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Contest Celebrates Awesomely Bad Writing

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is an annual contest where writers submit an awesomely bad first sentence to an imaginary novel. The 2010 winner is Molly Ringle of Seattle, Washington. She is the author of one published and two soon-to-be-published novels. Here is her winning entry:

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.

Comparing a lovers’ kiss to thirsty gerbils… that’s a slam-dunk entry, right? I’m laughing and wincing at the same time. When I first came across this news item, I thought this was actual first line of a book. I missed that part that said this is from an imaginary novel, and the whole point of the contest is to craft the worst opening possible.

It’s named after Edward George Bulwer-Lytton who famously wrote, “It was a dark and stormy night…” You can read all the winning entries at the Bulwer-Lytton website [2], but I thought I’d share a few of my favorites:


Through the verdant plains of North Umbria walked Waylon Ogglethorpe and, as he walked, the clouds whispered his name, the birds of the air sang his praises, and the beasts of the fields from smallest to greatest said, “There goes the most noble among men” — in other words, a typical stroll for a schizophrenic ventriloquist with delusions of grandeur.
Tom Wallace
Columbia, SC

Winner: Vile Puns

It was a risky production unlike any mounted prior on the Met stage, the orchestra first imitating the perpetually beating heart of a man walled-in while in pursuit of wine, and then a soprano singing the plaintive aria of a barely alive woman stuffed up a chimney as her ancestral home was destroyed; however, it certainly was Opera Poe.
Amy Torchinsky
Greensboro NC