There are epics that span a lifetime as it follows the life between two characters, and their challenges to be together. There are others than span multiple generations, as decades pass and history unfolds in the background.
Then there's the story where everything happens in just a few hours: Introduction, conflict, character development, dramatic climax, denouement, done!
Extremely Short Timespan is when a story, usually a movie, a novel, or a whole season, takes place in a short period of time, usually three days or less. This is sometimes done in an action or a thriller movie to emphasize its fast pace.
One sub-trope is Real Time, where everything happens within a minute-to-minute ratio between in-universe and real-life production (automatically a sub-trope of this except for some extremely long experimental films).
Not related to Webcomic Time, when the real and in-universe time scales are out of sync due to production time.
The Soul Society Arc revolves around an execution to take place at the end of a week. This took two years and 14 volumes.
The Hueco Mundo Arc took eight volumes to cover a single day.
The two arcs later top the above with a single day covered in 11 volumes.
The Piccolo Daimaoh and Boo arcs in Dragon Ball take 3 days each, the same days at that: May 7th to May 9th. One of many odd parallels across both arcs.
Fullmetal Alchemist. While the series as a whole covers a few years, the last sixteen or so episodes (minus the epilogue) seem to span only a couple days.
The Festival Arc in Negima! was exactly 3 days June 20-22, 2003 (Time Travel was involved) that covered half the manga up to that point (9 Volumes).
Taken Up to Eleven in manga chapter 310, which spans several seconds.
Karakuridouji Ultimo has been running for over a year now. We've only gone through one day. (Although the reset button was hit somewhere in the middle of it.)
The various arcs of Yu-Gi-Oh!. The episodic chapters from before the first arc are presumed to each happen on different days: the first real arc (in which Shadi appears and causes trouble) starts on a weekend and ends on the night of the next day, lasting seven chapters. Death-T is two volumes (fourteen chapters) long, and lasts about a day and a half. Monster World is ten chapters long and takes place in a single afternoon. Then the arcs get longer, but only for the readers: Duelist Kingdom lasts seven volumes, but for the characters only three days pass; two days for the preliminaries and one for the finals. After that, there is another smaller arc that's only one volume long and takes only a few hours. Battle City is the longest arc by far, taking a full fourteen volumes to tell, but is only two days long. The last arc, Millenium World, is seven volumes long and lasts only over the course of a Tabletop RPG campaign, not counting the Ceremonial Duel at the end.
One Piece has this occur quite often. While some arcs can go into several dozens of chapters, in Comic Book Time barely a few days, if that, typically passes. The longest time spent in any one place prior to the Time Skip is Alabasta, where the Straw Hats spent a length of time crossing the desert.
The Spider Men miniseries takes place over the course of around 2 days, or a little less. Unfortunately, this gives little time for Miles and Peter to hang out with each other, since Peter has to leave immediately at the the end of that time.
The first two arcs of Zatanna took place in less than twenty-four hours, possibly twelve.
Sin City has Silent Night and Just Another Saturday Night which, as the titles imply, take place in a single night. The Big Fat Kill is a major storyline that only takes place over the course of a single night as well.
Many superhero comic books operate on this principle. A six-issue Batman arc, for instance, may only take place over the course of a single night or a couple of days at most, which allows the character to (at least somewhat) realistically appear in four or five books at the same time.
From the perspective of its protagonist, Back to the Future Part II seems to take place in the course of two very busy days, at most. Otherwise, it took about sixty years. Your choice. The first film begins in October 25 1985 at 8:35 and Marty travels to 1955 around 1:21 of the 26th. There he spends a week (from November the 5th to the 12th) only to return to 10 minutes before he first went back in 1985. He wakes up on the morning of October 26 and travels, along with the Doc and Jennifer, to 2015 where he spends a day. Then he spends another day in the alternate 1985, the whole of November 12 of 1955 again but this time he spends the night and in the next morning he travels back to 1885, where he spends another week and then he returns to October 26 of 1985. At the end, he spent 16 days time traveling in two days. Lampshaded by Doc when they go back to 1955.
Marty: This is heavy, Doc! It feels like I was here yesterday! Doc: You WERE here yesterday, Marty! You were!
Star WarsEpisode IV appears to take place in one day. (There were apparently some scenes written that took place days or weeks earlier, and they were expanded for the later radio version, but they didn't appear in the movie.)
More like overnight, and then the next day, but it most likely takes place under three days.
It's certainly no less than three days, as there are two distinct sunsets and subsequent dawns depicted on Tatooine, which has a 23-hour rotation.
Well, sort of. Thor begins a day or so before the end of Iron Man 2, shortly before Justin Hammer makes his debut at Stark Expo; Agent Coulson was with Tony up until shortly before that point, so he may have gone straight from California to New Mexico when he was done babysitting Stark. The Incredible Hulk, however, could be taking place at any time during the six months between Tony Stark's press conference at the end of Iron Man and the senatorial hearing at the beginning of Iron Man 2.
The Marvel One-Shot The Consultant has Coulson still in New Mexico (after the events of Thor) when Stark goes talking to Thunderbolt Ross in Hulk. The miniseries The Avengers Prelude: Nick Fury's Big Week confirms that Blonsky became the Abomination at the same time as Thor was breaking into the S.H.I.E.L.D. compound, which was the day after the Stark Expo.
The first two Evil Dead movies take place over the course of one night a piece. Army of Darkness probably only takes place in the span of about three days (minus the epilogue), making the entire series happen in about a week.
Can't Hardly Wait takes place over a 24-hour period, although there's a brief flashback or two.
If you exclude the first few opening scenes and the epilogue, Harry Potter and theDeathly Hallows: Part 2 takes place over the course of less than twenty-four hours. This is also true with the book, as noted below in Literature.
Buffalo 66 takes place over 24 hours, flashbacks notwithstanding.
Run Lola Run covers the "same" twenty minutes three times, with an intro sequence and a few flashbacks in between.
Eleven Minutes Ago takes place over the course of the wedding reception. The main character, on the other hand, is experiencing it in eleven minute chunks over the course of years. It's a little Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey.
Bad Day at Black Rock. The 'Day' of the title is literal, with the events of the movie encompassing about 24 hours.
Labyrinth has fun with this. In the goblin world, Sarah's quest needs to be completed in 13 hours, and she instantly loses a few of them midway through when she feigns confidence and tells the villain — a Reality Warper — that the Labyrinth is "a piece of cake". Meanwhile in Sarah's world, less than five hours pass while she's away (the opening scene there takes place shortly before 7 p.m., the final scene shortly after midnight).
Before Sunrise takes place over the course of about twenty-four hours. The sequel Before Sunset ups the ante by going Real Time.
Absurdist summer camp comedy Wet Hot American Summer takes great pleasure with this trope. 95% of the film takes place over the course of a single day(August 18th, 1981, with the opening and ending scenes taking place on the previous night and next morning respectively), even showing regular updates about the time of day, but an absurdly large quantity of events are packed into that day, stretching the timeline almost beyond belief.
Most of Liar Liar takes place over one day (as in from sunrise to sunset).
The events of Dredd take place over a 24 hour period (starting at dawn and ending the next morning).
Taking away the intro and outro, Jumanji takes place in three different days: one in 1969, then a Time Skip to 1995 where the bulk of the movie happens, a return to 1969, and then another day in an improved 1995.
Each book in The Secrets Of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel series takes place with a timespan of two days. This is very ironic, since the plot involves supernatural Elders that had been waiting for thousands of years.
Each of the Artemis Fowl books take place in three days, if not less. Although in the Lost Colony three years pass for the rest of the world while the trip in Hybras only lasted minutes for Artemis. Also, time was flowing differently there so it passed differently for their minds and bodies. As Artemis figured out: An hour per second for a count of forty, followed by a deceleration to thirty minutes per second for a count of eighteen, then a slight jump backwards in time, one minute per second back for a count of two. Then it repeats. Then in The Time Paradox, most of the book takes place in the span of ten seconds, though it was roughly three days in the past.
Nicholson Baker's novel The Mezzanine takes place in the span of a single escalator ride.
The build-up to the climax of The Culture novel Consider Phlebas, by Iain M. Banks, features several different series of events taking place all at once until they converge in a massive train-crash and laser battle. It all takes about 30 minutes or so in story, but spans dozens and dozens of pages as the narrative jumps back and forth as each piece moves incrementally into place. The train crash itself lasts 5 seconds of intense action with about 30 seconds of aftermath and then some additional violence among the survivors, described over several pages in slow detail because there is A LOT going on all at once.
Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, best known as the novel Blade Runner was based on, takes place over the course of a single day. However, the extremely volume and variety of events, life-changing revelations, emotional paradigm shifts, financial windfalls and disasters, and new people met and bonded with in various bizarre ways makes the short timespan seem staggering, especially as it includes the perspectives of both a primary and secondary protagonist. The main character himself can't believe events that happened earlier in the novel were the same day and not another lifetime.
While each Harry Potter book takes place over roughly one year, the second half of Deathly Hallows minus the epilogue (the Gringotts raid, Hogsmeade, the Battle of Hogwarts) takes place over the course of a single day.
The House of Night is a pretty big offender. While there are pretty big jumps in time between the books, the novels themselves pretty much take place over four or five days each, roughly.
Stephen King's book The Regulators takes place over the course of a single day (Desperation, an AU version of Regulators published under the King name, does so as well), while The Running Man (written under his Bachmann pen name) happens within three days or so.
Georges Perec's Life: A User's Manual technically takes place over the course of a few seconds on the evening of June 23rd, 1975, though largely told through flashbacks.
While the trope's averted in the second book, Stuck uses this twice:
Stuck at the Galleria, aside from the very beginning, takes place over the course of one very busy night.
Likewise, Stuck at the Wheel takes place over a week and a day, including the epilogue.
Some other Discworld books have short time spans too. Unseen Academicals has a timespan of a few days; the game at the end of the book is within the same week as the wizards' discussion at the beginning.
Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions takes place over a few days at most; one of the main characters spends most of it on a cross country drive. Vonnegut would later write Galápagos, which takes place over a million years.
While the twelve-book seriesGalaxy of Fear takes place over a period of six months or so, each book encompasses a variable period, ranging from a few to forty-eight hours, and only rarely more. These are always exceedingly eventful hours. Most of the unmentioned time seems to be spent in transit from one place to another.
Where many fantasy novels separate their sections into "book 1, book 2, book 3," and so on, the first four books of The Runelords are separated by the day. Very nearly every minute is accounted for, often from multiple perspectives. With time-skips of maybe a week or two in between each book, the entire first tetralogy takes place over a couple months at most.
The entire Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy takes place over a four and a half month span (not counting the epilogue time jump).
24 is most likely the most well-known example of this trope, as each season takes place, wait for it, in twenty-four hours.
In Doctor Who, the first half of series 1, 3, 4 and 5 (from the companions introduction to the episode where they reunite them with their parents or fiancé) take place pretty much over three, maybe four days from the Doctor and companion's viewpoint with little or no off-screen adventuring.
Prior to the Time Skip, the Harold Saxon arc encompassing series 3 occurs over a couple of days (from Saxon and his cronies' viewpoint).
From the Doctor's perspective, everything from stepping out of the TARDIS on the Oodsphere in The End of Time, to leaving the War Rooms with Amy in "Victory of the Daleks" probably takes less than a week, as The End of Time, "The Eleventh Hour", "The Beast Below" and "Victory of the Daleks" all lead straight into each other.
The events of the TV Movie unfold over New Year's Eve 1999 and the early hours of New Year's Day 2000.
Spoofed in The Golden Girls, where Dorothy mentions not having read Apartment 3 G in over twenty years and Blanche, who reads it every day offers to fill her in on what's happened since. Although her exposition is interrupted, it starts with "Well, let me catch you up - it is later the same day..."
True Blood takes up so far about 45 days with a 1 year time skip between seasons 3 and 4. Episodes tend to be about 1 day long, but several are real time except for perhaps a final scene.
Though the main plot of How I Met Your Mother has taken place over several year, the framing device (Older Ted telling the story of how he met their mother to his kids) is implied to be taking place in a very short period. The kids don't age, change clothes or move from their spots on the sofa so it's likely this is all taking place over one very long afternoon.
The plot of the KiKa teen drama Allein Gegen Die Zeit (Alone Against The Clock) takes place in only thirteen hours in both seasons (from 8 am to 8 pm).
Breaking Bad: The first episode of the fifth season revealed that so far, the previous four seasons have only taken place over the course of one year.
Aristotle wrote in his Poetics that tragedy tends to take place over a short period of time (no more than a day), as contrasted with epic poetry which generally takes place over a much longer period. In the Renaissance, this was taken by many dramatists to be a hard-and-fast rule (the "classical unity of time") though Aristotle seems not to have intended it as such. As a result, virtually all Renaissance drama from continental Europe is an example of this trope; English drama developed independently, and as a result is less likely to follow the unities especially in its earlier forms.
Lampshaded and parodied in Niccolo Machiavelli's satire Mandragola. It takes place over the course of two days, so it apparently violates the classical Unity of Time rule; however, Machiavelli inserts a monologue in which he explains that none of the characters are actually going to sleep that night, so it doesn't really violate it.
Same with the second game (discounting the two-year gap between the Tanker and Plant chapters). The third game takes place over a week, not counting the few days' rest the protagonist gets between the prologue and the main game.
Aside from the flashback case 4, the entirety of Ace Attorney Investigations takes place in less than 72 hours.
Combining this game with its sequel, both Ace Attorney Investigations games span less than a month (not counting flashback cases), in contrast to earlier games, where there will usually be weeks if not months between cases.
Um Jammer Lammy takes place over the course of five minutes, plus the finale song.
Most Kirby games take place in a day at best. Revenge of Meta Knight from Kirby Super Star covers a handful of hours.
Debatable, as Kirby games tend to be vague about the details of the plot, and apart from the aforementioned Revenge of Meta Knight, no clear timeframe is presented.
Ghost Trick takes place over the few hours you have between sundown and sunrise in one night, since you are told you'll disappear when the sun rises. An incredibly complex amount of stuff happens during that time, though.
To be fair, the player character does have the ability to turn back time... only for four minutes at a time, though.
Furthermore it also takes you a similar amount of time to complete the game.
The Halo trilogy seems to be like this, but if you read the expanded material it's mentioned that the events of the games actually take place over the course of several months, rather than consecutively over the course of a few hours like it seems in the games.
Half-Life 2 starts in the morning, going through sunset in the boat sequence, night-time in ravenholm, through to day in the car sequence, then night-time again by the time you get to Nova Prospekt. After that is a time-skip, which is instantaneous for Gordon, and the rest of the game takes place from sometime during the day to around sunset. So from Gordon's point of view, the action is over the course of at most about fiftyish hours.
The events of the first game take place no longer than about 48 hours of the game, as it was late afternoon next day by the time he got to the Lambda Complex. Including the expansion packs, the events of the first game probably take no more than 4 days total.
Batman Arkham Asylum takes place over one night. You can see Batman gain stubble as the night wears on.
Its sequel takes place over the course of about 12 hours, as announced over intercom by Big Bad Hugo Strange. If one plays through just the missions that drive the plot forward, this doesn't strain plausibility too much. If one doesn't, however...
Prince Of Persia The Sands Of Time takes place over one day. You can even see the light changing in each level, from night to morning to midday, finally ending in the evening.
Psychonauts has the first cutscene at night, and the game starts the morning after. By the final cutscene, it's the next morning.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask takes place over the course of 3 days, in the sense that you only have 3 days of game time to finish up before the moon crashes down on Termina. Since it's not possible to do everything in that 3-day span (not that ithasn't been tried), the first iteration shows you how to reset time back to the beginning of day 1.
The first Max Payne game took place over the course of three nights (although it includes a flashback to three years prior to that). The sequel lasts about the same amount of time.
Sam And Max Freelance Police: Most of the Telltale games individually happen over a single day, but are too short to qualify for this trope, being about 2-4 hours each. However, the episodes in the third season all directly follow each other: the first starts in the morning, night falls during the second (which is technically entirely indoors, as the actual gameplay is Sam and Max putting themselves into a movie), and the next two both take place in the same night (albeit part of the third episode took place in an altered reality, during the daytime).
Resident Evil0, 1, and 2, each take place over a single night each; furthermore, the events of 0 and 1 take place on consecutive nights. Also, # 4 takes place over two days at most. Code Veronica is a bit more vague.