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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[Write On Wednesday] Storytelling in Real Time

This week’s prompt revolves around taking a very short span of time (impossibly short) and stretching it out over the length of a complete short story.

Quick question before I get onto the prompt. We’re having a discussion on the Advance List about the possibility of doing a bonus StoryADay in September. I’d love it if you could share your level of interest in this poll

[poll id=”2″]

Thanks! Now, on with the prompt!

This week I read a great new novel called Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. One of the many remarkable things about this novel is that almost all the events in the novel happen on one afternoon.

I heard the author talking about this. It was a deliberate decision on his part, a challenge to himself to see if he could (with very few exceptions) avoid flashbacks or set-pieces that happened out of the timeline of the book’s one day. He also didn’t want a mystery or huge amount of suspense to pull readers onward. I was so intrigued that I had to get hold of a copy and see how he pulled it off.

Of course, he did it by Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Storytelling in Real Time”