1. UrsaBear
    Offline

    UrsaBear New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2014
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    2

    When is it ok to use a "wake up" start to a story?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by UrsaBear, Mar 16, 2014.

    ('Never' isn't an acceptable answer, btw.)

    So, I kiiind of knew that beginning a novel with someone waking up was cliche. I quickly confirmed this hunch with a google search. But, all of these examples agreed that wake up starts are cliche when they include: alarm clocks, sunrises, being woken by someone/a dream, a horrible thing happening, morning routines, coffee, breakfast in bed....

    Unfortunately, I have a feeling that "waking up in a different world" or "an unusual location" is also overdone. I just can't find any comments about it.

    I haven't written anything yet. The story is still in the conception stage. But, I've been somewhat set on this opening. I'm guessing there is a way to write such an opening to make it "less cliche"....

    I've considered starting with the person already awake, basically immediately after. Her eyes would already be open, but perhaps her mind is still trying to make sense of her surroundings, much like what happens when people wake up in a place unusual for them (like a hotel), those initial few seconds of gaining mental bearings. In this case, shock and utter confusion would be added into the mix.
    Or is that really no different than the wake up start that involves actually waking up? All it does is avoid the "eyes fluttering open" kind of thing.

    So I figured I'd post here to get some opinions.
     
    jannert likes this.
  2. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,727
    Likes Received:
    4,824
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I think the reason people object to "wake up" beginnings is that, generally, they involve the normal routine. The character wakes up, showers, breakfasts, goes to work, etc. Same old same old. Nothing interesting happens to the character until, say, two in the afternoon; why do we need to see the whole day up until then? Boring.

    Beginning with a wake-up is fine, to me, if it's unusual. The character wakes up with someone pointing a gun in his face. The character wakes up in a burning house. The character wakes up with a stranger snuggling him. The character wakes up with a rhinoceros in the room. The character wakes up with a 60 Minutes news team pointing TV cameras at him. Etc. Any unusual situation will work.

    It's not the waking-up that people object to. It's the routine, the tedium.
     
  3. fmmarcy
    Offline

    fmmarcy Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2011
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Though this is from a movie and not literature, I think the beginning to last year's Oblivion immediately jumped to mind for me as a good example of a "waking" beginning. It starts in a dream sequence, as the main character Jack Harper is haunted by a woman he does not know. The dream ends, and he awakens in his normal home lying next to his actual partner. He then begins his daily routine and the film moves along introducing his normal life.

    Here the waking is important because it contrasts a dream-world Jack desires and brings it into contrast with the world he's actually living in. Thus, waking isn't simply a way to introduce Jack, but it also introduces important themes central to the story as a whole.
     
    jannert likes this.
  4. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    when it's written well enough to wake up and hook the reader... period!

    there's no list of 'ok' ways to do it, or 'ok' situations...any of the most 'unusual' ones will fail in the hands of a poor writer and the most 'normal' can work well in the hands of an exceptionally good writer...
     
  5. CMastah
    Offline

    CMastah Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2014
    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    43
    I wouldn't be worried about cliches if I were you, some things are just naturally going to occur. It's a cliche for a character to lose someone they care about and then go all vengeful, yet it's still done because that's what the author wanted and if he puts enough love into his work, readers can probably (most likely?) pick up on the passion and enjoy it themselves. If this scene is something you honestly want, write it as you want it because honestly....at the end of the day, people aren't as put off by cliche as you'd think. Head to TVtropes, look up a movie you REALLY liked and you'll see a whole bunch of tropes/cliches that applied to it.
     
  6. EdFromNY
    Online

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    This.

    One example of a good novel that begins with a "wake up" is Allan Drury's Advise and Consent. But he immediately immerses the reader in what will be the central conflict of the entire novel. He then proceeds with descriptions of various characters beginning their day, but at the same time uses that to show their initial reactions to the same conflict-inducing event. Thus, it only appears to be routine, but in reality it is drawing the reader into all the contending characters. The book won a Pulitzer Prize.
     
  7. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I was going to respond, but I saw that Minstrel already said what I was going to say.

    BTW: Nice name there, UrsaBear.
     
  8. Siena
    Offline

    Siena Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2012
    Messages:
    249
    Likes Received:
    51
    Well, there are more than a few movies coming out which start with some sort of "waking up."

    The trick is to do it....in a way that works.

    The real way to get around the problem is to figure out why it's used so often, what it means.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  9. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    hey, if he wakes up only to find himself turned into a bug - I'd read that :d
     
    GingerCoffee and minstrel like this.
  10. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    kafka's 'wake-up' is one of the most successful uses [if not the most] of the cliché!
     
  11. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    Actually, both The Trial and America start with wake-ups, and even in The Castle the actual story starts with it... Still, his characters actually wake up into nightmares, which I don't think many contemporary writers would have balls to do... :D
     
  12. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Hi @UrsaBear, welcome to the forum. Write it, don't worry about it, see how it reads. The opening was the hardest thing for me to write. I finally gave up and wrote the rest of the story, coming back to the opening hook after more of the story was clear and I knew more about what went into a hook.
     
  13. matwoolf
    Offline

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    2,317
    Likes Received:
    2,249
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    Start like this:

    From the bed she might see the light dancing. The dust particles hanging in the light, how they skipped like dirty fairies long and through an eternal ether or atmosphere. Light bouncing the divine primal prism rays that radiated from every edge, lit every corner of the wardrobe, the chair, the television, the chest of drawers , even the mirror above the chest of drawers reflected the light illuminating every space of this room in which she lay quite asleep and completely oblivious to the light. Light like a mirror into the heart of this entire mystery of why she was still in bed at half past four in the afternoon.

    needs drafting of course
     
    jannert likes this.
  14. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    I've only started one story with a wake up. Then again, that character was moments away from being murdered. I was going to start a second with my MC waking up, but instead switched to her father waking up. It is a small house with one bed, he is unmarried so he sleeps in the same bed as his daughter. Nothing kinky, just sharing a mattress. Anyway, he carefully exits the bed as to not wake his daughter. He gets dressed, packs a bag, then we see him sitting at a desk writing some sort of notes/paperwork. Next, he leaves the house and we don't see him again. It's not until the next scene where we meet the MC that we find out her father wasn't just doing some pre-work routines. Instead he was leaving a note to his now abandoned daughter. Of course, as the story unfolds, we delve into his motives for doing such a thing, but that's a whole different post. ;)
     
  15. Atari
    Offline

    Atari Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Louisiana
    When is it acceptable? Well. . . always. I would rather not qualify my statements as opinion, since that will get really tedious if I must do so every post, but I will write it, anyway: The following and preceding is my opinion.


    I do not read enough books to feel that something as simple as waking is necessarily cliche; moreover, waking is something humans naturally do, so is eating also cliche? Breathing heavily after running?

    Someone once said that you should start your story at "the beginning," and if that story's beginning is someone waking, then I do not know why you should actively avoid it.

    Furthermore, you seem to be agonizing about this because it is IMPORTANT that the opening scene is the character waking. This seems to be more reason for you to proceed with your initial plan, rather than change it because a vague notion of it being cliche, or trite.
     
  16. UrsaBear
    Offline

    UrsaBear New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2014
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    2
    Thanks everyone! I haven't written it yet (no time) but I can't get it out of my head. Bookmarking this thread! :D

    I fully expect the first draft of the first chapter to be awful and to rewrite it a few times at the very least. Always happens that way.
     
  17. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    Hemingway once said: "The first draft of anything is shit." :)
     
  18. Atari
    Offline

    Atari Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Louisiana
    I reckon Hemingway's works did not want for brevity.

    Or for vague but generally accurate quotes.
     

Share This Page