Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Need a laugh?

You have to check these out. They're the 2009 winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

For those of you who don't know, Edward Bulwer-Lytton had a way with words. He coined the phrases "the pen is mightier than the sword" and "the great unwashed". He wrote The Last Days of Pompeii.*

He is probably most famous, though, for the first line in his novel, Paul 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.

Now isn't that proof that you can't win them all? You might write lines that linger in culture and novels that are still in libraries. Snoopy might plagiarize you!

And ... you might also write a first line so heinous that it spawns a contest where folks try to write equally heinous first lines.

First lines you should go read. Here. Now. And don't forget the grand prize winners from the past twenty-six years.

If you're feeling particularly cheerful, please come back and paste your favorite first line in the comments section.

*Facts lifted shamelessly from Wikipedia.)


Michelle said...

Wouldn't the Slushies just tear apart that first line? :) Thanks for sharing it!

Sarah said...

The dark and stormy night part is iconic- and the first line of A Wrinkly in Time. But the second part is ... wow. I think the parenthesis are my favorite part.

Here is one of my favorite first lines from the 2009 winners:

A quest is not to be undertaken lightly--or at all!--pondered Hlothgar, Thrag of the Western Boglands, son of Glothar, nephew of Garthol, known far and wide as Skull Dunker, as he wielded his chesty stallion Hralgoth through the ever-darkening Thlargwood, beyond which, if he survived its horrors and if Hroglath the royal spittle reader spoke true, his destiny awaited--all this though his years numbered but fourteen.

Way to use a dizzying number of proper nouns while incorportating 'spittle reader' into a mere 67 words. I am impressed.

Sarah said...

Wrinkle in Time, not Wrinkly.

Oh, this does not bode well for the day...

Becky Mushko said...

As 2008 winner of the "Vile Pun" category and 1996 winner of the "worst Western" category, I look forward to each year's Bulwer-Lytton winners. Every year the writing gets better—or is that worse? Yeah, worse is better. Or something.

Michelle said...

Sarah, I can just hear Steph saying there are too many characters too soon! "Who are all these people?"

Becky, I guess it's a case of you have to know the rules before you break them!

Sarah said...

We're in the presence of a master wordsmith!!!

Becky, I found your entries, and I'm posting them here. (And I remembered your Vile Pun from last year!!!)

2008 Vile Pun:
Vowing revenge on his English teacher for making him memorize Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality," Warren decided to pour sugar in her gas tank, but he inadvertently grabbed a sugar substitute so it was actually Splenda in the gas.

And the 1996 Worst Western:
Following the unfortunate bucking of his horse when it was startled by the posse's shots, Tex--who now lay in a disheveled heap in the sagebrush--pushed back his sweat-stained Stetson from one deep-set eye, spat a stream of tobacco juice at the nearest cactus, and reflected momentarily that the men approaching him with ropes probably weren't just out for a skip, and--if they were--his freshly broken ankle would have to cause him to decline any entreaties to join them.

KM said...

I love this contest!! It's like the Razzie's of writing. :)

Sarah said...

The Razzies of writing ... I love it! (Although I doubt any Razzie winners set out to win the award.)