Waking Up Just Got Interesting
I’m sure you’ve heard this ‘rule’ of storytelling…never start with a character waking up.
Because it’s BORING.
Yet, The Hunger Games started quite successfully with the main character waking up. So did the psychological thriller novel ‘While you were sleeping.’
So are there interesting ways for a character to wake up? The answer is a surprising ‘yes.’
Why Waking Up Gets A Bad Rap
The reason all the gurus say never to start a story with someone waking up is because far too often, a writer does it like this. The character wakes up in her own bed surrounded by her things in her own room. She throws off the covers heads to the bathroom where she stares and in a mirror admires her reflection, and ponders…well you get the idea.
I’m bored just writing this.
Here are some ways to make it better:
The Person Wakes Up In A Strange Place
When you’re asleep, you have no idea what’s happening in the world around you. So waking up anywhere you didn’t fall asleep is naturally scary. This can be because of drug or alcohol related problems, or getting kidnapped.
While You Were Sleeping (Novel, Kathryn Croft)
Tara wakes up in a bedroom she doesn’t recognize and realizes there is a man laying next her. Even worse, the man in the bed is dead in a pool of his own blood.
A Person Wakes Up Where They Don’t Belong
The difference between this one and the previous one is that in this one, the character purposely wakes up somewhere they aren’t supposed to be…and now they realize the full magnitude of that decision.
‘Sleep Tight’ (Spanish Movie)
Cesar wakes up lying next to a woman. (Clara) and heads out into the hallway. It seems normal (and boring) enough until the little neighbor child asks if Clara knew he was sleeping with her in the same bed. (FIY, Clara has no idea he was in her apartment.)
A Person Is Forced Awake
That strange grogginess that refuses to leave us when we are jerked out of sleep is the perfect way to introduce us to a dire situation. (such as a fire.)
Welcome Home (Upcoming Novel, Devlin Blake)
Seby is forced awake by his housemate, Isaac and is informed that there are strangers in the house. Live strangers. As a ghost, Seby doesn’t like being woken up and he likes living people even less.
The Person Wakes And Realizes Something Is Wrong
This character wakes to have all the comfort and security of home around them, only to realize something is very wrong.
Hunger Games (Novel, Suzanne Collins)
Katniss wakes up and realizes today’s not like yesterday or any of the other days. Dread settles inside her as she realizes today is the day of the Reaping.
Rules are there for a reason; the main one is…don’t be boring. However, if you can figure out a way to make waking up interesting, then go ahead and put that in your story.