Terrible novel writing doesn’t come that easily and the winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for the worst opening line to an imaginary novel prove this. Sue Fondrie, who walked away with the 2011 Grand Prize for the worst opener is a university professor, so it goes to show what you can do with a good education!
This is what she wrote: “Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.”
At just 26 words, this is the shortest winner in contest history, proving that bad writing need not be verbose or wordy. Unlike Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a Victorian novelist, the professor’s choice words will probably not linger in common usage like Bulwer-Lytton’s oft quoted opening words; “It was a dark and stormy night.” Unfortunately he didn’t leave it there and went on, “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.” No wonder they named the competition after him!
Winner of the crime section, Mark Wisnewski, was also too generous with his words and a rather awful pun; “Wearily approaching the murder scene of Jeannie and Quentin Rose and needing to determine if this was the handiwork of the Scented Strangler – who had a twisted affinity for spraying his victims with his signature raspberry cologne – or that of a copycat, burnt-out insomniac detective Sonny Kirkland was sure of one thing: he’d have to stop and smell the Roses.”
It gets worse. This is Mike Pedersen’s winning intro in the Purple Prose category; “As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue.”
Finally, this little gem from Patty Liverance got a well-deserved Dishonourable Mention; “Like a bird gliding over the surface of a Wyoming river rippled by a gentle spring breeze, his hand passed over her stretch marks.”