I’m a big fan of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Each year, writers try to craft the worst opening line to a fictional novel. It is based on Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s opening to Paul Clifford (1830):
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.
My entries have been featured in the contest three times (click the years to visit the site):
“Dark and Stormy Night” Category Winner: It was a dark and stormy night, although technically it wasn’t black or anything — more of a gravy colour like the spine of the 1969 Scribner’s Sons edition of A Farewell to Arms, and, truth be told, the storm didn’t sound any more fierce than the opening to Leon Russell’s 1975 classic, “Back to the Island.”
(This contest was featured in a Globe and Mail story, and the line was included in It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, published in 2007 by The Friday Project. I also got to do a radio interview with Michael Coren on CFRB.)
“Vile Puns” Dishonorable Mention: It wasn’t sour grapes – Clementine knew that her parents just plum disapproved of her Kiwi lover; try as she might to explain that the love between the pair was all peachy, she might as well have been comparing apples to oranges, so although she was bananas for him, and the ring was certainly no lemon, she was forced to reply to his “Honey, do you?” with a mournful “You know I just can’t elope.”
Fantasy Runner-Up: After years of Dame Gothel’s tyrrany, Rapunzel was only seconds from freedom, until, with an agonized scream, the prince plunged to his death in the thorns below, grasping a handful of detached blond strands–the golden stair having been irreparably weakened by the deficiency of vitamins B3, B6, and B7 in his love’s new celiac-friendly diet.
I also enjoy the Lyttle Lytton Contest, which has a shorter word limit. It focuses on entries that Adam Cadre, the man behind the contest, describes as “unintentionally funny on purpose.” That’s a tough line to walk. I made the winners’ page in 2020:
Honorable Mention: She, Annabelle, gave an unreserved wail, “I hate stupid wishing wells and other deception items!”
Storm and fruit images courtesy of Pixabay (Creative Commons CC0); gluten-free image courtesy of The Blue Diamond Gallery (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported); wishing well image courtesy of Piqsels (Creative Commons CC0)