Showing posts with label Bulwer-Lytton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bulwer-Lytton. Show all posts

30 September 2013

First of All


First lines are always interesting, and several SSers have written about them.  Last year, I shared the 2012 winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest in this blog, and here I am again, this time with some of the winners for 2013.

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest was started in 1982 by Professor Scott E. Rice of the English Department at San Jose State University.  The contest is named for English novelist and playwright Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who penned the immortal first line of the 1830 novel Paul Clifford
which was probably the inspiration for Elmore Leonard's rule not to begin a novel with the weather.

In case you haven't had your first cup of coffee yet and don't remember it, that opening line reads:

     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.
                                              Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

The first year of the contest, it received three entries.  One year later, after much publicity, there were more than 10,000 entries. Now there are numerous categories, the admissions are astronomical, and in addition to winners there are Dishonorable

Here are a few of the 2013 winners:

Grand Prize Winner 
Okay, this picture isn't exactly what
the sentence describes, but Lady
GaGa's meat dress was my first thought.

    She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination.
                   Chris Wieloch, Brookfield, WI

Crime Category Winner

   It was such a beautiful night; the bright moonlight

   illuminated the sky, the thick clouds floated leisurely by 
   just above the silhouette of tall, majestic trees, and I was 
   viewing it all from the front row seat of the bullet hole
   in my car trunk.
                                          Tonya Lavel, Barbados, West Indies

Crime Runner Up
I do believe this is the first time SS
has had a plumbing fixture

   Seeing Mrs. Kohler sink, Detective Moen flushed as he plugged the burglary as the unmistakable work of Cap Fawcet, the Mad Plumber, for not only had her pool of
assets been drained, but her clogs were now missing, and the toilet had been removed, leaving them with absolutely
nothing to go on.
               Eric J. Hildeman, Greenfield, WI

Crime Dishonorable Mention

   Observing how the corpse's blood streaked the melting 

   vanilla ice cream, Frank wanted to snap his pen in 
   half and add drops of blue ink to the mix, completing
   the color trio of the American flag--or the French flag,
   given that the body had just fallen from the top of the
   Las Vegas Eiffel Tower onto a creme glacee cart.
                                    Alanna Smith, Wappingers Falls, NY

Vile Puns Runner-Up

   Niles deeply regretted bringing his own equipment to

   the company's annual croquet tournament because those
   were his fingerprints found on the "blunt instrument"
   that had caused the fatal depression in his boss's skull
   and now here he stood in court accused of murder, yes,
   murder in the first degree with mallets aforethought.
                                                   Linda Boatright, Omaha, NE
For more of these, a lot more including Detective Fiction, Romance Novels, Western Novels, and Purple Prose, go to 

The opening line of my most recent Callie adventure, Mother Hubbard Has A CORPSE IN THE CUPBOARD, is: 

James Brown burst from my bra just as I took a sip of Coors from my red Solo cup– the kind Toby Keith likes to sing about.  

I'll save the first sentence for my October, 2013, release, CORPSE UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE until it's out.

What about you?  Care to share some first lines? Your own or your favorites for Honorable Mention or Dishonorable Mention?

WARNING:  The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest intrigues me. I'll share the 2014 winners with you next year.  Meanwhile, I may try writing some intentionally horrendous first lines.  Let's just hope I have enough sense to recognize them, enter them in the contest, and don't use one for the horror novel I'm finishing now.

Until we meet again, take care of… you!

14 May 2012

Worst of the First

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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!