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There are epics that span a lifetime as it follows the life between two characters, and their challenges to be together.

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 the fast pace the movie has.

A sub-trope of this is Real Time, where everything happens within a minute-to-minute ratio between in-universe and real-life production.

Not related to Webcomic Time, when the real and in-universe time scales are out of sync due to the production time.

Examples:


Anime and Manga

  • Bleach is notorious for this:
    • 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 after 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.)


Comicbooks

  • So far, both 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 comic book arcs take maybe a day or two to tell the story. A six-issue Batman arc, for instance, may take one night to tell, which allows the character to (at least somewhat) realistically appear in four or five books at the same time.


Fan Fiction

  • 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)


Films -- Animated


Films -- Live-Action

 Marty: This is heavy, Doc! It feels like I was here yesterday!

Doc: You WERE here yesterday, Marty! You were!

  • Star Wars Episode 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.
  • Training Day, as the name suggests, takes place over the course of a day.
  • The House of Yes mostly takes place over a single, Thanksgiving night.
  • So far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has three movies taking place at the same time. The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor all take place roughly within the span of the same week.
    • 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 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.
  • As the title suggests, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day takes place over one day.
  • With the possible exception of the final scene, most of Mystery Team takes place over the course of a few days.
  • Also, it's maybe more like 36 hours, since there's some footage of the next day, but Shampoo pretty much takes place over the course of one day.
  • The majority of Primer takes place over about three days. Multiple times. Probably.
  • If you exclude the first few opening scenes and the epilogue, Harry Potter and the Deathly 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.
  • Adventures in Babysitting takes place over a span of several hours at the end of one day.
  • Pulp Fiction takes place over a span of about two days, though isn't told in chronological order.
    • Although a popular theory claims that Butch's story takes place days or even weeks after the others.
  • It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World takes place in a single day.
  • Rope, which is also mostly in Real Time.
  • The Hangover takes place across three days (the Wolf Pack goes to Vegas, the day after the wild night, the wedding day). The sequel is longer, at least 4 or 5 days.
  • Nine Dead, aside from a few short scenes at the beginning about how the nine captives were abducted, entirely takes place over the course of about 80 minutes.
  • Margin Call takes place in a 24-hour period
  • 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.
  • Project X takes place over 24 hours or so.
  • The Lihuauan film The Girl and the Echo takes place within one day. This is mirrored in its alternative title, "Paskutine Apostogu Diena" ("Last day of Holydays").
  • Bad Day At Black Rock. The 'Day' of the title is literal, with the events of the movie encompassing about 24 hours.


Literature

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Romeo and Juliet. The protagonists go from total strangers to couple to married to worm food in just a couple days.
  • Lot's 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.
  • Ulysses takes place in one day. Finnegans 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.
  • While each Harry Potter book takes place over roughly one year, the second half of Deathly Hallows minus the epilogue 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.
  • The Malazan sidetrack 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, 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.


Live-Action TV

  • 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 th 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, it's later that 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.


Theater

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Videogames

  • 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.
    • Same with the second game. 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 it's 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 : 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 Groundhog 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.

Wow, that was fast.

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