1. Roux
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    Roux Member

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    Is starting a part of a story with waking up too cliche?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Roux, Jul 28, 2014.

    Hey all, I've been lurking here and writing for a couple of years now. Writing has been a long process for me, with many ups and downs, ons and offs, actually it really reminds me of a relationship! Ha, only teasing. :) I've recently begun writing again and like any other skill, you forget the little things about it until you jump right back into it again!
    I've heard quite a few times on the forums and from other writers never to start a story with the cliché waking up in the morning and starting the day etc. because a lot of novice writers use it because it's an "easy" beginning. (Or some reason like that).
    My novel doesn't actually begin with a waking up scene, but the fourth chapter does, at least right now as I have it planned. That just seems to be the best way to continue the story right now; I really don't know if there is another way to open that scene and capture what I'm trying to portray. (one of the main characters is believed to have died in the last chapter, and they wake up still alive and its written in their point of view.)
    I'm not sure if this is making any sense to all of you, but basically what I'm asking is if its too cliché or "novice" of a writing style to write a scene with a character waking up. Is it distracting to go about such a used path?
    I know a big response will be "it's your story, you decide!" but that doesn't mean a few thoughts and opinions don't help the process. :)
    Thanks for reading my ramble and taking the time to help. I always appreciate everyone on this forum!
     
  2. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    It's a cliche. And as you know it can work if done the right way. Personally I would avoid it like the plague because it's not interesting, but it seems like you have an angle. Try it. If it doesn't work, strip it out. Forget about it being amateur or not. Focus on it being relevant.
     
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  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The key to any "awakening" scene is to not get lost in the mundane details.

    If by this you mean that you have created the impression for the reader that the character might have died, and you are using the waking scene to inform the reader that (s)he is still alive, that's fine, but I have two observations. One, you don't necessarily need an awakening scene to show that but if you use it, get the character into some kind of action related to the story quickly and provide a way for the reader to understand why their impression was wrong. Otherwise, it looks like a cheap cliffhanger. Two, don't provide the relief right away. There should be at least a few scenes, maybe an entire chapter, between the impression of demise and the revelation of survival in order to maintain the tension.
     
  4. WhatLibertine
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    WhatLibertine Member

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    Surely whether or not it's a cliche depends largely on context and how it fits into the story - does it come across as a cliche when you are reading it as part of the whole work?

    Unless the only way to avoid this cliche is to never have anyone wake up in a work of fiction ever again, then I would guess it comes down to how you deliver it, as opposed to the scene itself.

    I'm in no position to offer advice by the way, this is just my opinion ;)
     
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  5. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    One of my scenes starts with a wake up. It kinda has to, as the fact that one character wakes up before the other is important, in that what he does when the other character is sleeping has special significance.

    I'm with everybody else. If you make it mundane, everyday, with no point nor purpose to it, what's the point? It just comes across as filler.
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    A chapter or a scene that starts with waking, why not? I have a scene where the character wakes up in a panic at over-sleeping.
     
  7. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I start with waking up a lot, probably too much now that I think about it. The first time I do it, the main character awakens from a coma that he's been in for six months to find everyone gone. I use waking up at other times too, but I try to do it uniquely. It's rarely just "I wake up." It's "I'm jerked awake." Or. "I give up on trying to sleep and crawl out of bed."

    I probably do it too much, but it's an easy way to start off a chapter. The way I write, if I don't start like this, I end up with half a page long intros for each chapter, stating what's happened in between this chapter and the last.
     
  8. ladybird
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    ladybird Contributing Member

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    Considering how much we sleep, starting a chapter with 'waking up', in my view, is okay. It really depends how the story develops from there.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think just waking up is the cliche everyone talks about. It's when the waking-up is perfectly ordinary. If the character just wakes up and goes through a completely ordinary morning, it's a cliche that should be skipped. If he wakes up because something very unusual is happening - aliens are invading his neighborhood, or there's a TV news crew in his bedroom, or his wife is setting fire to their mattress, etc. - then it's not a cliche. In such a case, it's probably the right entry into the story.
     
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  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Forget about cliche. Cliche is about specific phrases or metaphors that have become so widely used that they no longer have any impact, or that the context in which they are relevant is all but forgotten.

    What you should avoid in a beginning is a static situation. Waking up on an ordinary ay and performing your usual daily ablutions is about as static as you can get. On the other hand, waking up in familiar surroundings, but immediately looking out the window and discovering you are in a completely unfamiliar location can be a wonderful opening (witness episode 1 of the original series The Prisoner, "Arrival").

    Whenever possible, throw your characters off balance in the first few sentences. Keeping the reader a bit off balance is also a good working principal, especially in the opening, where the reader is not yet committed to the story.
     
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  11. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    Good advice there, from Cogito. Makes me want to reconsider the opening scene of a novella I have.
     
  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    What is your character waking up to? The sight of a bloodied ghost wailing at the foot of his/her bed while pointing at them with a withered hand? That would captivate my interest more than him/her waking up to an ordinary day and I have to wait until Chapter Two for said bloodied ghost to appear.
     
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  13. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    Oh darn, now that I think about it, I'm a wake-up regular. :p But like others said and I'll reiterate in a one-liner, it's more about waking up and it being "just like any other morning" that is cliched, than waking up and "oh snap my wife is burning my mattress". (credit: @minstrel)
     
  14. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I think this beginning is common because it's common in movies. You see the protagonist wake up and go about their day so the viewer gets an idea on what a normal day is like. Then, when everything changes and the kid wakes up in Tom Hank's body, we see the contrast. The problem is that it usually doesn't work in books.
     
  15. Russo
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    Very cliche, but make it interesting if you really want to go this route. Maybe insert a dream? Or, actually, don't make it seem like the character is waking up. In fact, you could use thought as the opener. Have the character be thinking as soon as they wake up. Wondering about what happened and then maybe throw in a tiny detail of getting out of bed, like kicking the covers to the floor or the character takes notice in their pillow in the floor next to the bed. Just tiny details to give the reader the idea they had, in fact, awakened. But definitely none of the "the sun beamed through the blinds and onto my sleepy face as I shield my eyes and roll over for only a few more moments of slumber". Not the best example, but you get my point. Don't give too much emphasis on the waking up process. I can see emphasis on a waking up scene in a Dr. Seuss book/movie...because it's just...for children. Silly. As adult readers, we don't care how a character woke up or the fact they are waking up. We want the interesting stuff. So maybe look into my examples, hopefully those help your situation.
     
  16. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    I have written a number of stories where the main character is waking up and performing there morning routine. I think that it is a great beginning even if it is considered a cliché.
     
  17. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Have you had any of them published?
     
  18. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    EdFromNY yes as matter of fact I have had them published, in fact I have had 15 short stories published.
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    That's great. And it adds authenticity to your advice. Did you begin with them just waking up and doing normal things, or did you introduce some element of conflict into the story?
     
  20. ToDandy
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    ToDandy Contributing Member

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    I don't think it is Cliche, but it might be a clear sign that you are starting the scene too soon, or don't know how to start.

    Get into the scene as late as possible, get out of the scene as early as possible.

    I've found this general rule to be a huge help and contributes to a better paced book.
     
  21. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    EdFromNY I basically do it a couple of different ways.

    1. After a long night of restful sleep (character name) Then I would explain their morning routine in great detail.

    2. After a long not with no sleep or very little sleep (Character Name) then I would explain their morning routine as well.

    If it is a story involving siblings I would have one of them check on the other sibling first then have them perform their morning routine.

    If it is a husband/wife store I would have the wife get up first and have her perform her morning routine,

    then after she woke her husband up I would have the husband perform his morning routine.

    regarding your question about conflict I might introduce some conflict if I think that the story needs it.
     
  22. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @mg357 - Doesn't sound like there's a lot to draw in the reader, but if it works for you, great.
     
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