First Line of a Novel – The One Man

“The barking of the dogs was closing in on them, not far behind now.” That’s the first line of chapter one of the historical thriller, The One Man, by Andrew Gross.

Setting

I’m reading The One Man now and I can hardly put it down. Set in Poland in 1944, one knows that being chased by dogs probably has something to do with the Nazis.

Prologue

The book’s prologue is in the present time but ends with a war time memory of a patient in a Veterans Administration hospital. Two men “running for their lives. . .” That prepares the reader for the first line in chapter one.

Word choice

In addition to being a great “hook” for the book, the first line in chapter one is interesting for word choice. If I had written it, I probably would have said something like, “The barking dogs were closing in on them” or even a mundane line like, “They were being chased by dogs.” (That is, if I’d known enough about the craft of writing to drop the reader into the middle of the action.)

I prefer the way Andrew Gross constructed the sentence over the way I might have written it. Mr. Gross has the sound of barking dogs closing in on the runners instead of the dogs closing in.

Am I “splitting hairs” here? Perhaps. But when I read the opening line as a person who is trying to learn the craft of writing, I find that the sounds of the approaching barking dogs is a richer way to pull me into the story. The runners haven’t necessarily seen the dogs but they are, no doubt, terrified by the sounds of the barking dogs. I found it to be an interesting way to describe what was scaring the runners. And doesn’t that sentence make you want to keep reading?

Any thoughts? Please share on social media by using the icons below.

Until my next blog post in a few days, I hope you have a good book to read and, if you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet

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