This is topic I think I have to break the rules in forum Open Discussions About Writing at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by wetwilly (Member # 1818) on :
Oh man. I've got a pretty rockin' idea for a story. I'm pretty stoked about it. BUT...I think it REQUIRES an opening in which MC wakes up (red flag!) and looks at self in mirror (gag me!). What's a brother to do? I guess just write the damn thing and see if the opener is fixable in revision.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Wakes up, looks in mirror to see physical appearance, reports the weather; what else widely deprecated can be pushed? Maybe viewpoint glitches, and other sundry from the Turkey City Lexicon, like Ontological Riffs, Dischisms, And stories, Abbesses phone homes, Shaggy Gods, and Jars of Tang, etc. Sounds like ripe, or jute rope noose, for metafictional satire commentary about writing rules and their contraventions. The tone, irony, so to speak, trumps the "rule."
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
I'd say write it first and worry about it later. It's easier to see if something needs revision once it's actually down on the page.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
An economics theory labeled Gresham's Law -- bad money forces out good money -- applies to creative writing "rules" that proscribe certain motifs; e.g, wake-up openings. Gresham meant that bad money is money with no collateral value and no faith in its basis. Good money entails both collateral value and good faith in its basis.

The "law" applies to ideas, too, in that common, well-worn ideas, motifs, techniques, etc., poorly executed, drive out masterfully executed ideas, etc.

For example, perhaps an otherwise well-executed wake-up opening scene submitted is declined on that basis alone.

However, the inverse, Thier's Law, states that bad money -- ideas, etc., too -- drives good money to a premium value. This then means that masterfully executed ideas, no matter how trite the basis, are valued at a premium.

Ergo, wake-up openings, etc., in order to pass muster, must evade the reasons they don't work and enhance the reasons they do work: freshness, originality, liveliness, vividness, and dynamic dramatic action and movement, which the latter entail Antagonism, Causation, and Tension movement.

Perhaps then, it could be obvious that a wake-up where the persona is by the self is a first consideration -- no point of contention, or antagonal clash, with another persona. Maybe the waker up contends with the setting, best practice due to an event other than waking up and becoming aware of the setting and its ACT influences. Plus, an in medias res, the complication-conflict and incitement and attitude features are already in progress.

A traditional courtship practice illustrates. An intended couple sleeps outwardly chastely in one bed, separated by a bundling board and each sewn into a bundling sack. The wake-up in the morning is to the leers and jeers of the host household's family. Jerome Stern labels such a segment a visitation shape. Obviously, the viewpoint agonist is the visitor, probably the male, who has the strongest complication-conflict and most conflicted emotional attitude. The lustful desire is the complication-motivation and easily taken as implied, though a more prurient take would put that more into the scene, on the stage, so to speak.

Yet what is the main conflict? Too easy and low key drama, if matrimony or not, acceptance and rejection, is the conflict. For a bridge conflict, that is enough for a start, albeit, with an implication more is abed than only that. In other words, foreshadowing implies higher stakes will unfold.

Complication: motivations, both want and problem Antagonism.
Conflict: stakes forces in diametric opposition Tension, a duality, too; e.g., life and death, riches and rags, acceptance and rejection, success and failure, ad infinitum.
Incitement: Causation through to a final, irrevocable, unequivocal outcome effect.

Plus tone: emotional-moral attitude toward a topic or subject.

In short, good ideas drive out bad ideas from an opening wake-up, etc. What, though, would savvy readers think about a wake-up start? If right at the outset enough contexture signals this submission might warrant further reading, includes a title, that is Thier's Law at its definitive pinnacle. Maybe the narrative warrants further consideration; maybe a reader will read further. That is the single goal: entice further reading despite a deprecated motif.

[ August 21, 2016, 03:04 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by wetwilly (Member # 1818) on :
So I just have to to write the good/different waking up opening. Challenge accepted.

Step 1, find somewhere other than a hospital room, bedroom, or laboratory to do it in. Even though the hospital or lab are the two locations that make the most sense, that doesn't mean they're the most interesting way to start a story. I'm going to try to spice it up more than that.

Step 2, figure out how to place this wake-up scene into a scene of antagonism/tension. No navel-gazing. Actually, a certain amount of navel-gazing is kind of required (hence the looking at self in mirror mention in first post), but maybe a strong voice/tone can help me get through that part.

Step 3, work a cool hook into the wake-up opening to pull the reader past it. That, I think I can do handily enough. The "cool sf idea" of the story can easily be placed up front.

What is the main conflict? I don't really know yet, to tell the truth. Still in development. At this point, I've got a super cool concept and the broad strokes of a plot, and that's it. I'm usually a "figure it out during the rough draft" type of writer.

So I just need enough good ideas to drive out the bad. Good way to look at it.
Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :
That rule is the most successfully broken writing rule.

Try a different way of waking or maybe a minute after your MC wakes. Confusion is cliche-ish too but get the reader in deep by using the five human senses to describe the setting, from their POV and getting deep into his inner mind
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Franz Kafka's popularly -- for its time -- and critically acclaimed novella The Metamorphosis opens with a wake-up segment, albeit viewpoint agonist Gregor Samsa realizes he transformed into a large, grotesque bug overnight.

The wake-up therein is symbolic of Samsa's congruent self-enlightenment rebirth -- figurative wake up -- and realization he stands as vermin to all and sundry. The narrative is a classic existential Modernism portrait, contains the essentialism of Modernism in its conventions: deeply personal self-enlightenment, Realism's reality imitation, and a tangible-intangible contest centered upon a self-identity crisis in an indifferently depersonalized Modernist society.

Exquisite, due to its irony, even if bleak and a navel-contemplation start as well. The narrative is, after all, about being "stuck in a bathtub" existence, the exemplar standout for the form's exception to its consensus deprecations of wake-ups, self-reflexive reflections, and self-descriptions. Plus, the narrative entails the self-awareness and challenges and questions of presupposed moral notions, without satisfaction, conventional to Postmodernism. Worth note, too, that a concrete fantastical motif is essential to the contest, to the plot, and the overall story movement.

The opening four paragraphs, more than thirteen lines. The text is in the public domain:

"One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off any moment. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly as he looked.

"'What's happened to me?' he thought. It wasn't a dream. His room, a proper human room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table - Samsa was a travelling salesman - and above it there hung a picture that he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame. It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff that covered the whole of her lower arm towards the viewer.

"Gregor then turned to look out the window at the dull weather. Drops of rain could be heard hitting the pane, which made him feel quite sad. 'How about if I sleep a little bit longer and forget all this nonsense', he thought, but that was something he was unable to do because he was used to sleeping on his right, and in his present state couldn't get into that position. However hard he threw himself onto his right, he always rolled back to where he was. He must have tried it a hundred times, shut his eyes so that he wouldn't have to look at the floundering legs, and only stopped when he began to feel a mild, dull pain there that he had never felt before.

'Oh, God', he thought, 'what a strenuous career it is that I've chosen! Travelling day in and day out. Doing business like this takes much more effort than doing your own business at home, and on top of that there's the curse of travelling, worries about making train connections, bad and irregular food, contact with different people all the time so that you can never get to know anyone or become friendly with them. It can all go to Hell!' He felt a slight itch up on his belly; pushed himself slowly up on his back towards the headboard so that he could lift his head better; found where the itch was, and saw that it was covered with lots of little white spots which he didn't know what to make of; and when he tried to feel the place with one of his legs he drew it quickly back because as soon as he touched it he was overcome by a cold shudder." (Kafka, The Metamorphosis, 1915, Project Gutenberg)

Though a victimism start of his own error, Samsa soon becomes proactive as much as he is able. Motivated by antagonal problems, his personal wants are interleavened; conflict stakes of acceptance and rejection unfold, tension from reflections of human existential emotional pity and fear and curiosity about what will happen to the bug; and an ironic satire tone's attitude; event, setting, and character development -- the start and overall narrative contain the essentials for sound, timely, relevant prose, even if somewhat outdated language and rhetorical method.

If the narrative has other shortfalls for present-day readers, foremost among them is the metafictional text asserts a moral law, not a transformative discoverable moral truth. Why the end and the whole are generally unsatisfying for present-day readers.

[ August 24, 2016, 03:02 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Reziac (Member # 9345) on :
Bah. Piker. I have ... well, not the beginning of the novel itself, but a major section of it that starts with the MC waking up four times in a row: briefly, unpleasantly, falls out of bed, oh crap. Serves better than anything else I could do to set up his present circumstances.

But he experiences it; the reader isn't told about it.

Waking up got a bad name because the novice approach is basically an extended "look at myself in the mirror". It has to DO something for the story, not just go "oh look, a character".
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Other wake-up opening shortfalls include, afterward, unknown setting exploration, everyday routine, non-dramatic events, unrelated action, little to no want or problem complication antagonism of a suitable magnitude, and monodimensional event, setting, and character development generally that entails little to no reader relate-able depths to interpret, for intellectual-imagination-emotional engagement purposes, nor symbolic representation.

People sleep and wake up once or so most every day of their lives -- the epitome of routine. The routine that's different, the day that's different, that's generalistically what any given dramatic story is about.

Routines are made for interruption, narratively anyway. The Jerome Stern shape, "Bear at the Door," illustrates and needs no further explication. The interruption is the start of the action, is the start of story movement altogether, is what a dramatic, artful wake-up is really about, and very much more than sleep routinely interrupted.

Like Samsa's wake-up routine interruption is he's now a bug, something dramatically different. Self-enlightenment he's a useless pest dawns on him is the true, dramatic, symbolic wake-up of his routine waking from routine sleep. Would any other circumstance work for Kafka's intent and meaning?

Unlikely. Unless a writer realizes milieu, from our host Orson Scott Card's M.I.C.E. quotient, as a similar symbolic self-enlightenment, born-again rebirth scenario. Through a liminal fantastic tech portal into another reality, setting, world, etc., carried by mysterious magic means into a new reality state of being, or even any circumstance in which a persona comes to newly born: new job, new school, new home, new family, new pastime, new acquaintance, new love interest, new puzzle, new thought, new whatever, ad infinitum.

However, if the only way an opening works is a wake-up, probably ninety-nine times out of a hundred, that's due to little to no consideration another approach possibly might work stronger and clearer.

How many writers since H.G. Wells' The Time Machine have used time travel for a causal and casual off-the-cuff motif. New time, so to speak, interrupts the now time traveler's routine. Otherwise, the motif in other hands has often been lackluster, a MacGuffin to set and keep a plot in motion, a sentimental melodrama motif, too, whose only function is plot movement.

Wells' use, a pre-psychohistory motif a la Isaac Asimov's later Foundation saga, speaks to the point, the message and moral of the story: those who don't know history are destined to repeat it to greater and greater tragic ends -- Wake UP, world! Alas, though, a metafictional philosophy novel; asserts a moral law, is not a personally discovered moral truth. Samsa at least discovers a personal moral truth at the outset that sets the whole in motion: he's a bug.

[ August 28, 2016, 01:55 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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