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Discussion: Books with a short timespan

Hi Virtually Readers! It’s a day for a discussion, which will be fun. Today I want to talk about books that take place over a short period of time. For these purposes I’m defining ‘short period of time’ as less than two weeks, which is a little random, but whatever. These books tend to be action packed and suspenseful—but they also have problems.

short timeframes.jpg

First though, why would a book take place over a short period of time? A few ideas:

  • There’s an artificially imposed deadline (people make it). This is the whole ‘you have to do X thing by X date, OR ELSE. Examples: Six of Crows, Heist Society, The Conspiracy of Us, The Scorch Trials.
  • There’s a naturally imposed deadline. This could be the end of the world or someone’s impending death. Examples: We All Looked Up, This is Where it Ends (sorta human, but you get my point)
  • The book just takes place over a short period of time without a deadline. Examples: The Sun is Also a Star, When We Wake, What We Saw.
  • Things are happening at a great rate to add tension to the plot and stress to relationships.

I find that these books are usually mysteries and action novels (which could be set in fantasy, sci-fi, or within the *gasp* real world), and anything where tension matters. And if you ask me, they work if they’re well plotted. Everything happens fast. There’s no time to get bored, and it creates suspense.

Deadlines are also great for emphasizing relationships. Pre-existing relationships are put under stress. Limited time can force conversations to happen, old hurts to be confronted, and add tension by creating arguments between characters. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are great examples of this. Because the characters often have to work together to beat the ‘bad guy’, they get really close, fast. (I’m talking about romance especially). The tension forces characters to reveal secrets and generally we, as readers get to know them well.

And so I get it. I get why these books are written, and why they’re read, and I might have written a book with a short timeframe (3 weeks) too (though it needs lots of edits, so who knows what will happen), and I have read lots of books like this, and they can be good books, and often are (good job for reaching the end of the run on sentence). But here’s the thing: Most of the time, that’s not how real life works. You don’t fall in love in a day. You don’t make very complicated and cool plans in a day. You don’t get a plot in a day. You don’t change your views entirely in a day. (well, less than ten days, but you get my point).

And I don’t know how to feel about it. Of course, I don’t want to read ‘the boring stuff’—the days when nothing happens to contribute to the plot. But in terms of relationships and hey, character development, that’s when you (or a character) become who you are, and know who your friends are. It can be exciting to read these stories. But in your life, there are few times when action is fast. Often, it’s painfully slow. Relationships might start in an instant, but getting to the point where you’re comfortable being your usual self around someone can take months, if not years.

Fiction has never claimed to be reality. That’s kind of the point. But I can’t help thinking that when things happen fast, they might fall apart later (which, no spoilers, but Nicola Yoon definitely addresses at the end of The Sun is Also a Star), and when you fall in love in two minutes, you might break up in two days, and when you construct a bridge in two weeks, it’ll fall down a few months later. In a short amount of time, when there are conspiracies to reveal–that’s when a lot of real life, the things that aren’t plot related happen.

These short timeframes lend themselves to instant easy relationships, and in my experience, that’s not how people work. Or rather, it’s not how people work most of the time (Anyone who has ever had a ‘summer camp’ or ‘MUN conference’ friend may know this. It doesn’t really last) . And that sort of bothers me.

I’m not going to stop reading books with short timeframes. But writing this, and thinking about it, has made me remember that YA is not reality (most of the time), my life has no action–oh yeah, and what really matters is not the stress and fast pace of thrilling situations, but what you do afterwards. How’s that for inspirational?

Do you think that short books can have unrealistic relationships? What are some short timeframe books you like? tell me in the comments

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12 thoughts on “Discussion: Books with a short timespan

  1. I don’t know… I like deadline books, in some respects, because they heighten the tension and prevent you from going on a long time. There have been books I read where they skip four months in the space of a chapter, and it feels inconsistent and weird. You get into the nitty gritty of it in such books. I think my favorite that might fall into this category is Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudson. That was a really good one. 🙂

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    1. Time is defintiely hard to manage, and I’ve noticed that when I’m writing too. I do like the action of deadline books. It’s a fine balance for sure, and I really should read Evil Librarian if only because it has librarian in the title.

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  2. I feel that short books should just chop off the romance because it’s usually the kind of ‘romance’ where they have a fling and say I love you shortly afterwards.Those things make me cringe so when I see such books, I run. I feel that those books raise people’s expectations of relationships in an unrealistic way so I get a little mad at authors when they write that.

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    1. I find that short timeframe books aren’t always very well advertised, so it’s hard to tell if it’s going to be one or not. Romance (at least my secondhand perception, lol) is complicated and confusing and definitely not something you want to take fast. And YA already has so many unrealistic portrayals of romance, like you said, so this can be a problem.

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  3. I don’t think I’ve read a book with romance that occurred over a short period, but then, I don’t read very many YA books. However, I have read short timeframe books, and some of them are really well done. Although I haven’t read any YA romance short-period books, I can’t imagine romance developing quickly to be a realistic point. Action can, maybe, but not romance.

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  4. I agree that some books, like Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, do the short time frame thing very well–but most books that do short time-frames don’t do it very well. I especially think that contemporaries where the characters spend a few days together and then can’t forget about each other are super unrealistic 😦 I’m also a big believer in developing relationships over time, but I get it. I think that what authors are trying to replicate is those relationships that come together perfectly under stressful circumstances and leave both sides (or all sides, depending on how many characters there are) fundamentally changed. Almost like the other person is exactly what you need at that moment, and it makes everything different. When it’s well-done, I think short timeframes really encompass a small and rare but important part of life that’s sometimes unrealistic, sometimes crazy, but altogether human.

    Great discussion post! 😀 Thanks for stopping by The Silver Words again ^-^

    – Eli @ The Silver Words

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    1. Yeah, you can’t fall in love in a day…at least, not if you’re sensible. though I do think the way it worked in Just One Day/Just One Year was interesting. I agree–there are some days that change lives, and to capture that encounter in a short space of time is an art. “altogether human” is the perfect way to describe this. Thanks for this beautiful thoughtful comment!

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  5. What an interesting discussion, and so many good points here! I have never thought so long about these kind of timeframes until now, but you are so right about these being a bit unrealistic, especially in terms of relationships development. If, in fantasy, it might be a bit more…realistic I guess, because circumstances can be veeeeeeeeeery different and feeling close to people when the world is about to crumble might be a bit quick, I don’t know, ahha – in contemporaries, it feels unrealistic. We change and evolve and think something one day, then differently the other day. Things take time, and character growth is one of my favorite thing, which sometimes has a hard time happening in such a short time frame, or when it does, it feels then a bit unrealistic. This is such an interesting discussion, I am rambling sorry haha.

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