Real time (media)

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Real time within the media is a method where events are portrayed at the same rate at which the characters experience them. For example, if a movie told in real time is two hours long, then the plot of that movie covers two hours of fictional time. If a daily real-time comic strip runs for six years, then the characters will be six years older at the end of the strip than they were at the beginning; this technique can be enforced with varying levels of precision. In some stories, every minute of screen time is a minute of fictional time. In other stories, such as the daily comic strip For Better or For Worse, each day's strip does not necessarily correspond to a new day of fictional time, but each year of the strip does correspond to one year of fictional time.

Real time fiction dates back to the climactic structure of classical Greek drama.[1]

Film and television[edit]

Often, use of split screens or picture-in-pictures are used to show events occurring at the same time, or the context in which various subplots are affecting each other. Examples include the television series 24 and films Timecode and Phone Booth. On-screen clocks are often used to remind the audience of the real-time presentation.

Video games[edit]

In a real-time computer game or simulation, events in the game occur at the same rate as the events which are being depicted. For instance, in a real-time combat game, in one hour of play the game depicts one hour of combat.

Comic books and strips[edit]

In comic books, the use of real time is made more complicated by the fact that most serial comics are released on a monthly basis and are traditionally 20 to 30 pages long, making it difficult to tell a story set in real time without overlooking important events from one month to the next. Another explanation is the prevalence of the super-hero genre in American comics, and the iconic status attached to such characters : it is often considered that such mythological, sometimes godlike heroes cannot age in real time without losing the characteristics that make them special. Hence the more common use of floating timelines in Marvel Comics or DC Comics. Exceptions include Marvel Comics' New Universe line of books, Erik Larsen's long-running Savage Dragon ongoing series, John Byrne's Superman & Batman: Generations (three non-canon miniseries exploring the notion of "what if Superman and Batman could age?"), and Ben Dunn's Ninja High School.

Comic strips which feature characters aging in real-time include:


In the Inspector Rebus series of detective novels (17 as of 2010) by the Scottish writer Ian Rankin, characters age in step with the publication date. Rebus is stated to have been born in 1947; in the 2007 novel Exit Music he reached 60, and retired.


  1. ^ "Dramatic Structure: Climactic, Episodic, and Other Forms", Monmouth College, IL
  2. ^ Vo, Alex (November 28, 2016). "Every Minute Counts: 24 Real-Time Movies". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
  3. ^ van Hoeij, Boyd (February 16, 2016). "'Paris 5:59' ('Theo & Hugo dans le meme bateau'): Berlin Review". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 3, 2016.

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