14 May 2012

Worst of the First

By Fran Rizer

Regular SS readers are aware that first lines fascinate me.  Today I'm sharing something that may be old news to you, but is new to me.

WRITERS' CONTEST

It's too late!! I am so sorry that the deadline shown at the top of the website for this year's Bulwer-Lytton Fiction
Contest is April 15, 2012, but I want to make you aware of this writers' competition so you can be preparing for next year's event.

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, sponsored by San Jose State University challenges writers to produce the worst possible first sentence for a novel. They've been doing this since 1983. The contest is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (pictured at left) who penned this famous first line in the novel Paul Clifford in 1830:

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 againsgt the darkness."

Have you ever noticed that sitting atop his doghouse, beginning his novel on that old typewriter, Snoopy never gives Bulwer-Lytton credit for those first seven words?








The 2011 winner was Sue Fondrie, Oshkosh, WI, with this entry:

Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.

ABOUT  KISSING

Molly Ringle, Seattle, WA, won in 2010 with this interesting comparison:

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.

ABOUT  FIRE

Going back to the first years of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, Steven Garman, Pensecola, Florida, won with this bit of ridiculousness in 1984:

The lovely woman-child Kaa was mercilessly chained to the cruel post of the warrior-chief Beast, with his barbarous tribe now stacking wood at her nubile feet, when the strong, clear voice of the poetic and heroic Handsomas roared, "Flick your Bic, crisp that chick, and you'll feel my steel through your last meal.

ABOUT GETTIN' LUCKY

In 1993, William W. "Buddy" Ocheltree, Port Townsend, WA, demonstrated his knowledge of ordinal numbers in this prize winner:

She wasn't really my type, a hard-looking but untalented reporter from the local cat box liner, but the first second that the third-rate representative of the fourth estate cracked open a new fifth of old Scotch, my sixth sense said seventh heaven was as close as an eighth note from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, so, nervous as a tenth grader drowning in eleventh-hour cramming for a physics exam, I swept her into my longing arms, and, humming "The Twelfth of Never," I got lucky on Friday the Thirteenth.

ABOUT SAND  VEINS

My last example, and favorite of these, was the 2004 winner, Dave Zobel, Manhattan Beach, California:

She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight--summarily like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tale--though the term "love affair" now struck her as a ridicuolous euphemism--not unlike "sand vein," which is, after all, an intestine, not a vein--and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand--and that brought her back to Ramon.

There are winners in a multitude of categories, but the ones I've quoted are grand prize recipients.
For more of the worst of the first as well as the rules, origin, prizes and an entertaining webpage which advertises itself as, "Where WWW means 'Wretched Writers Welcome,'" go to

 http://www/bulwer-lytton.com/

BTW, if you've read this to the bottom, you'll learn what I learned at the end of the home page regarding the 2012 deadline.
Directly quoted:

"The official deadline is April 15 (a date that Americans associate with painful submissions and making up bad stories.)  THE ACTUAL DEADLINE IS JUNE 30."

How about you? Got any horrible opening lines lurking in your brain?
Until we meet again, take care of . . .YOU!    









9 comments:

Fran Rizer said...

Does anybody know why some words are showing in red with double under-lining? They weren't when I previewed this.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Fran this is great. My first thought was: really bad writing! I can do that!

David Dean said...

Fran, I'm not seeing it on my end. I loved the article.

Terrie, sadly, I think I have.

Robert Lopresti said...

Fran, I don't see any words double underlined. Are you looking at the URL?

Herschel Cozine said...

I have a lot of terrible first lines. Unfortunately none of them are intentional.

I look to John to see that this gets posted. It seems I am persona non grata (or whatever Latin phrase) in this group thanks to a cantankerous webmaster.

Leigh Lundin said...

Maybe it's just me, but after a while I start to develop a fondness for the entries, sort of like feeling affection for the homeliest puppy.

Velma DiVine said...

Ahem, Herschel! It could be a cantankerous webmistress!

Fran Rizer said...

This morning there were several words underlined twice in red -- not the URL and not significant words. I'm working on a ghost story. Perhaps my ghost got into the computer. It would be wonderful if a SS writer or reader won this! Thanks for the comments. Now get busy writing!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I LOVE this contest; especially cuz I'm the the guy who won it in 1993 with "getting lucky"!!!!!!!!!