June 30, 2009

Beautifully Bad Writing

"Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor'east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the "Ellie May," a sturdy whaler captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests."

David McKenzie of Federal Way, WA won the grand prize in San Jose State University's annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with that awful opening to an imaginary novel.

My personal favorite is from Eric Rice of Sun Prairie, WI, the winner in the “detective” category:

"She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you see in Florida the pink ones, not the white ones except that she was standing on both of them, not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn't wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren't."

The contest is named after Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, the author of the 1830 novel
Paul Clifford. It begins with the now-famous phrase, "It was a dark and stormy night..." But please enjoy the entire opening sentence to a novel many consider one of the worst ever written:

"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."


rox said...

I thank god for people like this. Makes my blog entries seem almost sensible. :o)

Java said...

LOL! I love it! I haven't heard about this contest in a few years. I am familiar with it, but it's been quite a while since the awards have been on my radar. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

HA!! How funny! How about "the night was sultry..." from "Throw Mama From the Train"... that movie had some bad writing! Or maybe just a bad writer? ;)

Greg said...

I always thought Snoopy made the best use of that opening line.