Mangled prose wins bad fiction prize
A sentence which combines a lover’s gaze, an infestation of eyelash mites and a cliché-ridden metaphor about the soul has taken top honours in an annual bad writing contest.
The annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest asks writers to submit the worst possible opening sentences to imaginary novels. The competition solicits entries in a variety of categories before choosing a single overall winner.
This year’s prize went to Manchester author Cathy Bryant who came up with this unforgettable opener: “As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and if so, his soul needed regrouting.”
The contest is named after British author Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel Paul Clifford begins with the oft-quoted opening line “It was a dark and stormy night.”
To take the prize for best crime prose, US writer Sue Fondrie relied on an painful paint metaphor: “She slinked through my door wearing a dress that looked like it had been painted on … not with good paint, like Behr or Sherwin-Williams, but with that watered-down stuff that bubbles up right away if you don’t prime the surface before you slap it on, and – just like that cheap paint – the dress needed two more coats to cover her.”
The romance category prize went to Karen Hamilton from Texas for this tortured vignette: "'I’ll never get over him,' she said to herself and the truth of that statement settled into her brain the way glitter settles on to a plastic landscape in a Christmas snow globe when she accepted the fact that she was trapped in bed between her half-ton boyfriend and the wall when he rolled over on to her nightgown and passed out, leaving her no way to climb out.”
The winner of the children’s literature category deserves a mention, if only, for the phrase “Wikipedic insouciance”.
It went to US author David Nelson for: “He swaggered into the room (in which he was now the “smartest guy”) with a certain Wikipedic insouciance, and without skipping a beat made a beeline towards Dorothy, busting right through her knot of admirers, and she threw her arms around him and gave him a passionate though slightly tickly kiss, moaning softly, “Oooohh, Scarecrow!”
The fantasy category went to Texan David Lippmann for: “The brazen walls of the ancient city of Khoresand, situated where the mighty desert of Sind meets the endless Hyrkanean steppe, are guarded by day by the four valiant knights Sir Malin the Mighty, Sir Welkin the Wake, Sir Darien the Doughty, and Sir Yrien the Yare, all clad in armour of beaten gold, and at night the walls are guarded by Sir Arden the Ardent, Sir Fier the Fearless, Sir Cyril the Courageous, and Sir Damien the Dauntless, all clad in armour of burnished argent, but nothing much ever happens.”