Chronicle novels span a distinct period of time and follow a group of characters. These characters age throughout the novels, get married, have children, encounter various problems, and may, depending on the length of the novels, pass away. The author might shift their focus to the previous main character’s children.
Throughout a series of chronicle novels, readers may find themselves learning about several generations. But, that doesn’t mean that every moment of these characters’ lives is documented. Instead, there will likely be gaps in time and jumps of years or even decades. For example, one book might end when the main character has a child, and when the next one starts, that child might be an adult themselves.
Chronicle Novel Definition
A chronicle novel is a novel that follows a family or group of similar people. It recounts their fortunes, choices, and events surrounding their friends and family members.
These novels usually follow at least two generations. This means that readers can expect to hear about a family’s children as well. Sometimes, these stories will follow families while also exploring the social structure of the time and include historical details. For example, a chronicle that takes place during the years leading up to and including World War II.
A reader will expect to hear about the family’s growing concerns, descriptions of changes, and perhaps even a son’s enlistment deployment. While the book or book is still about a family, readers also get information about history at the time.
Examples of Chronicle Novels
Kingsbridge Books by Ken Follett
The first Kingsbridge novel, Pillars of the Earth, is by itself a wonderful example of a chronicle novel. It is a historical story that follows a family, and those they meet, during the building of a cathedral in Kingsbridge, England. The novel was set in the 12th century. It mentions historical facts, like the murder of Thomas Becket. The Kingsbridge priory is at the heart of the novel. The book was followed by sequels, including World Without End and A Column of Fire. These novels feature different characters but take place around the same area. Here is a quote from the book that demonstrates the complex relationships that exist within and around the historical plot:
She looked at his young face, so full of concern and tenderness; and she remembered why she had run away from everyone else and sought solitude here. She yearned to kiss him, and she saw the answering longing in his eyes. Every fiber of her body told her to throw herself into his arms, but she knew what she had to do. She wanted to say, I love you like a thunderstorm, like a lion, like a helpless rage; but instead she said: “I think I’m going to marry Alfred.
The novel is well-loved and has spawned an eight-part televised series that does justice to the number of characters as well as the setting and the other features that make this book a chronicle novel.
The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice
Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles is a series of books that take place over several centuries. They center around Lestat de Lioncourt, a French nobleman who is turned into a vampire. The heart of the novels is in the 18th and 19th centuries, but there are storylines that go back much further and come into contemporary times.
The first book in the series, Interview with the Vampire, starts the series of origin stories and a complex depiction of Lestat as both a sympathetic character and a villain. He features in different novels to varying degrees. The series has sold 80 million copies worldwide and includes the following books:
- Interview with the Vampire
- The Vampire Lestat
- The Queen of the Damned
- The Tale of the Body Thief
- Memnoch the Devil
- The Vampire Armand
- Blood and Gold
- Blackwood Farm
- Blood Canticle
- Prince Lestat
- Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis
- Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat
Anne Rice has also written other series of chronicle novels, including The Lives of the Mayfair Witches, which has five novels in the series, two of which are shared with the Vampire series.
Why Do Authors Write Chronicle Novels?
Authors write chronicle novels when they want to explore the lives of characters over an extended period of time. These novels track families of men and women throughout the periods of their lives, allowing writers to explore the ins and outs of their failures and successes. These novels also provide a great starting point for those wishing to explore historical details.
For many readers, hearing about a specific period from the perspective of one family is an effective way to learn about how people lived. Chronicle novels are also open to various genres. As the above examples prove, it’s possible to include fantasy elements within these novels.
Chronicles are literary sources that provide information in chronological order. This could be a long novel, a series of novels, a series of diary entries, and more. Chronicles can be fiction and nonfiction.
Chronicles are written to keep track of events, retell events, or explore a fictional world in chronological order. It should be noted that non-fiction chronicles are still subject to interpretation. It’s very difficult to write objectively about historical events.
You write a fiction chronicle by laying out characters, time periods, and key events in your characters’ lives. Structuring a novel around these features should help you make sense of everything that needs to happen to get one character from point A to point B.
Related Literary Terms
- Fantasy: a literary genre that includes talking animals, magic, and other worlds. It includes plots that couldn’t take place in the real world.
- First Person Point of View: a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about him or herself.
- Flashback: a plot device in a book, film, story, or poem in which the readers learn about the past.
- Science Fiction: a literary genre that focuses on imaginative content based in science.
- Thriller: a genre of fiction that is defined by its wide variety of sub-genres. They range from crime to science fiction.
- Biography: an account or description of a person’s life, literary, fictional, historical, or popular in nature, written by a biographer.
- Watch: How to Write Historical Fiction
- Listen: A Beginner’s Guide to Historical Fiction
- Watch: Characterization in Literature