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Home » Archives » October 2007 » Waking Up Familiar
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10/15/2007: Waking Up Familiar

Remember this excellent piece by E. E. Knight on writing blunders? I've been thinking a lot about them, especially the one about not starting your narrative with the character waking up in the morning. This particular prohibition is spot on and I think there's something really interesting to be learned from it.

Keep an eye out for the waking-up opening, and you'll start to see it everywhere in movies and stories. I googled, "the story opens with," and "waking up," and found, among other entries:

"The story opens with Engineer Jack waking up..."
"The story opens with a girl waking up..."
"The story opens with Kelly waking up..."
"The story opens with Robin waking up..."
"The story opens with Will Barrent waking up..."

Yup, everyone loves it!

Here's why. It's good. Waking up provides a natural starting place, and it allows you to establish a character's ordinary life and the ordinary status of their world before the inciting incident takes place.

So why avoid it? Because everyone loves it. It's just become so familiar now, and it's so easy that it shows a lack of effort and imagination. In pitching a pilot this very season, I had to take a few extra minutes to find a better opening to the story, because my brain went right away to that waking up/morning routine. The opening I found? Much better. Anything that makes you think, tends to make you write better, and the main sin of the waking-up opening is that you can write it without thinking.

Lunch: pork loin, havarti cheese tart, mashed potatoes


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