The rotation of the Earth on its axis creates a 24-hour cycle known as a "day." Each day consists of a number of markers based on the position of the sun; these include morning, evening, and night. All are vital to the development of human life, so it's no wonder they're also important in human drama.
Below is a quick guide to the way the times of day are portrayed in media, with a brief description of their general attributes and any specifically associated tropes.
Sunrise, the three-minute period when the sun climbs over the horizon and signals the start of day. Sunrise is a time of new beginnings, and as such it's an incredibly common place to open stories. Dawn/sunrise are also frequently used to end stories. Generally if a story ends on a sunrise, it's because the heroes have gone through hell all night and daylight signals that the fighting is over. After all the stuff the heroes have been through, sunrise is the sign of renewal and continuing life. It's all very symbolic.
Vaguely 7:00 until 9:00, "morning" is the waking-up period. This is another frequent starting point for stories, because unlike sunrise, normal people actually do wake up around than. Expect aspects of the average morning routine— hitting the alarm clock, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, trimming nose hairs, putting on clothes.
Heroes always wake up late in the morning.
- Good Morning, Crono
- Late for School
- Morning Routine
- Not a Morning Person
- Ring... Ring... CRUNCH
- Second Episode Morning
- Synchronized Morning Routine
- Toast of Tardiness
- Wakeup Makeup
9:00 to 11:59. Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here, except the main character being late for whatever they were late for in the morning.
It's the middle of the day, the transition between “morning” and “afternoon.” The sun is at its highest point, which means there's the most light. It's also the hottest time of the day, and tempers flare with the temperature. Old West shootouts happen at high noon. It's a tense time.
Roughly 13:00 to 17:00note . Kids get home from school, people drive home from work. Most stuff that happens in stories happens in the afternoon, although there's nothing particularly special about it.
Sun down. End of the day. Activities wind down. Common ending cue. Also very romantic.
- Against the Setting Sun
- Endless Daytime
- Lip-Lock Sun-Block
- Riding into the Sunset
- Watching the Sunset
Also called twilight (no comments, please), it's the period when the sun is down but the moon isn't up. Dusk is a transition time—kids get called in for supper, shops close up, humans start changing into werewolves, and the gentle song of the crickets begins.
Night is a dangerous time. The sun is out completely and everything is dark. It's cold, lonely, and hard to see— probably why humans have a natural fear of the night. All decent people are at home in bed, which means indecent people are out and about, prowling the streets and doing unscrupulous things. Night is a spooky time, good for illegal activities, spying, wild parties, and trips to the local Haunted House. Basically, all the things that make a story interesting.
Due to the high danger factor, night's a perennial— er, diurnal favourite for writers.
Stock Room cues: Sound effects of crickets chirping, owls hooting, and wolves howling. Clips of glowing eyes in otherwise shadowy areas. Shots of the moon, always full and frequently partially covered by a cloud.
- Always Night
- Darkness Equals Death
- (Most) Dream Tropes
- Index on the Moon
- It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
- Hollywood Darkness
- One Crazy Night
The spookiest time of night, bar none. Midnight is "the witching hour"— magical things happen at midnight, and not the good magic. The Hidden Hour is often immediately before or after midnight. Part of it is that midnight happens at twelve o'clock—although for some reason, lunch doesn't have the same spook factor, likely because it happens during the fewer-spooky daytime, as well as the fact that midnight is considered the start of a new calendar day.
- Doomsday Clock - inevitably set at X minutes to Midnight.
- When the Clock Strikes Twelve
- Midnight Snack
The wee hours of the night, between about 1:00 and 5:00. People should not be awake at this time, so if you are, it's a sign that something's up. Maybe you're the undead and it's the only time you can go out. Maybe you're a criminal hoping to escape the cops' notice. Maybe you're an insomniac...or you've been up all night reading TV Tropes. Of course, maybe you're simply up because you're employer happens to work during this time. Sometimes known as the Hour of the Wolf - the hour when you hear the wolves howl outside and shiver in fear.
Lots of nightmare sufferers wake up around this time, just to rub salt in their wounds.note
The 4 a.m. Mystery gives us examples of works and reports using "four in the morning" to underline how inconveniently or arbitrarily timed an event is.
- Darkest Hour - in a literal sense, although many metaphorical darkest hours will occur at this time.
- Otaku O'Clock
Early morning ends at dawn, which leads to...
Sunrise, the three minute period when the sun climbs— we've been here before, haven't we? Oh well, days are cycles. It happens. Daily.