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Marian Perera
11-30-2008, 12:04 AM
Hi all,

If you know of any novels or short stories that start with a character waking up, could you tell me what they are or quote the opening? I'm just curious about how prevalent this kind of opening is in published fiction.

I'll start with Kafka's The Metamorphosis.


As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

dawinsor
11-30-2008, 12:11 AM
Strictly speaking, this is a character regaining consciousness rather than just awakening, but it's similar. It's from Lois McMaster Bujold's Memory:


Miles returned to consciousness with his eyes still closed. His brain seemed to smolder with the confused embers of some fiery dream, formless and fading. He was shaken by a fearful conviction that he had been killed again, till memory and reason began to place this shredded experience.

Linda Adams
11-30-2008, 01:10 AM
Sleeping With Fear, by Kay Hooper.



Even before she opened her eyes, Riley Crane was aware of two things. Her pounding head, and the smell of blood.


Destiny Kills, by Keri Arthur (please note that though this doesn't specifically state "the character woke up," the back of the book does say that).



Some things I remembered.
Some things I couldn't.
Like who I was.
Or why I was sitting naked on the beach next to a dead man.


Both, oddly, are amnesia stories.

ChaosTitan
11-30-2008, 01:13 AM
My next-fall debut opens with the MC waking up (granted, she's coming back to life, rather than rousing from a nap, but still....)


I don't recall the first time I died, but I do remember the second time I was born. Vividly. Waking up on a cold morgue table surrounded by surgical instruments and autopsy paraphernalia, to the tune of the medical examiner's high-pitched shrieks of fright, is an unforgettable experience.

Inky
11-30-2008, 01:19 AM
My next-fall debut opens with the MC waking up (granted, she's coming back to life, rather than rousing from a nap, but still....)


Okay....see...it's this kind of stuff that makes me run out and buy the book.
And then...if said book is a page turner...I get on Amazon and order everything written by this author. And then go on a reading marathon. And they get their own 'shelf' in my vast library.

This...THIS...oh...I'll definitely be buying THIS book. Gads...this opening is going to mess with me now...it's like waiting for a once in a lifetime sale...and you've arrived days early...

This book can't be released soon enough...

ChaosTitan
11-30-2008, 01:24 AM
Okay....see...it's this kind of stuff that makes me run out and buy the book.
And then...if said book is a page turner...I get on Amazon and order everything written by this author. And then go on a reading marathon. And they get their own 'shelf' in my vast library.

This...THIS...oh...I'll definitely be buying THIS book. Gads...this opening is going to mess with me now...it's like waiting for a once in a lifetime sale...and you've arrived days early...

This book can't be released soon enough...

:o Wow, thank you, Inky. *blushes*

The title is Three Days to Dead. There's more info in my siggy. :D

blacbird
11-30-2008, 01:41 AM
Idlewild, Nick Sagan.

caw

Dale Emery
11-30-2008, 02:01 AM
The Bourned Identity, I think (though there may have been a prologue before Bourne appears).

Dale

Nandi
11-30-2008, 02:25 AM
Maybe not quite what you're seeking, but how about Rebecca? "Last night I dreamed I went to Mandalay again."

HeronW
11-30-2008, 02:26 AM
If you can make it work--go for it. MCs wake up from changing into vampires, out of comas, from premonition dreams, from grand mal seizures, to their spouse dead beside them, whatnot. :}

Karen Duvall
11-30-2008, 02:59 AM
Rachel Caine's THIN AIR, Book Six of her Weather Warden series, opens with the MC waking up with amnesia:


I was lying on something cold and wet, and I was naked and shivering. Afraid. Something was very, very wrong with me.

eqb
11-30-2008, 03:44 AM
I wrote one short story with the character waking up:


Scent came first on awaking—the fragrance of rain on autumn leaves, though trees no longer grew by her cottage. Is it memory or a dream? she wondered. Or simply regret?

The rest is over here (http://www.behindthewainscot.com/2007/medusa.html).

RobJ
11-30-2008, 03:49 AM
I don't have a problem with novels opening with a character waking up if it's done well, which it often is. I do find quite a few short stories open with a character waking up, getting dressed, making coffee etc, when they needn't - the story actually starts some time later and the opening scene isn't really necessary at all.

Cheers,
Rob

Gogoplata712
11-30-2008, 03:50 AM
Snow in August by Pete Hamill.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0446606251/ref=sib_fs_top?ie=UTF8&p=S00F&checkSum=RC6%2BUL%2F%2F%2FAOUBXQ5kLJCbKOhyvbT1QROq XmYY7XVEag%3D#reader-link

Clio
11-30-2008, 05:34 AM
Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault. Four-year-old Alexander wakes up with one of his mother's snakes wrapped around him in his bed. That's one hell of a powerful image.

Grrarrgh
11-30-2008, 05:43 AM
Okay....see...it's this kind of stuff that makes me run out and buy the book.
And then...if said book is a page turner...I get on Amazon and order everything written by this author. And then go on a reading marathon. And they get their own 'shelf' in my vast library.

This...THIS...oh...I'll definitely be buying THIS book. Gads...this opening is going to mess with me now...it's like waiting for a once in a lifetime sale...and you've arrived days early...

This book can't be released soon enough...

QFT.
Can't wait for this one.

blacbird
11-30-2008, 08:52 AM
I don't understand the stricture against starting a novel with a character waking up. Seems a hell of a lot better than starting a novel with the reader going to sleep.

caw

katiemac
11-30-2008, 09:13 AM
I don't understand the stricture against starting a novel with a character waking up. Seems a hell of a lot better than starting a novel with the reader going to sleep.

caw

I think it's a problem because it's usually paired with the character getting up, brushing their teeth, eating breakfast and generally doing anything that doesn't have to do with the plot.

Nakhlasmoke
11-30-2008, 09:49 AM
The character waking up from some terrible nightmare is also a fairly cheap way to build up tension, and then that tension is dropped as said character wanders about their banal day doing banal things.

Having said that, I would definitely pick up a book with an opening like Chaostitan's.

Inky
11-30-2008, 05:37 PM
Okay, I get first dibs on a signed copy from Chaos...only AFTER I've paid for the book...

Hear that, Chaos?

You'll need to set up a P.O.Box where we can mail you our copies, have 'em signed and in a postage pre-paid envelope we send along with our book, you send it back...

what?
What?

Hey....one day, she could be the next Harlan Coben...and I could show up on Oprah claiming 'I knew her when...'


It could happen.

Could TOO!

JimmyB27
11-30-2008, 05:44 PM
I think it's a problem because it's usually paired with the character getting up, brushing their teeth, eating breakfast and generally doing anything that doesn't have to do with the plot.
Even that can be done well by a sufficiently talented writer.


At eight o'clock on Thursday morning Arthur didn't feel very good. He woke up blearily, got up, wandered blearily round his room, opened a window, saw a bulldozer, found his slippers, and stomped off to the bathroom to wash.
Toothpaste on the brush--so. Scrub.
Shaving mirror--pointing at the ceiling. He adjusted it. For a moment it reflected a second bulldozer through the bathroom window. Properly adjusted, it reflected Arthur Dent's bristles. He shaved them off, washed, dried, and stomped off to the kitchen to find something pleasant to put in his mouth.
Kettle, plug, fridge, milk, coffee. Yawn.
The word bulldozer wandered through his mind for a moment in search of something to connect with.
The bulldozer outside the kitchen window was quite a big one.
He stared at it.
"Yellow," he thought and stomped off back to his bedroom to get dressed.

(Ok, so there's an entry from the Guide and a description of the house before this, but this is how Arthur is first introduced.)

ChaosTitan
11-30-2008, 06:31 PM
Okay, I get first dibs on a signed copy from Chaos...only AFTER I've paid for the book...

Hear that, Chaos?


I think you'll have to get in line behind Pthom. :D I'm starting to feel more confident about this whole publishing thingie now. You guys are so awesome.

And thus ends the ChaosTitan Self-Promo Derail. ;)

NeuroFizz
11-30-2008, 06:32 PM
From an emotional depth POV, the waking-up opening brings a superficial kind of jump-start to a story. The reason Chaos' opening works is the "matter-of-fact" approach to the internal dialogue, which actually does give some immediate (and unusual) character depth. In my opinion, it's hard to dial in a very tight POV with a return-to-consciousness opening, and sometimes the use of several senses in such a short space appears to be forced (in both emotional and literary terms). I think the successful ones walk a fine line between a successful opening jolt or character-building insight and a gratuitious shock. The latter would be a deal-breaker to me (reshelved immediately). The examples given in earlier posts should be consulted to see just how that fine line was straddled because I suspect it is very easy to fall off the wrong side on this. Also, if it is used as a mere starting point with no real meat or story-related function, it becomes the worst kind of opening cliche.

Marian Perera
12-01-2008, 02:27 AM
Well, this is interesting.

I was thinking of the frequent advice not to start with a character waking up (or agent pet peeves that include stories that start with someone waking up), and I wondered how people did it and got away with it. There's a pattern to the stories which work, though. They all start with the character waking up, or going through morning ablutions, in an unusual way or with something out of the ordinary.

As katiemac said, the disapproval of this opening is probably because in too many stories, such an opening goes on to the character having breakfast, going to work, etc. If nothing out of the ordinary happens until later, why not start the story later?

Thanks for all the great examples, people!

Susan Breen
12-01-2008, 05:06 AM
Sorry, but I have to wave the anti-waking up banner. I critique stories for a (quasi) living, and I would bet that half the stories I get start with someone waking up. It's certainly possible to do it well, as the examples here show, but more often it's just a boring way to start a story. For what it's worth...

Marian Perera
12-01-2008, 01:29 PM
It's certainly possible to do it well, as the examples here show...

Yes, the examples here are all from published (or soon to be published) work, so they're much more likely to be interesting or gripping than many of the submissions in the slush pile.

Phaeal
12-01-2008, 06:35 PM
Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis, which begins with the whole city of Zenith waking up and segues into the rising of Babbitt himself, sturdy and prosaic, from habitual dreams of an imaginative force no one would have expected of him.

Darzian
12-01-2008, 08:16 PM
Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson:



PRINCE Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity. Still drowsy, Raoden sat up, blinking in the soft morning light. Just outside his open balcony windows he could see the enormous city of Elantris in the distance, its stark walls
casting a deep shadow over the smaller city of Kae, where Raoden lived. Elantris's walls were incredibly high, but Raoden could see the tops of black towers rising behind them, their broken spires a clue to the fallen majesty hidden within.

dgiharris
12-02-2008, 12:34 AM
INterestingly enough,

I can't think of any :)

I think mainly because if I read them while ruffling through the shelves, I end up putting them back. I dunno. I'll have to think on this.

Now that i think about it, I don't think I can really remember the beginnings of my favorite books :( They were just good enough to keep me turning pages.

Mel...

adtabb
12-02-2008, 02:04 AM
Even though I can't think of any right off, I like them - simply for the fact it gives me a chance to connect with the character, and know something about them before being thrown into the chaos that occurs shortly.

I have never understood the "start in the middle of the chaos" theory. How can the reader know which character to connect with and why? How can the reader know enough about the character to understand why this specific chaotic event matters to them? It works in sequels where the reader already knows the characters well, just not in regular writing.

Maybe that's the diffeence in the stories that work for most people - they actually have a chance to form that connection before they get lost in the story.

ChaosTitan
12-02-2008, 03:20 AM
Maybe that's the diffeence in the stories that work for most people - they actually have a chance to form that connection before they get lost in the story.

For me, the best stories do both. It isn't about dropping you into the middle of chaos in the first paragraph, it's about starting the story as late into the action as possible. Start when the story starts, don't start when the MC gets up the morning of the big event, hours before any chaos begins. And do it in a way that shows character and allows a connection to be created. Even if that connection is as simple as, "Oh my god, how's she going to get out of this situation?"