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Opening Sentences That Suck

Edward George Earl Bulwer-Litton. Yes, all of that is his name. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Now this makes me laugh.

You guys know how I love analyzing the opening lines of novels. But that’s not just unique to me–a lot of people realize the importance of the opening sentence.

In fact, there’s actually a contest that awards one author with the distinguished crown of having written the worst opening line to an imaginary novel. The Bulwer-Litton fiction contest is named after Victorian novelist (take a breath) Edward George Earl Bulwer-Litton, who is (in)famous for writing the opening line: “It was a dark and stormy night.”

The contest is all in fun, and the participants are actually trying to write sucky opening sentences for their imaginary novel. This year’s winner was Sue Fondrie, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Her sucky opening line?

“Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.”

Wow. Some other crappy, horrific opening lines:

As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this . . . and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words.

That one made me laugh out loud. “There would be words.” How about this one?

Like a bird gliding over the surface of a Wyoming river rippled by a gentle Spring breeze, his hand passed over her stretch marks.

Ouch. Another beauty:

As the dark and mysterious stranger approached, Angela bit her lip anxiously, hoping with every nerve, cell, and fiber of her being that this would be the one man who would understand—who would take her away from all this—and who would not just squeeze her boob and make a loud honking noise, as all the others had.

One more: 

From the limbs of ancient live oaks moccasins hung like fat black sausages — which are sometimes called boudin noir, black pudding or blood pudding, though why anyone would refer to a sausage as pudding is hard to understand and it is even more difficult to divine why a person would knowingly eat something made from dried blood in the first place — but be that as it may, our tale is of voodoo and foul murder, not disgusting food.

Good Lord–that’s some excellent intentionally awful writing. To see the rest of the “winners,” check out the contest site.

Have you ever been less than impressed with an opening sentence?

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Blair #

    I have been less than impressed before. But I have also been awed. For instance, my brother’s opening line to his essay, Another Dang Paper:

    “My butt hurts.”

    Like

    August 5, 2011
  2. Matt #

    The one about “squeezing her boob” was hilarious.

    Like

    August 5, 2011
    • I agree. It makes me wish the book wasn’t fictional, so that I could read it.

      Like

      August 5, 2011
  3. that’s funny….poor bulwer…snoopy’s inspiration too…and a multitude of occultists took inspiration (and stole) from his “zanoni”

    Like

    August 6, 2011
  4. Haha yeah they are trying to do a bit too much with those words, that is funny that there was a contest for opening sentences that suck. A lot of books I’ve read recently seem to have pretty good openers that drew me in right away thankfully, and I’ve noticed how important those first few lines are.

    Like

    August 9, 2011

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. “I am an invisible man.” | 101 Books
  2. Stephen King Talks Opening Sentences | 101 Books

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