Thursday, August 14, 2008

It was a Dark and Stormy Night...

The 2008 results are in, and they're fantastic!

No, I'm not talking about the Olympics, but the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, in which writers submit the worst possible opening sentences for imaginary novels. The contest is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel “Paul Clifford,” begins, “It was a dark and stormy night". [1] Apparently, the man left more than just this melodramatic introduction as his legacy, but I'm not sure "The pen is mightier than the sword" really makes up for this monstrosity:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents - except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. [2]

Blech. Anyway, here was the winning entry for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest:

Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped "Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J."

Not bad, right? (By that, I mean it's not bad because it's horrible.)

Anyway, it's kind of fun to try to write badly. It's reassuring to know there's at least one person out there who writes worse than you do, even if it's you. If you're curious, here's my idea of the perfect beginning to a bad book:

Naked and still exhausted, Sam Reed laid on his back in his bed staring at the ceiling and considered the irony that as a firefighter, his life was on the line—daily—and yet he’d nearly been taken out by a cold.

Zing! I didn't even write it! That's the beginning from Flash Storm by Jill Shalvis (cover pictured left. Those things crack me up) [3] Really, though, the joke's on me, because I had to sort through a number of those Harlequin intros to find the perfect one.

Here's the website if you'd like to check out other "winners" and "dishonorable mentions" for the contest this year:

Works Cited:

[1] Bloom, Julie. "Bad Writing, Inspired By New York." The New York Times.

[2] "It was a dark and stormy night."

[3] Shalvis, Jill. Flash Storm. Accessed at


Chatty Cathy said...

Maybe you could post something from those well known classics- "Viking Passion" or "Royal Raputure."

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

I considered it, but I wanted to broaden my horizons as far the "classics" go.

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