Meet the Winner of This Year’s Bad Fiction Award


Each year the English department at San Jose State University sponsors the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a writing competition which pays homage to Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the man responsible for one of the hackiest opening lines in literature: “It was a dark and stormy night.” The idea is to create an awful opening line for a fake work of fiction.

This year’s overall winner was University of Wisconsin Oshkosh professor Sue Fondrie, who submitted the following: “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.” Notably, it is the shortest winner in the contest’s 29 year history. If you’re looking for a quick chuckle — or if you’re an MFA student in need of a pick-me-up — click through for a few more groan-inducing, genre-specific first lines.

Winner: Crime

“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.” – Mark Wisnewski, Flanders, NJ

Winner: Fantasy

“Within the smoking ruins of Keister Castle, Princess Gwendolyn stared in horror at the limp form of the loyal Centaur who died defending her very honor; ‘You may force me to wed,’ she cried at the leering and victorious Goblin King, ‘but you’ll never be half the man he was.’ – Terri Daniel, Seattle, WA

Winner: Historical Fiction

“Napoleon’s ship tossed and turned as the emperor, listening while his generals squabbled as they always did, splashed the tepid waters in his bathtub.”- John Doble, New York City

Winner: Western

“The laser-blue eyes of the lone horseman tracked the slowly lengthening lariat of a Laredo dawn as it snaked its way through Dead Man’s Pass into the valley below and snared the still sleeping town’s tiny church steeple in a noose of light with the oh-so-familiar glow of a Dodge City virgin’s last maiden blush.” – Graham Thomas, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, UK.

Runner-Up: Romance

“Deanna waited for him in a deliberate pose on the sailor-striped chaise lounge of the newly-remodeled Ramada, her bustier revealing the tops of her white breasts like eggs — eggs of the slightly undercooked, hard-boiled variety, showing a nascent jiggle with her apprehensive breath, eggs that were then peeled ever-so-carefully so as not to pierce the jellied, opaque albumen and unleash the longing, viscous yolk within — yes, she lay there, oblong and waiting to be deviled.” – Meredith K. Gray, Ithaca, NY

[via Boing Boing]