle of a death foretold”. Another important author and referent of the chronicle is Alberto Salcedo Ramos, who has developed literary and journalistic chronicles. Other authors include Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Enrique Jordán, Hernán Cortés, Fernando Ochoa Zazueta, Fernández de Oviedo, Alonso de Ercilla, Christian Alarcón, Alejandro Almazán, Martín Caparrós, Sergio González Rodríguez, José Antonio Castaño, Humberto Padgett, Leila Guerriero, Julio Villanueva Chang, Gabriela Wiener, among others.

Example of the chronicle subgenre

The following is the first part of the work “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”, written by the author Gabriel García Márquez, which is one of the main reference works of the literary chronicle:

“The day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at 5.30 in the morning to wait for the ship in which the bishop was arriving. He had dreamt that he was crossing a forest of fig trees where a tender drizzle was falling, and for an instant he was happy in the dream, but when he woke up he felt completely splashed with bird shit. “He always dreamed of trees,” Placida Linero, his mother, told me, evoking twenty-seven years later the details of that ungrateful Monday. “The week before I had dreamed that I was riding alone in a tin-foil airplane that flew without stumbling through the almond trees,” she told me. She had a well-earned reputation as an accurate interpreter of other people’s dreams, provided they were told to her fasting, but she had noticed no ominous portents in those two dreams of her son, nor in the other dreams of trees he had told her in the mornings preceding his death.”