"So ride along with Thor as he loses, then regains his magic powers, hooks up with Jane, saves two different realms from destruction, and learns the virtues of patience and humility all over the course of a long weekend. Seriously, this whole movie takes place over two-and-a-half days."
There are epics that span a lifetime as it follows the life between two characters, and their challenges to be together. There are others that 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 pacing.
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. Briefer Than They Think
is a real life variation. See Immediate Sequel
for when the short span of time forms an arc rather than contained to a single story.
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Anime and Manga
- Take a minute to realize that the first chapter of the Moon arc Soul Eater was chapter 90, and the most recent as of now 110, is still the same morning.
- Bleach ironically, considering it's a series about Really 700 Years Old dead people:
- 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.
- Taken to ridiculous amounts with the five minutes that it took for Namek to explode, stretching over ten episodes.
- 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 Mahou Sensei 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.
- Word of God states that from the first chapter all the way up to the Sabody Archipelago took three months in-universe.
- The Jewelpet movie happens in about 2 days.
- In Attack on Titan, volumes 5 to the beginning of volume 13 takes place in one day.
- 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.
- Joss Whedon's stories for Marvel usually take place over very short periods of time, because he doesn't like to play along with whatever crossover event is currently going on. Sadly, this tendency was probably the reason for the sudden end of his run on Runaways, as Marvel wanted the team available for a Secret Invasion tie-in miniseries.
- The average Crisis Crossover takes less time to happen than it does to read, but the all-time champion of this trope was Blackest Night, which took place between midnight and dawn on a single night.
- Piracy The Genetic Pirate Opera took place during a very busy Friday night.
- If you bother to keep track, My Immortal, despite being forty-four chapters long, takes place over the course of six very convoluted days:
- Day 1 covers chapter 1 (Ebony describes herself and meets Draco)
- Day 2 covers chapters 2 - 5 (Ebony goes on a date with Draco and Dumbledore catches them having sex in the Forbidden Forrest)
- Day 3 covers chapters 6 - 17 (Ebony meeting "Vampire" in the Great Hall all the way through Dumbledore saving everyone at the MCR concert)
- Day 4 covers chapters 18 - 21 (Dumbledore repainting the Great Hall through Ebony having a vision about the "Mystery of Magic" walking into the school)
- Day 5 covers chapters 22 - 33 ("Cornelia Fudged" and "Doris Rumbridge" yelling at Dumbledore through "Snap" and "Loopin" getting tortured)
- Day 6 covers chapters 34 - 44 (Ebony takes several trips back and forth in time for the remainder of the story)
- In the Horseshoes and Hand Grenades side-story Month of Sundays, its summary states that it takes place over the course of around two days, Judging by the fact that there's 23 chaptersnote and 24 hours hasn't passed yet.
Films — Animated
- Arthur Christmas takes place during Christmas Eve.
- Disney's Tangled, except for the prologue back story, takes place in less than three days.
- The main story of Disney's Cinderella takes place over 24 hours.
- A majority of The Polar Express takes place in one night, staying five minutes to midnight for several hours. Justified that Christmas Eve is a magical night after all.
- The Great Mouse Detective appears to be a single night.
- Monsters, Inc. takes place over three very hectic days.
- Most of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs unfolds over 2-3 days, although it is followed by a Time Skip to the final scene.
- Aside from the prologue and epilogue, Wreck-It Ralph takes place over two days, with the majority of the story happening in a single night.
- Pinocchio takes place in the span of three nights and two days.
- Sleeping Beauty takes place in a two day/one night timespan, not counting a prologue and Time Skip.
- Frozen: Excluding the prologue, the film takes place in over three days.
- Excluding the Framing Device and prologue, The Book Of Life takes place over two days.
Films — Live-Action
- The notorious Door Stopper Ulysses takes place over the course of a single day.
- 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.
- Similar to the above, the book series Dreamhouse Kings have each of its books taking place in a timespan of usually no more than three days. Blame Xander and his constant reckness.
- The book After Dark by Haruki Murakami takes place over the course of one night.
- Dan Brown's books, being thrillers, usually take place within less than a day.
- Lots of Dean Koontz novels are like this, while others are a bit longer.
- Each book of The Dresden Files covers maybe three days, which is an incredibly short time given all the abuse the main character takes.
- The fourteenth book ramps this Up to Eleven with the first 30 pages taking around three months, then the last 485 pages spanning around 24 hours.
- Finnegan's Wake happens during one night... probably.
- Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway takes place over a single day.
- 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 film 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), 21 chapters, takes place over about 24 hours, from the morning of 1 May 1997 to that of the following day. The eighth film, which covers the same events, qualifies as well.
- The House of Night is a pretty big offender. While there are pretty big jumps in time between the books, the novels themselves take place over four or five days each, roughly.
- The Malazan prequel novel Night Of Knives takes place within 24 hours, which is unusual for a series known for taking huge and epic Up to Eleven.
- 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.
- Hogfather takes place entirely on Hogswatchnight, although a lot of it is spent in various Anthropomorphic Personification realms where time doesn't pass normally (including the "congruent reality" that enables the Hogfather to visit the entire Disc on a single night).
- 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 series Galaxy 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).
- Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun consists of four volumes, but covers only a handful of days.
- In stark contrast to his other famous book, Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame takes place over the course of a few days.
- The Noob novels all happen within three days, two of which are usually connected by the characters having an all-nighter. The only exception was the first half of the third novel, that adapts a plot-essential chain of events that happen over a longer time in the original webseries.
- Catcher in the Rye spans only two or three days.
- Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy has each book being a spoken retelling of a large part of Kvothe's life. Each book in spite being very lengthy represents only a day of his storytelling even though that storytelling covers several years of his life. The strange part is that the actual retelling (with the book read out loud via Audiobook) is well in excess of a 24 hour day in length. To be fair, it's never mentioned that a day is 24 hours in this world.
- The Unexpected Enlightenment Of Rachel Griffin begins on the first day of Rachel's term in Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts. The events of the book (uncovering a world-spanning conspiracy, saving classmates' lives several times on different occasions, making friends, and saving the school from a dragon) cover five days. Rachel wonders if the rest of the term is going to be as exciting. She certainly hopes not.
- The Night of Wishes starts at New Year's Eve and ends a few minutes after midnight.
- A few of the Just William short stories take place over a single day as does the only novel in the series Just William's Luck.
- Vivian Vande Velde's young-adult science fiction novel Heir Apparent features a teenage girl trapped inside a VR game with time-distorting qualities. While several weeks pass from her perspective, her story is alternated with the attempt to revive her in the real world, where only a few hours pass.
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and other books in the series (and TV/film adaptations): a negligible amount of Earth time passes when people spend ages in Narnia, and each narrative takes place over a few Earth days at most.
- Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, the Immediate Sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, takes place over several hours; it's telling that at the end Grandpa Joe notes he and Charlie have had quite a day between the tour of the factory in the first book and the events of this one.
- All You Need Is Kill takes place in a day that repeats over and over. Its film adaptation Edge of Tomorrow extends to two (apart from the prologue), one where the protagonist is forced into battle, and the following one with the looping battle. And once the villain is killed, the hero is sent back to the day before in a new timeline.
- 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 Niccolò 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.
- Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? sets over a single night.
- The Barber of Seville takes place over a single day, starting at dawn and ending at midnight.
- Lampshaded in the title of the play's sequel, The Marriage of Figaro, or: The Mad Day. It covers about the same period of time.
- The protagonists of On the Town have only twenty-four hours for their adventures.
- Euripides' Medea takes place over the course of one day
- Jez Butterworth's new play Jerusalem takes place over the course of a single day. It's still three hours long, mind you.
- Shakespeare's The Tempest is said to take place over the course of approximately 3 hours, which is barely longer than its running time.
- West Side Story encompasses two days.
- Romeo and Juliet is a classic theatrical example, taking place within about a week.
- The Moon Is Blue takes place over what is more or less twenty-four hours.
- Journey's End starts on a Friday with the arrival of Lt. Raeligh. It finishes on the Monday when everyone is killed.
- The first act of RENT takes place over the course of one night. The Movie stretches it to two, but it's still a stark contrast to the second act, which spans an entire year.
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof takes place in real time over the course of about two or two and a half hours. Each act even begins with the last few seconds of the previous one.
- Luigis Mansion, which apparently took place over the course of just a single night according to the ending. The mansion itself vanishes as well.
- Metal Gear Solid takes place over one helluva night.
- As do Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2:Solid Snake. The Tanker chapter of Metal Gear Solid 2 takes place over two or three hours, while the Plant chapter begins in the early morning hours (pre-sunrise) of April 29th, finishing at around eight in the morning on April 30th.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3 the Virtuous Mission takes an hour or two, while Operation Snake Eater (after a time skip of a week) should take about three days: Snake begins the mission at night, sleeps in the abandoned factory at Rassvet, and wakes up in the morning. It is night again by the time he reaches Granin's lab, and day once he leaves. He sleeps for a third time under the waterfall with EVA after losing his eye, then wakes up, infiltrates Groznyj Grad, and completes his mission. However, the game takes place in real time including when the player has saved the game and shut off the console, so the missions can last indefinitely. Exploiting this feature by not fighting The End for a week or more is one way of defeating him.
- Rising averts this at first; there's a three-week gap between the prologue and first chapter, as the protagonist recuperates; later, he zips from Abkhazia to Mexico to Denver, and between each various characters were rebuilt (implied to be over a period of days for each of them). Once in Denver, however, the rest of the game ends up taking place over one helluva night and said night ends on the other side of the world in Pakistan.
- Aside from the flashback case 4, the entirety of Ace Attorney Investigations takes place in less than 72 hours (Edgeworth is quite a sharp mind considering the first case happens the night before the fifth case and he's working into the wee hours of the morning and then does the same thing during the fifth case as well). 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.
- Cases 1, 4, and 5 of Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies take place on consecutive days. The first part of case 4 happens, then the incident that sparks case 1 happens and case 1 plays out between the events of case 4, and then the remainder of case 4 and the whole of case 5 happen on the remaining days. In fact, the final trial day of case 4 and case 5 are the same day (meaning Phoenix went to trial, defended the case, and then did all the stuff that happens in case 5 in less than 24 hours). It's very tough to imagine so much happening in a single day (play the game to find out the whole story).
- Um Jammer Lammy takes place over the course of five minutes, plus the finale song.
- While Kirby games tend to be vague about their plot and timeline, Revenge of Meta Knight from Kirby Super Star covers no more than a handful of hours.
- Ghost Trick takes place over the handful of hours between sundown and sunrise in one night, since Sissel's told he'll disappear once the sun rises. An incredibly complex amount of stuff happens during that time, though.
- And then you time-travel ten years into the past, if only for four minutes.
- The events of Half-Life take place no longer than about 48 hours of the game, as it was late afternoon next day by the time Gordon got to the Lambda Complex. Including the expansion packs, the events of the first game probably take no more than 4 days total.
- 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 first Half-Life 2 expansion pack Episode 1 starts where main game ends, continues through the night, and ends the next day sometime in the late morning.
- The second expansion pack, Episode 2, again picks up where the first one ends and starts with Gordon and Alyx knocked out by the explosion. Assuming they didn't sleep through the night and wake up the next day, Gordon and Alyx wake up when it is still day out and travel all afternoon, and get to the resistance base near sundown.
- It is unclear how much times passes between the first and second games since Gordon is put into a pocket dimension at the end of the first one and leaves at the start of the second one. The games could occur consecutively, which means that for Gordon the entire series could be, from his point of view, six incredibly busy days.
- 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...
- Finally, the prequel takes place over the course of one night: Christmas Eve.
- 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.
- Everything in King's Quest IV takes place in 24 hours.
- 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 it hasn't been tried), the first iteration shows you how to reset time back to the beginning of day 1.
- Both the When they cry series uses this, combined with use of a Ground Hog Day Loop.
- 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 & 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 Evil 0, 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.
- Conkers Bad Fur Day supposedly takes place over the course of one very hectic day.
- Portal is in Real Time, and the average player will take about two to three hours to finish it on a first playthrough.
- The sequel is only about seven hours long, with only a few hours of unconsciousness between certain scenes.
- Spec Ops: The Line takes place over two or three days, with a couple of flashbacks.
- Hotel Dusk: Room 215 takes place on a single night. Its sequel, Last Window, is just ten days.
- Both Another Code games each occur in the span of one day.
- The Firemen seems to take place during one mission in the predawn hours of Christmas Day.
- The Siren games tend to feature this trope, especially due to playing multiple characters in the same timeframe. The first game's main events take place across three days, labelled Day 1, 2 and 3 respectively, featuring a timetable that maps out everything (called the Link Navigator). However, there's also flashback sequences to 683AD, 1976, X Days Before, Yesterday (before Day 1) and X Days Later.
- Forbidden Siren 2's a little less obvious. While the number of days aren't listed, it's replaced by hours, going from -31:00 to all the way to 33:00 hours, which is when Kyoya Suda is around in his mini-game scenario, clocking in at over sixty-five hours, almost three days. Aside from this, there's a flashback to three years ago (specifically focusing on the aftermath of the first game), as well as a flashback to 27 years ago (which crosses over to the events within the main narrative...kind of).
- The first game's reimagining/remake Siren: Blood Curse featured time travel to play with this trope. Nearly half the game takes place over three days, but the timeline collapses due to accidental screw-ups with predestination, causing everyone to experience Mental Time Travel, reliving the same three days plus a fourth one. So in total, Blood Curse takes place over a week but technically three days plus a repeat.
- Tomb Raider (2013) takes place over a 3-4 day time period, judging by the number of times that characters are seen making a camp for the night. The only other possible indicator of time suggests that the entire game takes place over the course of one second, as Lara's watch always states that it is 5:43:17 PM (The watch must have broken during the storm that wrecked the Endurance).
- The events of Crysis 2 take a little over 48 hours, with Alcatraz's insertion happening at 5:13 A.M. on August 23rd, and his deactivation of the Ceph Lithoship in Central Park happening by 9:20 A.M. on the 25th.
- According to An Epic Comic, the events of Team Fortress 2's "Meet the Spy" are only a day away from "Meet the Rabbid Heavy Taming Engineer."
- And then in just a few minutes, "Make a Mann Out of You"'s climax breaks loose, Team Fortress 2 is a VERY chaotic place.
Wow, that was fast.