The analysis of temporal relations within a narrative first requires a consideration of the differing concepts of story and discourse. The story-discourse distinction characterizes the events of a narrative (the story) and the way in which these events are transmitted by the narrator (the discourse) as two separate entities. To analyze the temporal relations of a narrative, then, is to distinguish between "story time" and "discourse time."
The temporal relations of a narrative may be attended to in three distinct ways. Considerations of order compare the order in which events are presented in the discourse to the order in which they can be imagined to have occurred in the story. To attend to issues of duration is to distinguish between the amount of time devoted to narrating an event and the amount of time an event would take to unfold in a storyworld. Finally, frequency compares the number of times an event appears in the discourse to the number of times it can be imagined to have occurred within the narrative.