Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The best bad writing I've seen all year

The results of this year's Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest have been announced. The best bad opening line of an imaginary novel was:
Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.

Clever, but I've seen much more awful writing than this. The runner-up was a little disappointing, too:

"I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' - and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel loquacious?' - well do you, punk?"

Cute idea, but it just doesn't work for me as a single sentence (which is what the contest calls for). I like this much better:

She looked at her hands and saw the desiccated skin hanging in Shar-Pei wrinkles, confetti-like freckles, and those dry, dry cuticles--even her "Fatale Crimson" nail color had faded in the relentless sun to the color of old sirloin--and she vowed if she ever got out of the Sahara alive, she'd never buy polish on sale at Walgreen's again.

That's one chicklit novel I'd be interested in reading. Here's another opener that pulled a laugh out of me:

It was a day, like any other day, in that Linus got up, faced the sunrise, used his inhaler, applied that special cream between his toes, wrote a quick note and put it in a bottle, and wished he'd been stranded on the island with something other than 40 cases each of inhalers, decorative bottles, and special toe cream.

Every year I toy with the idea of entering this contest, but you have to be extremely clever to write that badly, and I don't think I'd stand a chance. Click over to the site for many, many more deliciously awful opening lines.

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Mom Nancy said...

Those are great, and I agree with you about that chick-lit one. It definitely promises to be fun!

Tina said...

Yeah, I'd read the chick lit one to. *giggle* You know, I've read worse lines in actuall published books. The kind where you go back and read it again, saying "no way they published that". Sometimes sheer idiocy only comes when you are not thinking too hard about it.


I liked the detective entry. Not just a burrito but a superburrito.

Douglas Cootey said...

This year's entries lacked a certain ordure. They were trying to be clever, but not very in the end. They weren't really bad, mouth agape, if-they-ever-publish-that-book-I'll-give-up-reading groaners. You could hardly do worse! LOL

Brenda Coulter said...

I'm all atremble here, Douglas. That's the nicest compliment I've had in weeks.

David, maybe it was that part about licking the shovel that ruined it for me. As Douglas suggests, this year's entrants seemed to be trying too hard. The very best bad writing should look as though the author didn't break a sweat making it awful.

Tina and Nancy, thanks for jumping in. I believe what the world needs now (besides love, sweet love) is a good parody of a chicklit novel. Who wants to take on that project?

Anonymous said...

I LOVE that contest. I tend to read the winners every year, but I'm always disappointed with first and second place. I think the worst/funniest beginnings are usually about the fifth or sixth place. Just tossing in my two cents. :-)

your friend from cyberspace,


Bonnie Calhoun said...

Oh...LOL...I'm bookmarking that site for when I need nasal evacuation with a beverage! LOL!

Julie Carobini said...

So if you tell all your friends that you just won an award for bad writing would they think you're just being modest?

Brenda Coulter said...

Actually, after hammering on the point that it takes real talent to write badly enough to win this particular contest, telling everyone that I won it would be showing off, pure and simple.