What Time is It?

Posted by Thomas on March 11th, 2011 filed in Screenwriting tips

There are certain people that will tell you with Draconian intolerance that when writing a scene slug, you should write Day or Night. No Evening, no Dawn, no 4AM, No Later, Moments Later, Continuous or Same.

These people need to chill the fuck out. There are times when it is appropriate to use something other than Day or Night. “When” You ask? When it’s necessary. Okay… bye. Okay, fine, I’ll clarify.

It’s acceptable to use a more specific time of day when it matters. If your character is doing his laundry does it have to be at dusk? If he’s a Vampire Hunter and he’s suddenly going to realize that it’s dusk and he locked himself out of his apartment, then maybe it’s relevant. Otherwise, pick Day or Night. Does it matter that it’s 2 PM as opposed to 1 or 3? If your character has until 5PM to come up with some ransom money or his girlfriend will be murdered, then it probably does. In short, use very specific times sparingly when they matter to the story.

Now, let’s talk about Continuous, Moments Later, and Same. The main problem with these is that they’re often used incorrectly. Continuous and Same do not mean “It was Day in the last scene and it’s still Day in this new scene. Continuous is specifically used to indicate that although a location has changed, no time has passed. It is continuous in the time line of the story. So, if someone is having a conversation inside a building and they walk outside, you’d use Continuous to indicate that though the location has changed from outside to inside, the two scenes take place with no break in time.

Same is used to indicate that something that is occurring at a different location is happening at the same time as the previous scene. Again, it should only be used when it matters that the two scenes are occurring simultaneously. For example, someone trying to locate a bomb while cutting to the people who are in immanent danger at the location of the bomb.

Moments Later means just that. And also should be used only when necessary to the story or so the reader will understand the time frame.

Continuous, Moments Later, and Same are used ONLY to show a connection between separate scenes when it matters to the story or for clarity and not ever just because it happens to be the same time of day.

So, feel free to use all of these tools when you need them -just be sure to use them sparingly and correctly.

Thanks! Please leave some comments and keep writing. Don’t forget, if you want some notes on your scripts, check out http://screenplayground.com for my affordable coverage services.
Thomas

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