The English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest since 1982. It is a literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence for the worst possible novel. The following submissions are the ones I liked best from the years 2004 and 2022.
As the hot air balloon ascended into the calm morning air over his native Bavaria, Stefan’s nerves were on edge as he reached into his jacket pocket and fumbled for the little velvet box containing his grandmother’s wedding ring, cleared his throat, and dropped to one knee in front of his beloved Gwendolyn; meanwhile, our story begins on a cold, rainy day at a pig farm near Belgrade, Nebraska.
– Jeff Green, Celina, TX –
At least it was a creative way to be dumped, Ben mused to himself as he looked at the new location of his name on the updated seating chart for his wedding reception—the singles’ table.
– Izzy Maurer, Lincoln, UK –
Doris learned two things working at the Post Office — the first was that when Jake came in and asked her if she wanted to see a really big johnson, he didn’t mean he wanted her to go through The Special Limited Presidents stamp collection, and the second was that she didn’t need to head outside at the end of each shift with a bag of envelops and a trowel because it turned out the dead letters were not, in fact, actually dead.
– Susanne Antonetta, Bellingham, WA –
Farmer Brown knew the moment he read the ransom note – the tiny, dirty footprints, childish scrawl, and a spray of seed debris among the angry peckmarks marring the paper’s surface – that the chickens had kidnapped his beloved Bichon Friese Fifi, and that the only man who could help him, George “The Chicken Whisperer” Fitzpatrick, was sleeping off a killer hangover in the outdoor privy behind the pigpen.
– Debra Mann, Subbury, ON Canada –
Hans sipped from his bottle of German Bru-hoff beer and idly read the label:
“Bru-hoff, a heady-nosed Rhine beer
has a slightly briny pose,
and if you’ve ever drawn it,
you would like the way it flows,
but all of the other Rhine beers,
Dusen lagers, and thick ales,
they never beat our Bru-hoff
in the yearly Rhine beer games.”
– Roger J. McNichols’ Pearland, TX –
He heard a bang, well not really a bang but more of a crash with metallic overtones of platinum-encrusted steel alloys, hammering against unyielding iron and iridium plates; or maybe it was the clash of huge nickel-zinc rods hitting molybdenum fused sheets of tantalum, then he felt a stab of pain and heard another bang, and wished, instead of using his extensive metallurgy skills to try and analyze the sound, he would have run like hell when he first saw the gun pointed at him.
– Ken Loomes, Winnipeg, Manitoba –
Her breath came in short, urgent gasps as beads of sweat slowly coalesced and slipped hesitantly over her lightly-tanned skin, leaving glistening trails down a cleavage that was both feminine and primal while her wide eyes betrayed a mind still struggling to accept that her physical ordeal was over and that she had, in fact, caught the bus.
– Ben Connelly, Canberra, Australia –
It was a Dark ‘n Stormy night: Dark n’ Stormy cocktails were half-off at Tata’s, the breast-themed barbeque chicken restaurant.
– Ross Ozarka, Auckland, New Zealand –
It was a dark and stormy night – actually not all that dark, but more dusky or maybe cloudy, and to say “stormy” may be overstating things a bit, although the sidewalks were still wettish and smelled of ozone, and, truth be told, characterizing the time as night is a stretch as it was more in the late, late afternoon because I think Oprah was still on.
-Gregory Snider, MD, Lexington, KY –
It was hardtack and beans for the crouching cowboys in the lee of the chuck wagon that stormy night when the wind flared the fire and the light caught the trail boss’ leather-bound, barb-wire muscled face which might have said, were he not the quiet sort, “Cookie, we should have had more salads.”
– Barry McAtee, Austin, TX –
Prior to his CNN career, Wolf Blitzer slummed the gossip magazines, once inquiring of Hugh Grant’s then-wife, Liz Hurley, why he had never been in a film with Virginia Madsen, to which she replied, “Hugh’s afraid of Virginia, Wolf.”
– Peter Bjorkman, Rocklin, CA –
The day dawned much like any other day, except that the date was different.
– Geoff Blackwell, Bundaberg , Queensland Australia –
The Director of Child Protective Services was aghast, and needed clarification, “Let me get this straight — You were rocking your baby on the tree top, and when the wind blew, the cradle rocked and the bough broke, the cradle fell, and down came baby, cradle and all?”
– John Tracy, Palm Desert, CA –
To her dismay, Julia found that her right hand seemed to be pulling her into an increasingly horizontal position; first her wrist and forearm, then her upper arm and shoulder, until her cheek lay on her shoulder, leaving her to surmise that the handrail of the airport’s moving sidewalk progressed at a more rapid pace than the sidewalk itself.
– Ann Harper, Phoenix AZ –
While scrolling through the online catalog of the Acme website trying to decide if he should order rocket roller skates, TNT, and an anvil, or—Fool-Me-Twice fake tunnel paint, the Coyote suddenly realized, ‘Hey, I could just order food.’
– Rusty Hamilton, Candby, OR –
For more ‘Best of Bulwer-Lytton Quotations’, click on the Bulwer-Lytton tag in the Posted In box below.