Narrative Chronology.

Using chronology as narration involves relating events in the order in which they occur. A speaker will almost certainly employ narrative chronology if he or she uses an anecdote or extended example, but as demonstrated by the sample outline below, whole speeches can be organized this way.

A narration, rather than being broken into "Steps," is broken into EPISODES. When you recall an event, you do not relate all of it; you only relate those parts that portray the essence of the event. If you were asked by a friend, "What did you do last night?" You would not reply, "At 6:10, I got out of my chair and closed the window. Then I returned to my chair." You would say, "I went to the movies." and skip everything leading up to but unrelated to that event.

When using narrative chronology, keep these things in mind:

  1. The audience will relate the amount of time spent on a given episode with that episode's relative importance to the overall narrative. There is an old theater axiom that says "Don't lay a gun on the table in the first act unless you are going to pick it up and shoot someone in the third act." However, if you need to shoot someone in the third act, make sure to get the job done adequately in the first.
  2. All of the information that is necessary needs to be there. How do you decide what is relevant to what degree? Like all messages, one should consider the end to which the narrative is being employed, before deciding how to employ it. Why is the story in the speech? Is it evidence? If so, highlight the episodes that support the claim. Is it to gain or sustain attention? If so, highlight the episodes with the most concrete and colorful imagery. Is it for clarification? If so, highlight the episodes that pound home the point you are trying to clarify.

    Sample a few Out-of-Balance Classics to see what happens when this principle is not applied.

  3. The narrative should support, not overwhelm, the speaker's purpose. Images that do not compliment compete. Don't shoot yourself in the rhetorical foot by using stories that vividly and with great energy detract from the main organizational strategy of the speech.

Sample Outline for Narrative Chronology.

Topic: The Battle for the Skies.
General Purpose: To Entertain.
Specific Speech Purpose: The audience member will learn how the Chrysler Building became the world's tallest building.
Central Idea: William Van Alen used architectural "sleight-of-hand" to beat the builders of 40 Wall Street.
Main Idea I: Walter P. Chrysler and the Bank of New York both wanted to own the world's tallest building.
  A. Both buildings were started in 1927.
  B. Van Alen and H. Craig Severance were partners turned rivals.
Main Idea II: Severance stalled on committing to a height, until Van Alen had done so.
  A. The Bank of New York was better funded.
  B. Chrysler was on a tighter schedule.
Main Idea III: After Severance had topped his building, Van Alen raised the famous steel spire.
  A. It had been constructed inside the building.
  B. It was winched to the top in only an hour and a half.
  C. The spire made the Chrysler Building 36.5 meters taller than 40 Wall Street.

Discussion of Outline.

Go back to Clarity.