Another Dark and Stormy Night

Another Dark and Stormy Night
Terry Odell

Bulwer-LyttonIt’s time for a fun break. I look forward to the annual announcement of winners and dishonorable mentions of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. For those who might be unfamiliar with it, here’s the skinny from their website.

Since 1982 the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest has challenged participants to write an atrocious opening sentence to the worst novel never written. The whimsical literary competition honors Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel Paul Clifford begins with “It was a dark and stormy night.”

The contest receives thousands of entries each year, and every summer our Panel of Undistinguished Judges convenes to select winners and dishonorable mentions for such categories as Purpose Prose and Vile Puns.

Last year, PJ Parrish did an in-depth analysis of several entries. But, as I said, I’m posting this as a fun break. For those who want to work, feel free to look at these openings as if they were submitted for First Page Critiques here at TKZ. Do they meet the criteria? Start with action? Identify the protagonist? Establish setting? Make you want to keep reading?

The 2021 Grand Prize goes to Stu Duval of Auckland, New Zealand.

“A lecherous sunrise flaunted itself over a flatulent sea, ripping the obsidian bodice of night asunder with its rapacious fingers of gold, thus exposing her dusky bosom to the dawn’s ogling stare.”

More winners in other categories

Grand Panjandrum’s Special Award

“Victor Frankenstein admired his masterpiece stretched out on the lab slab; it was almost human, OK, no conscience or social awareness, and not too bright, but a little plastic surgery to hide the scars and bolts, maybe a spray tan and a hairdo, and this guy could run for President!”  David Hynes, Bromma, Sweden


“When I asked our novice Safari guide Guy Pommeroy to identify what that roaring sound was he replied (and these were his last words), “It sounds to me like someone with a bad case of bronchitis; I’ll check and be right back.” Greg Homer, San Vito, Costa Rica

Crime & Detective

“The Big Joe Palooka murder wasn’t just another killing, another homicide, another manslaughter, another slaying, another hit, another whack, another rubbing-out, another bumping-off, another assassination, another liquidation, another extermination, another execution—but it was nothing new for Johnny Synonymous, Obsessive-Compulsive Crime Fighter.”  Paul Scheeler, Buffalo, NY

Dark & Stormy

“It was a dark and stormy . . . morning, Gotcha! — this is just the first of innumerable twists and turns that you, dear Reader, will struggle to keep abreast of as I unfold my tale of adventure as second plumber aboard the hapless SS Hotdog during that fateful summer of 1974.”  Louise Taylor, Paris, France

Historical Fiction

“Choking back his frustration at his parents, Marcus Licinius Junius Dextus Sextus Gnaeus Castor Ligantor Germanicus barked his name *again* at the boatman holding the list, certain that the man was toying with him, whilst in the background Mount Vesuvius rumbled like a pregnant woman with severe morning sickness.” Dave Hurt, Harrogate, England


“Their eyes had met and they’d had coffee, but now Miss latte-mocha-with-a-chai-twist bid a wistful adieu to Mr. black-cup-of-Joe-strong-enough-to-walk-over-and-beat-up-the-cheese-Danish, and they parted.”  CP Marsh, Urbana, IL

Science Fiction

“Believe it or not Ripley refrained from firing her laser at the alien creature lurking in the starship’s ceiling above the crew’s happy hour gathering, its dripping secretions burning through the titanium floor like it was made of cheap wet toilet paper, when she discovered by sheer accident that just one drop of the oozing substance reacted with the contents of her cocktail glass to produce a martini so perfect that 007 himself would have betrayed Queen and country for just one sip, as long as it was shaken and not stirred.”  Reinhold Friebertshauser, Chagrin Falls, OH


“After commandeering the Black Dog Saloon for a day and a half to lay out every map, zoning ordinance, and land deed in the Territory, and after checking and rechecking their cartographic calculations, Tumbleweed Mulligan and Johnny “Trigger” McAllister were forced to admit that there might just be room in this town for the both of them.”  Ben Connor, Wilmington, Delaware

Vile Puns

“One time at the hoagie shop the actress Ms. O’Hara asked what the tiny pimiento-stuffed thing in my cheddar-bread sandwich was and I had to respond: “Wee olive in a yellow sub, Maureen.”  Fr. Jerry Kopacek, Elma, IA

Purple Prose

“She had a deep, throaty laugh, like the sound a dog makes right before it throws up.”  Janie Doohan, Walla Walla, WA

See the complete list, including the “Dishonorable Mentions.”

What say you, TKZers. Want to tackle critiquing any of these?

Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellAvailable Now Trusting Uncertainty, Book 10 in the Blackthorne, Inc. series.
You can’t go back and fix the past. Moving on means moving forward.

Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

20 thoughts on “Another Dark and Stormy Night

  1. Thanks, Terry, for a great way to start the morning. I sort of liked the “Western” submission. I also might crib the “Purple Prose” submission, but only in coversation when describing one of my significant others.

  2. Thanks for the laugh this morning, Terry. I may need it, as my wife and I are watching the grandmonst….grandchildren today. And I better pass on critiquing any of the entries, as they all looked worthy of reading. Have a great day!

    • Good luck with the grands! This post was more for the grins than anything else. But some people like challenges, so I provided that option. You’ll note I didn’t jump onto the critique wagon, either.

  3. Terry, thank you so much for this. I loved reading these entries. The crime one was hands down my favorite. I really needed the laughter this morning. My wife and I lost our dear friend Rachel to cancer Monday morning. She was also a writer and avid reader, with a terrific sense of humor and would have loved this.

    Moreover, all of us, especially her husband Brian(also a dear friend), were fans of Lionel Fanthorpe, who, back in the 1960s and early 70s, wrote 180 plus novels, mostly sci-fi and supernatural. His prose was Bulwer-Lytton Contest material, not because he was a bad writer, far from it, but because, he wrote very fast, dictating to a tape recorder under a blanket at night while his kids were sleeping, needing to pad out the narrative. Brian was such a fan he collected as many of Fanthorpe’s novels, written under many pseudonyms.

    Here’s one example from his novel Dark Continuum, written as John E. Muller:
    “When Joe Maginty woke up he had the grandfather and grandmother, the primaeval ancestor and ancestress of every hangover from which every man has ever suffered in the course of human history, or is ever destined to suffer from as long as time and humanity shall walk together through the universe.”

    Fanthorpe became an Anglican priest, and then wrote non-fiction on various historical mysteries, such as the Oak Island mystery. The four of us met him at a regional science fiction convention here in Portland year ago when he was a guest, and what a guest he was. Barrel-chested, bearded, with glittering eyes and a hearty laugh and handshake for one and all. He’d written pulp fiction to support his then young family, and was prodigious, but he was far more than the purple prose.

    Thanks again for this delightfully funny post–Rachel would have approved.

    • Sorry for your loss, Dale, but glad I could make you laugh. I love the hangover quote. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Oh, I laughed so hard! I’ll critique one of them. Dear historical fiction author, let’s simplify this rascal. I suggest:
    “Hurry up,” Marcus Ligan said to the boatman holding the list. Mount Vesuvius rumbled in the background.

  5. Ha! Great start to the day, given all the *bad* news out there…

    The first one grabbed me by my t-shirt and ripped it over my head, exposing the other t-shirt I wear (gotcha!), and opened my nostrils to let the coffee run down my chin. 🙂

    Wow! Couldn’t he have just said, The sunrise on the ocean’s horizon was a thing of beauty? I guess he wouldn’t have won, though.

    These were a hoot. I don’t want to critique them, because they’re perfect grin-starters just the way they are.

  6. What fun, Terry! I don’t think I can critique any of these, but the Grand Prize winner certainly deserves the honor.

    Thanks for a laugh-producing start to the day.

    • Critiques would probably take away the fun. Kudos to these authors for being able to write “bad” intentionally.

  7. I especially enjoyed the Vile Pun and Science Fiction winners, and in my esteemed estimation “Johnny Synonymous, Obsessive-Compulsive Crime Fighter” would be a most excellent book title.

  8. LOL! I laughed so hard at the grand prize entry it took me a while to read the others. 😎

  9. We should have our own little Bulwer-Lytton contest right here. I’m sure the entries would be stunning (one of my favorite non-committal adjectives.)

    • Actually, I thought about it (very briefly) when I “wrote” this post, but decided it would be too much work for a “fun break.”
      But maybe another time. Thanks for the suggestion.

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