Thursday, September 29, 2011

Horrible Beginnings

Have you heard about the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest? It's held in honor of Edward Greorge Bulwer-Lytton author of the infamous first line: It was a dark and story night.

Here's the whole thing in it's awful glory.
"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."

--Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)
This contest invites writers to do their worst and write horribly bad beginnings. They're allowed one sentence. And boy are there some, ahem, winners.

My friend Angela and I spent a riotous half-hour coming up with something...wrong. At least we tried. Then our line became a few. And the few gave birth to snort-educing laughter, well on my part at least--Angela did not snort because she is way too cool to snort. Just saying.

So, without further ado, here is our horrible beginning:

Bernard pushed open the men’s bathroom door and was surprised to find a female leaning over the toilet, elbow deep in the water. She pulled her arm out to lift the strap of her denim overalls back onto her shoulder.

“Hey baby,” Bernard said, “if you were a booger, I’d pick you.”

The brunette pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose, leaving a brown smear and smiled back, revealing a hole where her front teeth should have been. She dropped the pipe wrench into her bag and replaced the plunger at the side of the toilet. The scent of her rose to meet his nostrils like the green stench of a toddler’s morning diaper. She wiped her dripping hand across the front of her flannel shirt, smudging the name on her badge: Anita P. Oop.

She winked. “Not if I picked you first.”

Now, this isn't for the contest, it's for fun...and maybe for a writing class my friend is taking, but wow, was it a blast to write. The most interesting thing for me was I kept automatically editing it, you know, trimming out excess adverbs and adjectives and stuff like that. I had to remind myself to let them stay. It was supposed to be bad.

I can't tell you how happy that made me. Why? Because I don't think I would have done that a year or two ago. I wouldn't have realized it was bad. Kaching!

Maybe we need to write something bad on purpose to realize that we are all making progress. So, go out and write your own horrible beginning and post it in the comments. I can't wait to snort some more. He he he.


acitte said...

Ha! I love it!

Crystal Collier said...

Dare to write crap eh? (Literally in this case.) Man, I miss the days of freely penning whatever came to mind. Kudos for resisting the urge to edit. It's inspiring.

Nikki Mantyla said...

The worst for me is the vomit-inducing, cliched overwroughtness of beautiful-people romance, where every description invokes the word "angelic" or "godlike." But how fun to give it a go!

She tossed her long gold ringlets over her shoulder, satiny pink lips pressing into a perfect pout, right before a gorgeous rosy blush spread across her well-formed cheekbones; a tall handsome man, his athletic build filling out the black shirt he wore, was smirking at her.

Ooh, you're right! I totally wanted to edit as I went. My fingers hesitated over every cliche. Haha! Thanks for the quick fun exercise.

Nikki Mantyla said...

Oh, I should have used the word "sculpted"! Seriously, what good is it to mock high romance without using the word "sculpted"?

Funny how I've now flipped to wanting to edit toward WORSE cliches. Haha. Maybe this was a dangerous exercise. ;)

Rebecca J. Carlson said...

This reminds me of a writing game we played in one of my critique groups called "Ten Bad Cliches on Page One." Most of us managed more than ten.

So here's the first sentence of the worst fantasy novel ever.

T'nagellywth used the horn of her battle-axe to rake her blood-slimed hair back from her eyes and glared out over the fuming volcanic wastes of Berangaroth- now hers, all hers - as the monstrous scaly beast at her feet breathed its last choking death-rattle.

Jonene Ficklin said...

Oh, I'm hanging onto my aching sides. That was awesome!!

Thanks for the great challenge. I can't come close to that, but here's my offering:

Alfred groaned as he gripped his walker, hoping his knees wouldn’t give out as he pushed to his feet. His scuffed loafers pressed into the carpet as his huge bulk balanced over his skinny legs.

Once he stopped wobbling, he looked at his target. Over on the sofa, surrounded by the clucking old biddies of the nursing home, she stood out like a breath of fresh air. She was a fine filly of a woman, probably not a day over seventy. He liked them young. Both of his previous wives had been at least twenty years younger, but alas, they’d both died. Time for a new bride.

Alfred twisted the dial on his hearing aid, hoping to hear the name. He blinked through his ultra thick bifocals. He liked to guess. Hm. Dyed blue hair. Hefty figure. Prominent nose. Argyle dress. Maybe Joyce, or Shirley, or Bonnie. Yee doggies!

He grinned, sucking his slipping dentures back on, and urged his walker forward an inch. His muscles burned, but oh, how he loved the surge of energy the promise of new romance brought. If he kept up this pace, he just might reach her before lunch.

Rebecca J. Carlson said...

Jonene, that was a riot! Hey, Leisha, how do we enter this contest?

LeishaMaw said...

Angella, you totally rock!

Crystal, ha ha! Literally indeed.

Nikki, boy do I hear you! Loved your sentence, but it does need a sculpted or two...or three. He he he

Rebecca, ha! Love the names. So laughing right now. You guys all rock!

Jonene, yee doggies? So awesome. LoL.

Rebecca, I just googled the contest and read through the 2011 winners at

It didn't say anything about next year's contest, but it would be a blast to enter. The winner gets a pittance--$250 big ones. We should do it. :)

Cherie said...

oh my.


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