Reader Friday: Bad Opening Line Contest

As you probably  know, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is an annual event to see who can write the worst opening line for a novel. Let’s do our own here at TKZ. Write a bad opening line in 50 words or less. The winner (as judged by the TKZ bloggers) will receive a signed copy of The Art of War for Writers. Entries must be posted before 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time. 

Check back on this post on Monday at noon (Eastern) to find out who the winner is.

Good luck!

UPDATE: We have a winner. The voting was extremely close, but the victory belongs to Jeannie Leighton. Congrats!  Please email me at JSB [at] jamesscottbell [dot] com for details on the book. We were going to do second place and honorable mention, but frankly it was too difficult to choose after all the judges weighed in. You were all so good…I mean, bad. Thanks to everyone who played! 

69 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Bad Opening Line Contest

  1. I woke up in this morning, fixed coffee, went to the bathroom, and decided that I will go back to bed … slept till noon.
    Woke up at one, went to the bathroom, reheated the stale coffee, and decided to return to my bed.

    • Dave–Are you implying that you only need three words to achieve prize winning mediocrity, when the rest of us need the full 50 word limit?

  2. Andrew nodded toward my glass and asked, “Is it half full. Or half empty?”
    I responded, with some annoyance, that the damn thing was half empty, and I was well aware that some drunken imbecile had helped himself to my glass while I had visited the washroom.

  3. Mary had a little lamb…and, of course, some mint jelly, but she let the mashed potatoes pass because she was on a strict low carb diet, something she’d heard on Oprah–or was it Dr. Oz?

  4. The bruise-colored sky spewed from the horizon like a festering, pus-filled zit that always seems to erupt at the worst times, like my senior prom, or the day I needed to keep a low profile to kill my roommate and get away with murder.

  5. The turkey stank. I mean really stank. It wasn’t until I realized why the feathers fell into my hand that I became scared. Bang! Off went the bolt gun and down I went. Blood pooling around my legs – sense of relief, sense of peace, sense of darkness

  6. It was the ideal of times, it was the crush of times, it was the age of knowledge, it was the age of imbecility, it was the epoch of conviction, it was the epoch of amazement, the season of illumination, the season of shadows, it was an election year…

  7. I begin my unforgettable story of my life with my auspicious birth, wailing and kicking, a prelude to my singing and boxing careers that you, dear reader, will find gratifying, useful and surprising.

  8. I watched as she oozed into the tight jeans like an extra-large chicken, its feathers plucked, pasty white skin slathered in lard, ready to be basted, stuffed and thrust into the oven with carrots and pearl onions and sprinkled with rosemary and a dash of garlic: love they call it.

  9. It was a dark and cold night, so I met my boyfriend at Starbuck’s which he never showed up and I later found out he cheated with my best friend. Lol, some shit, huh?

  10. I’m loving all these entries. You’ve all got me laughing out loud here! I’m detecting a lot of creativity and talent under all this drivel. Thanks for brightening my day!

  11. He was tall, handsome and oafish, didn’t believe in deodorant — just my type — and he clunked over in NASA-issue boots, purple suspenders and red hair Ronald McDonald would kill for, and asked how a nice girl like me wound up here, at a rodeo bar just after sundown.

  12. In the velvety gathering crepuscular dusk, a booming electronically amplified voice bellowed, “Yes, in the most incredible comeback from behind in history, the team has now won eight, straight, consecutive games, in a row, without a loss,” and the roaring crowd drowned out the sounds of the coming night.

  13. I was lustily in love but unfortunately lackluster in looks and leaning heavily towards debilitating defeat.

    *Really, this is easy. I’m great at writing badly.*

  14. As an aside, as a writer’s block exercise, I pick away at what I called the worst novel ever written. Now, I’m not talking Atlanta Nights bad, this is its own category of overblown noir. When I open it to edit, instead of removing the Stephen King 10%, I add the Bulwer-Lytton 10%. If a character is ordering coffee, it has to have at least one adverb attached to it and all those dialogue tags find a home there.

    The paragraph above is my entry, but for your amusement, I share the first paragraph of “Death Road:”

    If you’ve never been to Chicago in the dog days of summer, then you don’t know what you’re in for. August in Chicago is an unendurable and unending exercise in mind-numbing endurance of heat and humidity. You can actually taste the air. Some locals believe you could actually carve yourself out a hunk. The leaden sky takes on a slate gray cast that reminds you of the splintery, bleached-out, wood blanketing a lost and forgotten tumbledown barn. Its youth, wonder, promise, beauty, vitality, and color have faded, leaving only the bare gray skeletal bones of the once living thing. That’s how the sky looked on this hot and humid August morning – faded and dead.

  15. I woke up this morning and discovered the cat had vomited on my peejays, pooped on the bedroom rug and couldn’t remember if I had shot someone yesterday or not.

  16. I looked up and a blue sky smiled down upon me; looked down and grey pavement frowned up from between my toes. Woe is me, I said to myself, trouble’s a-brewing, stewing, and spewing.

  17. Showered, shaved, and at last seated before my new laptop with the intention of writing a really good book by lunchtime, slowly but surely it began to dawn on me that my mind, very possibly, could turn out to be a problem.

  18. Well, I just had to try…
    It ain’t the heat that kills you here in Mississippi, it’s the humidity, Granny thought, not missing a beat as she wiped sweat from her face and folded it into the bread dough, laughing to herself at what everybody would think if they really knew what her secret ingredient was.

    • Reminds me of my friend Abe (pronounced Ay-buh) who lived on the next homestead a few miles to the east of us. When we played together he’d often invite me to eat dinner at his house. Every time his mom would say “Oh, we’re just having left-overs, but you’re welcome to join us if you don’t mind.”

      One day after dinner while we were hiking back to my place, watching the stars go by as we walked I commented, “Your mom must cook big meals during the week to always have so many leftovers.”

      “Funny thing about that,” he said, “we always have left-overs. I don’t ever remember having the original dinner these ‘left-overs’ came from.”

      From then on I became painstakingly aware of two facts about our interior Alaskan town. 1. There were almost no stray dogs. And those that there were never roamed the town for more than a day or so before being “picked up by animal control services”. Problem is the nearest animal control officer was over a hundred miles away.

      2. Hitchhikers…often saw them on the west side of town headed to Delta Junction or the Canadian border, but never saw them further east of Abe’s folks place….not ever.

  19. Hi, I’m new here and have only been lurking, but I hope you don’t mind. I’d like to play this game today. Here goes…

    It was a dark and stormy night, spewing bilious rain and vitriolic thunder like my Aunt Agnes’ shouting when she caught Uncle Lester in bed with the trollopy house cleaner.

  20. What a fun exercise. Our writing group will have to try this. I’m new here too…

    Bad breath. Bad gums. Bad teeth. Waddled when he walked, tooted in his sleep, and howled when he was dreaming. But, I loved him. Yes, I loved him. Would always love him. And would never forget the night he saved my life.

  21. Ruby Lee hid the baseball bat behind her back as she leaned over to look under the back porch, “Ezekiel, now you come on up out from down in under there. This minute, you hear?”

  22. It was a morning exactly like other mornings–except different. In the newspaper up by the top in small print it said it was Tuesday. Right away, immediately in my mind it struck me like a leaping Asian carp; tomorrow would be Wednesday!

  23. “Okay, here’s what happened. I asked my doctor for a refill of my prescription but he said no. So then I, uh, told he better give me my prescription. Then yesterday he told me it is ready but I had better things to do. So it had better be ready.”

  24. As it turned out, it was all a rancid dream, but, anyway, I innocently gazed into the vintage mirror, a total steal from Lula’s yard sale, to be scared stiff by my own reflection which bespoke a frizzy carrot top that was decidedly NOT Sunburst Blonde like on the box.

  25. Sorry for reposting. I realized my first post contained 59 words. Sheesh. Here’s the revised version:

    The outcome of the zombie apocalypse warranted review by the Council of Lawdities and Pompostics before extending repopulace services as writ in the Universal Contract to Reconstruct Mutated Life on Other Planets due to the remaining inhabitants’ inability to express their opinions in a satisfactory manner.

    • While these are (at least I hope) all done tongue in cheek, I recently narrated a serious sci-fi audiobook that was written much like this…150k words of sentences much like this. Not a single tongue in it’s own cheek throughout…they meant every indecipherable and nauseatingly difficult to narrate word of it. I nwo look back with grin and think to myself, “Glad they paid cash.” But reading this, almost start to comprehend just by shear force of reflex.

    • Thanks, Basil. I think you just gave me a compliment. That’s how I’m taking it ’cause that’s how I roll — looking at the bright side in spite of impending doom. πŸ™‚

  26. Fun reading! This is going to be really hard to narrow down to the best/worst opening line! Some first paragraphs were excellent, but to follow the contest rules, I can only consider your first sentence. Still tough to choose!

  27. She lurked at the edges of the mystery critique group like fat congealing around cold breakfast sausage on a plastic plate—the kind of sausage with a tough skin that a plastic knife won’t cut—but plastic knives made lousy weapons anyway. Should she share this with the group?

  28. Sophie knew they were out there, biding their time, waiting for the right moment. When it came, they would attack. There were dozens of them, only one of her. They would overwhelm the house. But she would show them. She was a Yorkie, and they were only squirrels.

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