Previously, our intrepid warriors of the pen have dissected some brilliant openings of recent novels.
For my blog post I’ve chosen a classic adventure story, The Call of the Wild, by Jack London. His tale of adventures in the “Northland” of the gold rush was published in 1903.
Why would I choose such an old tale when everyone else has written of modern novels?
Because The Call of the Wild by Jack London changed my life.
It was this book, maybe even this very opening, that made my heart catch with excited fear for the protagonist.
Who, if you haven’t read this book, is a dog named Buck.
When you’re ten years old, excited fear and anticipation grab you and don’t let go until the very end.
I believe great openings need to incite immediate emotional responses and raise questions that keep the reader turning pages.
And so here is why Jack London got me dreaming of writing my own adventurous, romantic tales. (It’s no surprise to me that the very first story I chose to write was set in Alaska…no fear, though, it’ll never see the light of day.)
Put your adult heart on hold, people…and read this like a child:
Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost.
Wow. Do you feel it? The grip of fear for this dog and every dog that’s strong of muscle and warmly coated? Do you see that these men will NOT CARE for these dogs they use to toil in the frost? Can you see that once Buck is in that mess of thousands of men, he will never return, because how can a dog navigate steamship and transportation companies?
Not many writers start their books with such long sentences today. But even the sentence length adds to the gripping tension because it’s hard to breathe when there’s little punctuation to allow for a breath. Not only did London grab me by the heart, he grabbed me physically with the lack of room to breathe.
That breathlessness continued through the exciting tale that launched me into my dreams of storytelling. The sheer romanticism of adventure overwhelmed and I could do nothing to control my greediness for more except to keep reading more and more.
Jack London made me a reading addict.
And a writer.