1. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    Description - Time

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Dr. Mambo, Sep 8, 2016.

    I don't second guess myself on a lot of stuff in writing, but I always get hung up describing how long it takes for something to happen.

    Is it more appropriate to be precise?
    Ex: Its bleeding lessened in seconds, but its mouth continued moving for close to a minute.

    Or is it more appropriate to be vague?
    Ex. Its bleeding lessened immediately, but its mouth continued moving for a time.

    Does it even matter?

    I think this might be "that thing" I only notice when I've read through a piece too many times in an attempt to perfect it.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It matters in that it changes what we, the readers, know about the narrator. The "in seconds" seems more analytical than "immediately," so in my mind, the narrator of the first sentence could be, for example, a scientist and/or someone who's not very emotionally invested in the situation. Of course, this is just me speculating since this sentence is taken out of context.

    Also, the meanings are different. For the first case, I think of it taking a little bit of time, whereas in the second case, I imagine the bleeding is stopping right away.

    Those are just two points to consider.
     
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  3. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I think both are appropriate. You might want to think about which fits your style better (precision vs slight stylish vagueness), or if you're in 1p or close third, which fits the pov character better (are they counting/estimating the time or just guessing). But yeah, you're probably overthinking it, honestly - editing's awful like that ;)
     
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  4. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    I'm using third limited, for what it's worth.

    My tendency is always to describe time in precision, though, like in the first example. Sometimes it doesn't fit and I change it, but other times I can't decide if I'm changing it just because I have in the past or I actually need to. Today, I'm sick of thinking about it and am starting to think it doesn't matter.
     
  5. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    My feeling is that most of the time it doesn't matter. I tend to go with my gut on things like this - which one just seems like it fits or flows better in the moment. Obviously there are cases where specificity comes off as strange (I'm thinking of a semi-infamous 1p creepypasta where, even while supposedly experiencing complete terror, the narrator says things like "The screen went blank for two and a two-thirds seconds"; really dude, were you counting?), but I think in third person - even close - designating exact times is never really going to work against you.

    For what it's worth, I find "its mouth continued moving for a time" a bit more poetic or evocative than "for close to a minute", but that's just personal taste. I wouldn't miss it if I only read the latter. It would just be part of your style.
     
  6. Shnette
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    Shnette Member

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    I know exactly what you mean. I always want to give the exact timing, but then I reread how robotic it sounds and change it. I think the exact time would be useful if a character was waiting for this thing to stop doing whatever it was doing. Like if a murderer was watching his/her victim bleed out. Gruesome, but vivid.
     
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  7. Nicola
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    Nicola Member

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    Maybe 'The bleeding lessened immediately, but its mouth continued moving for some time.'

    Or 'The bleeding had stopped, only his mouth kept moving for a moment longer'
     

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