May 21 – Limits – Real Time

The Prompt

Write a story that unfolds in real time

The Prompt

Write a story that unfolds in real time


  • If a story unfolds in real time, you can’t have any ‘meanwhile’, or ‘three hours later’  or ‘earlier today’ scenes. Everything must flow chronologically and in as close to real time as possible.
  • If a character puts the kettle on, to make a cup of tea, you’re going to have to give them something to do or someone to talk to for the full two and a half minutes it takes for four cups of water to boil.
  • You can hop from one character’s perspective to another, as long as you stick to the timeline established at the start. If there’s a knock at the door, you could jump into the head of the person outside the door, but only right after they knocked.
  • You don’t have to time everything (like my example of the kettle) and you don’t have to worry about how fast different readers read; just try to keep everything flowing at a reasonably believable real-time pace. (Have you ever watched an action movie set in a city you know? Isn’t it irritating when there’s a car chase down a street that you know is only a few blocks long, yet seems to be three miles long in the movie? Don’t do that.)


Did you discover any time-shifting techniques that you would usually have used without noticing? Or was this very natural for you?

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2 thoughts on “May 21 – Limits – Real Time”

  1. This was an interesting experiment in pacing. I decided to bring together two experiences from my late teenage years and express them because of their very contradictory emotions.

    Well, I’d like to say I planned it that way, but I didn’t. There was one very vivid image I still carry in my head almost 45 years later and one semi-emotional experience that lives there two. The two just came together in the imminence of real-time.

    Tricky little critter… http://t.co/NfFIxiTDgO

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