Since 1982 the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
, a competition that challenges entrants to compose the worst opening sentence to a novel. The contest was originated by Professor Scott Rice. The contest is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who in 1830 wrote the following opening line to the novel "Edward Clifford": "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."
Each entry must consist of a single sentence but entrants may submit as many entries as you wish. Sentences may be of any length but it is recommended that entries not go beyond 50 or 60 words.
Following are six of the winning entrants from 2014 in various genres. (Unfortunately each is too long to include in the LJ poll creater and therefore the choices in the actual poll are represented by a number.) Suppose that these were the six contest finalists and you were a member of the selection panel. Which of these choices would win your version of the Bulwer-Lytton Prize?Choice One
When the dead moose floated into view the famished crew cheered – this had to mean land! – but Captain Walgrove, flinty-eyed and clear headed thanks to the starvation cleanse in progress, gave fateful orders to remain on the original course and await the appearance of a second and confirming moose.Choice Two
Hard-boiled private dick Harrison Bogart couldn’t tell if it was the third big glass of cheap whiskey he’d just finished, or the way the rain-moistened blouse clung so tightly to the perfect figure of the dame who just appeared panting in his office doorway, but he was certain of one thing … he had the hottest mother-in-law in the world.Choice Three
He was a stolid man, prone to excessive and extended bursts of emotionlessness; but when Maurice loved, he loved with the passion of a dog itching its face against the grain of a firm pile carpet.Choice Four
His ex-wife’s personality was like chocolate – not the smoky, tangy, exquisitely rich and full-bodied type, but the over-sweet, tooth-cracking, factory-processed, made-with-vegetable-oil kind that leaves one with diabetes and an aneurysm the size of a grape.Choice Five
It seemed fair to say that her werewolfism was putting a strain on their relationship, the way she had earned the ire of the neighbors by devouring their pets and howling far past the bedtimes of their children, but bring it up to her, and she’d just snarl, “Why do you keep harping on this?” around a mouthful of the Smiths’ cat.Choice Six
My name is Caroline and if you’re reading this I’m either dead or I’ve gotten lost in some alternate dimension where Liverpool has exploded and been replaced with a fancy water park … though it’s probably the first one.