With apologies to Paul McCartney,
When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Humor calls to me
Seeking founts of laughter, let it be
Well, the past two weeks in football certainly qualify as "times of trouble," and this year, in general, has produced a good amount of angst in me and, I think, in the greater Bruins nation. So, mostly in self-defense, I turn to a personal favorite source of amusement, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.
For those of you not familiar with the BLFC, their tag line gives you an immediate clue: "Where 'WWW' means 'Wretched Writers Welcome'" The contest was the brainchild of Professor Scott Rice at San Jose State University, and for thirty-some years, the BLFC has sought to find "the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels."
The contest is named for a "minor Victorian novelist," Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose novel, Paul Clifford, contained the opening sentence now immortalized by Snoopy, by way of Charles Schulz.
"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
— Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)
The spirit of the contest is to write one, and only one, convoluted sentence as though it were the opening sentece to your novel. The badder, the better. Personally, I find the contest entries hysterically funny. There is something riotous, I think, about torturously bad writing. And, obviously, many others do, too, as they get more and more entries each year.
Before I show some examples, I'm going to make a presumption: Namely, that the rule about quoting only excerpts on blog sites, and not whole works, does not apply here. Yes, these tortured sentences constitute the entirety of the "works." But, in that their avowed purpose is as an opening sentence of a hypothetical novel, I'm going to presume that the quotations qualify as excerpts. In any case, I'll cite the authors, which I don't believe Snoopy ever did. :-) A few entries from 2013 and 2012 are shown below. Contest winners are compiled here.
[Dishonorable Mention, Crime category]
Observing how the corpse’s blood streaked the melting vanilla ice cream, Frank wanted to snap his pen in half and add drops of blue ink to the mix, completing the color trio of the American flag – or the French flag, given that the body had just fallen from the top of the Las Vegas Eiffel Tower onto a crème glacée cart. — Alanna Smith, Wappingers Falls, NY
[Dishonorable Mention, Fantasy category]
This was going to be a science fiction novel until I realized that you actually have to know some real science for it to work well, so I changed it to a fantasy novel instead, because that way I can just make up the rules as I go, unhampered by the laws of physics or chemistry, as if you knew what they were anyway. — Thor F. Carden, Madison, TN
[Dishonorable Mention, Purple Prose category]
There is a special pinkness to the sky as the sun rises on a crisp January morning, kissing the clouds, warming the fields, and waking the livestock, who move quietly to their feet and begin to mill about their pens, like patrons in a crowded theater lobby who, instead of waiting to see a show, are waiting to be made into steaks or bacon. — Ward Willats, Felton, CA
[Grand Panjandrum’s Special Award; a "panjandrum" is a powerful personage or pretentious official.]
As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and feces mix in birds’ rectums to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation, although eying Greta's face, and sensing the reaction of the congregation, he immediately realized he should have used a different analogy to describe their relationship in his wedding vows. — David Pepper, Hermosa Beach, CA
[Winner, Crime category]
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. — Sue Fondrie, Appleton, WI
[Runner-Up, Romance category]
"Your eyes are like deep blue pools that I would like to drown in," he had told Kimberly when she had asked him what he was thinking; but what he was actually thinking was that sometimes when he recharges his phone he forgets to put the little plug back in but he wasn’t going to tell her that. — Dan Leyde, Edmonds, WA
Well, it would be folly for me to attempt to compete with these literary un-gems, so I won't. What I will do, however, is to use the spirit of the BLFC to poke fun at some who have contributed to my present-day Bruin angst. Call it a BBLFC--Bruin BLFC. By all means, should the mood strike, join in the fun with your own horrendous sentences.
In his thirty-two years of experience, the veteran designer had faced, and had overcome, many difficult challenges, some, he thought, more complex than manned lunar landings, some, he was sure, more brain-power-demanding than proving Fermat's Last Theorem, but this time he was completely stymied and, for the first time in his life, he felt incapable of solving the impossible puzzle that was now on his drawing board: How in the world to tailor full-length shoulder stripes on tech-fit jerseys?
The Offensive Coordinator was sick and tired of being called "conservative," as this wasn't nearly the picture he had of himself, but now he would put that image to rest and would show them what daring stuff he was made of once and for all, and with this determination, he spoke firmly and confidently into the phone, "Yes, Domino's? I'll have a large pizza, with everything!"
The still baby-faced Basketball Coach couldn't remember the purpose of the assembly, as he had hastily agreed to this speaking appearance with the female voice on the phone only because he was being pressured by his boss to "get out and show them your personable side," but nevertheless felt confident that his charm would win over the audience, like it had always done, reached The Diplomat Room on The Mezzanine Level, and read the sandwich-board poster at the entrance, "Rape Survivors Meeting. Tonight's Topic: Do Rapists Deserve Our Sympathy, Too?"
The pudgy, balding Athletic Director stared at the rainbow of colors, contrasting against the dark brown background, marveling at how so many differences could come together into such a wondrous whole, ran his fingers over their alluring, delicate textures, and sighed, for he could not understand the criticisms he had been receiving, because it was all so unfair, and why couldn't they see that the person they had been so mercilessly lambasting was actually a sensitive soul who could derive all this profound meaning about life from a chocolate doughnut with sprinkles?
Although the conference center was his own creation, the white-haired Chancellor was glad to be away from the hub-bub of the Grand Opening, with all the snooty academics and wealthy social climbers jockeying for "favorite" status with him, felt his breathing and heartbeat slow as he basked in the ambient serenity on his first visit to the Japanese Garden, when he suddenly realized that he could have used the garden in the future, any time he needed a similar escape, if only he hadn't sold it.