Crappy lines to crappy novels

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. . .  when I came across the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest in a back issue of Writer’s Digest. (

The contest is sponsored by the English department at San Jose State University, and it challenges entrants to write godawful opening lines to possible godawful novels. The “dark and stormy” line was originally penned by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, a minor Victorian novelist, in the book Paul Clifford.

To be fair, Bulwer-Lytton also came up with, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” (But thanks to Saturday Night Live’s Celebrity Jeopardy! skits with Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery, I can’t hear or read this line without changing it to, “The penis mightier.”)

I think I might enter this contest; I’ve already thought up an awful opening line. But after reading the website, and the hilarious past winners, I started getting paranoid: they also list bad lines from published novels (by Danielle Steel and Dean Koontz, among others). Not that I’m a fan of either of these writers, but still. What if my novel has bad lines in it, but I can’t see it? The same way parents of ugly babies don’t get why people always projectile vomit after looking upon their spawns?

Okay, gotta take a deep breath here. I will enter the contest, and perhaps I will win (the deadline is April 15). And perhaps I will not one day have the distinction of being both a winner and an example.

My bad line, by the way: (This might not end up being the actual entry, but right now I consider it sufficiently awful.)

“Greg’s heart heard the crispy cereal crunching of her Prada shoes on the pea gravel long before his ears did.”


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