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What's the time?

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Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:02 am
steward says...

All right, so my character is laying on his bed, he looks at the digital clock on the bedside drawer then here comes my question: How do you show the reader the time(23:52)? Thanks a lot!! :D :D
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Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:46 am
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Rosendorn says...

I'd make it as close to shorthand as possible. So instead of "twenty three fifty two", I'd say it as "eight minutes to midnight". Then it translates across the Atlantic a little easier, considering we use 12 hour time, not 24.
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Sun Feb 26, 2012 3:04 am
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RacheDrache says...

You could also leave it as 23:52. A lot of it depends on the style you're writing in, of course--length and complexity of sentences, the Point of View, essentially the level of traditionalism. Okay, almost all of it depends on your writing style.

For instance, with one of my projects, I'd probably write it as "He glanced at the clock: 23:52." That skips the step of "He glanced at the clock and read the time. The time was 23:52" and it fits in with what's known as indirect third person narrative. Essentially what's happening is that he reader suddenly gets things from the main character's perspective. The narrator says that Character glances at the clock, but we see exactly what he sees on the clock.

But you could also give the reader what goes on in Character's head. Maybe he sounds the numbers out in his head, in which case it would be better to write them out in alphabet rather than numerals. Then there's the issue of deciding if Character's a twenty-three fifty-two sort of man or a two three five one sort of man. Or maybe, even if the clock is in 24 time, he translates it into 12 hour. Or perhaps he thinks, "8 minutes to midnight."

I think I made this much more complicated than you were expecting, so let me break it down into steps.

1. Know your style and what's permissible.
2. If it's the sort of style where you give the reader what Character takes in, then know what Character takes in.
3. If it's not the sort of style where Character's interpretation of the world has an influence on the prose, then either leave it as is if the numerals are style-acceptable. But if not, what Rosey suggested would be brilliant as well.

And one last thing to consider would be whether it's good, bad, or neutral that it's this time and choose something that reflects that.
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