1. Sheriff Deputy

    Sheriff Deputy Member 24-Hour Time-Out

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    Time and Space equivalent?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Sheriff Deputy, Oct 12, 2021.

    I cringe every time I write inch or minute into my world. Kilometers almost makes me puke.

    I feel these descriptions break immersion, and find it difficult to include a new system that makes sense without getting overly complicated.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. Kelazuris

    Kelazuris New Member

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    If it's to your liking, you could use less formal or more metaphorical terminology:

    A smidgen/step for a short distance, a sprint for a medium distance, a marathon for a large distance.
    A bit for a short period of time, a wait for a moderate amount, and an eon for a long time.

    These put the responsibility more on the reader to interpret the actual time/space; they might not be applicable in scenarios where you want to specify exact amounts.
     
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  3. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    What's your world? Could you use old measurements such as rods, furlongs, etc? For smaller dimensions perhaps expressions such as "handspan"?
     
  4. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    Gene Wolfe wrote the entirety of the Book of the New Sun series without ever using an invented term, simply by digging a little deeper and using archaisms. "Span" and "watch" are the two measurements that I still remember clearly, for distance and time respectively.

    There's an awful lot of obscure units buried in the metric system just ripe for the taking.
     
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  5. Sheriff Deputy

    Sheriff Deputy Member 24-Hour Time-Out

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    I've been using in-world metaphors but then it all gets sketchy when getting into details.

    Help me with this one:
    A character wakes up off-world and looks out the window. What time is it? (without using any earth-world terminology)
     
  6. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    The sun was fully above the distant horizon, ...
     
  7. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Senior Member

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    Mid Day? Third Mark? First Light? Second Watch?
     
  8. Sheriff Deputy

    Sheriff Deputy Member 24-Hour Time-Out

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    Yeah, but then how many times can you say that in reference to time? It's not bad when it's a single morning after, but a whore's story, and it'll get pretty repetitive. (just saying)
     
  9. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    You asked for suggestions. Why ask for suggestions if you're just going to reject them?

    You are the author, and it's your story. You know the plot -- we don't.
     
  10. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Why in particular does it make you cringe and break immersion? Is it because your setting wouldn't include inches or kilometers, or our standard English measures of time? Or because of the precision of those particular measures? Or some other reason?
     
  11. Sheriff Deputy

    Sheriff Deputy Member 24-Hour Time-Out

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    I think it bothers me because it's so dependant on our systems, I guess.

    I've been using cycles terminology for time, but for distance, I'm lost. I've used, a half day's walk, and a night's journey, way too many times. And then there's that time/distance comparison that skews everything when both aren't conventional.
     
  12. Kelazuris

    Kelazuris New Member

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    It's perfectly fine working with measurements outside of our systems; the reader should be able to catch on. It should feel natural to the setting you're working. As far as repetition goes, I think the issue would lie less with using the same terminology repeatedly and more with how many times you have to make references to the time/distance. Maybe leave some of those details up in the air for the reader to decide.
     
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  13. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    In the John Carter on Mars series, Edgar Rice Burroughs just made up names for units of distance.
     
  14. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Is it first or third? In third it doesn't matter if it's our terminology because you're telling the story to the reader using terms they'll understand. If it's first, then you'll need to sharpen up the creativity pencil and create something.
     
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  15. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    It's always been very common to base systems of measurement on typical body parts, such as for instance how many paces, how many foot-lengths (that would be the same in any world, if the inhabitants are human), how many hand-widths, arm-spans etc. These of course are what became feet and yards and etc in the Empirical system. But you could use those measures and give them different names.
     
  16. Storysmith

    Storysmith Senior Member

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    A whore's story? :)

    For time of day, you have dawn, noon, dusk, midnight, mid-morning, ...

    And your characters will have some units of distance and time. You could use terms that are reminiscent of real-world terms, in the same way that Battlestar Galactica had jahren for year, so that the reader might get the gist without having things explained.
     
  17. Sheriff Deputy

    Sheriff Deputy Member 24-Hour Time-Out

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    Thanks all. All very good suggestions. But I'm thinking with distance measurements, I'm keeping it at arm's length. HA! Seriously, I'll have to be vague with directions. 'Halfway down the road and turn left at the big oak tree' details. :)
     
  18. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    "The target is only two meters wide."
     
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  19. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Use cubits, at least a dozen people know how long that is.
    And for a rough idea 1 cubit is ~ 17.5 inches (or 45.72 cm
    depending on which you want to use). Both are correct,
    and it's a not something most are familiar with. :p
     
  20. Stephen1974

    Stephen1974 Active Member

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    What level of technology is in your world?

    Engineering, electronics etc take extreme precision in the modern world. Even in the ancient world there had to be established standards (though accuracy was iffy) The egyptions couldnt have built what they built without reasonably accurate measurements. I think they used the hand. The span of a hand (a cubit ??) , the width of a finger etc. Weight was done through how many seeds it took to balance a scale with different seeds making up different measurements in weight (Carat for example is from the Carob seed. )

    So you need a physical represntation of units, but that doesnt mean we have to be able to relate to them and I think thats where you are struggling, you are trying to find unusual terminology that a reader will be able to translate in to our units of time and distance etc. I don't think that is necessary. I remember as a kid watching battlestar galactica and them using the term micron for time, or star wars using parsecs. Now micron is a real unit of distance, but its not in common use. (joe public doesnt sit down the pub talking about microns) and the same with parsecs, an actual real distance, but outside certain circles, how many people watching starwars knew what the hell a parsec was. In both cases an obscure unit of distance was used as a measurement of time in fiction. They sounded good and the audience didnt care.

    You can of course use relateble terms. A cycle for example is an easy way to express a repeating period of time like a day. (as does revolution, evolution - evolution is a nice one to use and I think is used already in some military circles to donate a period of training ?? as it denotes progression) but a cycle is established by physical representation of the (perception) of the sun rotating around the earth. So how do you break then down in to smaller units? Aagin you need that physical representation - the sun clock, the burning candle, the hour glass. You may just have it as vague references to the sun(s) and moon(s) - what does your world have? two moons could make for a useful represntation of time.

    A tik tok is a relatable term for measuring short periods of time. Or you could have a tik for one period of time and a tok for mutiple tiks. Or vice versa, so someone asking, how many tik toks till dinner they could be asking for the equivelant of hours and minutes. Through dialogue you can then establish an idea of how it all fits together. 20 Tiks in an evolution (10 for sun up, 10 for sun down) and 40 toks in a tik. or some such thing.

    Long distances (over a meter lets say) can be represented by paces of cources or you could have a very simple tool like a yard stick to measure exact distances. Pace is pretty common usage, so use Stride instead. Its 50 strides is not in common usage but is relatable. You could have a Stride Wheel - like a meter wheel, for accurate measuring of roads and then you just need some more relevant terms, 100 strides is short enough to be called 100 strides but 1000 ? 10,000? - Does your world have a king? maybe the "Kings Stride" is the official unit of measure for travel as it was literally taken from his stride. That has some character to it. 1000 could be a Kings Walk, 10,000 a Kings Journey. - ooh ooh, lightbulb. That makes thing a K. 10k, 10 strides and so on...


    Good grief, this just took 2 toks and 11 tiks of my life to waffle all this. - Even if you dont like it, i enjoyed coming up with it. :)
     
  21. Sheriff Deputy

    Sheriff Deputy Member 24-Hour Time-Out

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    That was an interesting read with some good ideas.

    I love the toks and tics suggestion. :D
     
  22. Travalgar

    Travalgar Member

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    Here's another point of view.

    I personally don't mind reading a story with units of time and length measurements similar to our world's. Because I know exactly how long a minute or a day lasts, or how far a kilometer goes, I immediately "get" what the author was trying to say. It allows me to skip a part of my brain processing so I can jump straight into the meat of the scene. With made-up units (including even those directly based on modern Imperial systems or even some ancient counterparts), I had to "process" the information first before proceeding with the story.

    I can just skip them if they're not relevant to the story, of course, but how do I know that? And if it was never important in the first place, then why include them?
     
  23. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    In my fantasy book i use mostly things like "a days march" or "100 paces" a pace being broadly equivalent to a meter... shorter distances are things like a hands breadth or no thicker than his thumb

    Time wise I stayed with hours and minutes because it seemed unecessary to change them, men in a fictional world could easily use them just like they use swords, horses and every other real world descriptor...
     
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  24. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    In wilderness circles, we occasionally talk about "hands" or "fingers" to define smaller units of time. A hand is about an hour and a finger is about 15 minutes. It comes from the fact that if you hold your hand out at arm's length, the sun's position will move about the width of it in an hour. Mostly useful to us near sundown for estimating how much daylight is left, but the spin is consistent, so it'll always work.

    We also exclusively use paces when deep in the woods to keep track of our position. It's both easy to estimate and easy to keep track of, so I'd think a measure based on it would suffice.
     
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  25. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I do that too when I'm outside. Very useful, but you do get that harsh glare right in the eyes that takes a while to fade lol!
     

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