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 2001.
As he saw her step lightly down from the stagecoach, Deputy Slim Pickens reckoned that Luella Mae Bumtugger, the new schoolmarm, was ’bout as fine as frog hair; tapered legs smooth as a salamander and skinny as a newborn colt; brown eyes dark and deep as a barn owl in the shadows of midnight; and a bosom that heaved up through the low cut blouse like two hairless prairie dogs trying to back out of the same hole.
– Randy Groom, Visalia, CA –
A small assortment of astonishingly loud brass instruments raced each other lustily to the respective ends of their distinct musical choices as the gates flew open to release a torrent of tawny fur comprised of angry yapping bullets that nipped at Desdemona’s ankles, causing her to reflect once again (as blood filled her sneakers and she fought her way through the panicking crowd) that the annual Running of the Pomeranians in Liechtenstein was a stupid idea.
– Sera Kirk, Vancouver, British Columbia –
Dr. Doolittle’s visage darkened as he dissected the diseased duodenum of the deceased male sheep, declaring that the malady was critically contagious and that it was our patriotic duty to guard the severed specimens from possible biological terrorists, so all through the night o’er the ram parts we watched.
– Glenn Wasson, San Andreas, CA –
It’s hard to believe that Lucy and I are actually getting married, considering the fact that her multi-millionaire father owns the local NFL franchise, and I’m just a lowly, underpaid member of the grounds crew, relegated to painting the team logo on the field, which is actually a fairly difficult job, what with all the little flairs, curlicues and swooshes I have to deal with, not to mention the texture of the turf itself, relative humidity and all the foot traffic that it gets . . . but I dye grass.
– Wm. W. “Buddy” Ocheltree, Lilburn, GA –
It was a dark and stormy night when Leviathan-sized waves pitched Malcom overboard from the small schooner and he found himself clinging to a cider barrel in the tempest-tossed sea, to be borne thereon to a barren atoll leagues off the main shipping lanes, a sandy dot in the ocean whose only life was a leafy shrub with a pulpy substance inside its stems, which, with the contents of the life-saving barrel, long since gone sour, provided Malcom’s sustenance for the next months until a search party discovered him, not emaciated and sere as one would expect but literally full of pith and vinegar.
– Jack Eilar, Ionia, MI –
It was a dark and stormy night as Jacque the baker slogged through the black cheerless alleyways of Avignon, the cold Provencal rain soaking him to the bone, increasing his fury at having chosen the life of a breadmaker, for the early hours truly went against his grain and it chaffed him that he trudged to work in wee hours of the morning while the rest of the world loafed in bed; what more proof did he need of his misery, why did he bother, surely it was not for the dough, exasperating as the rise and fall of the boulangerie’s business might be, and suddenly he knew with conviction that he was, after all, just a gluten for punishment.
– James Bardsley, Skillman, NJ –
Kirk’s mind raced as he quickly assessed his situation: the shields were down, the warp drive and impulse engines were dead, life support was failing fast, and the Enterprise was plummeting out of control toward the surface of Epsilon VI and, as Scotty and Spock searched frantically through the manuals trying to find a way to save them all, Kirk vowed, as he stared at the solid blue image filling the main view screen, that never again would he allow a Microsoft operating system to control his ship.
– Mike Rottmann, Reno, Nevada –
Staring precociously at the white foam that surrounded his bulbous white flesh, Norman could not help but wonder why he had let himself be cajoled into this discerning nightly ritual but of course bath night was something that the three-year-old could not avoid.
– Marcos Marcou, Larnaca, Cyprus –
The graphic crime-scene photo that stared up at Homicide Inspector Chuck Venturi from the center of his desk was not a pretty picture, though it could have been, Chuck mused, had it only been shot in soft focus with a shutter speed of 1/125 second at f 5.6 or so.
– Ms. Rephah Berg, Oakland, CA –
When the mightily-hewn warrior-hero Glark One-Ear, fed up with paying the tribute demanded by the despotic wizard Jormed-the-Doubly-Soulless, set out to single-handedly unite the warring barbarian tribes of Verfot and lead them in bloodily overthrowing the evil mage’s tyranny, he envisioned a progressive tax system based upon income brackets, yet allowing deductions for business expenses, dependents, and charitable donations.
– Nicolas Juzda, Toronto, Ontario –
While they listened to the dulcet strains of Wayne Newton, quaffed champagne, cuddled in the hot tub as bubbles nibbled at their shoulders like a peckish Pomeranian, Tiffany and Shane grew lethargic and groggy; and as Shane drew a final, sweet drag from his cigarette, an errant breeze hijacked an ember-only to release it into the slumbering Tiffany’s mane; but Shane, besotted and inherently doltish, could muster no plan of rescue until he heard Wayne Newton intone, “Dunk her, Shane.”
– Susan Blevins, Port Angeles, WA –
With echoes of “fee, fi, fo, fum” still hurtling about the cavernous dining chamber, the giant, breath reeking of l’orange, narrowed his crimson-rimmed eyes till they appeared as slits carved haphazardly into his beefy, liver spot-sprinkled visage; set his prey back upon the floor; drummed his bulging, sausage-like fingers against his substantial belt; and signaled to the small boy that he was free to leave, at which point Jack, scurrying toward the towering open door before them, realized he’d learned the lesson of a lifetime: sometimes there were advantages to being Canadian.
– Julie Stangeland, Seal Beach, CA –
Previous Bulwer-Lytton First Sentences
- Bulwer-Lytton Quotations #1 (2017-2020)
- Bulwer-Lytton Quotations #2 (2011-2016)
- Bulwer-Lytton Quotations #3 (2008-2010)
- Bulwer-Lytton Quotations #4 (2006, 2007, 2021)
- Bulwer-Lytton Quotations #5 (2004, 2022)
- Bulwer-Lytton Quotations #6 (2002, 2003)
I’m looking forward to seeing the opening sentence of your worst possible novel!
3 thoughts on “Bulwer-Lytton Quotations #7 (2001)”
As an expert on bad writing I am so impressed with these. You can’t go wrong if you start with a dark and stormy night!
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These were all great but I literally laughed out loud at, “…two hairless prairie dogs backing out of the same hole.”
I think my next Art Vegan, Private Eye story may start out, “It was a dark and stormy night when Art Vegan sat in his van watching the blackmailer’s house, fully aware that this two-bit crook, who used a black magic marker to color his manila envelopes because he was too cheap to pay extra for the real black ones, would have to leave his house sooner or later.” or something very similar. I have a couple of other things to do and I like to develop the shaggy dog nature of Art’s stories so you may not see it right away, though.
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I knew an LOL was inevitable here, and it came with “Dunk her, Shane”. Love it!
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