“She was a beautiful woman; more specifically she was the kind of beautiful woman who had an hourlong skincare routine that made her look either ethereal or like a glazed donut, depending on how attracted to her you were.”
This paragraph, which was written by Maya Pasic of New York, NY, won first prize in this year’s tongue-in-cheek Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Unlike most writing contests (which encourage good writing), the Bulwer-Lytton contest challenge people to write “an atrocious opening sentence to a hypothetical bad novel.”
The English Department at San Jose State University has been running this contest since 1982. It’s named in honor of Bulwer-Lytton, the minor Victorian novelist who wrote the words Snoopy made famous in the Charlie Brown cartoon series.
This year’s contest drew more than 6,000 entries worldwide. In addition to the grand prize, the contest gives awards in several categories, including crime, fantasy, romance and historical fiction.
Here are some of my favorite winners from this year. Enjoy.
“The man squinted his eyes as the blistering cold winds battered his rugged face, his eyes darting about, desperately hoping, daring to dream that amidst the frozen wasteland, he would find the last Klondike Bar that he had hidden in his freezer.” (Oliver Mauser, Jacksonville, FL)
Crime & Detection Dishonorable Mention
“Elsie was seated by the window overlooking the deserted boardwalk (the crime scene in this saga) holding the hand of her beloved Jeremy (the soon-to-be unwitting accomplice), when George (who you will soon learn is the murderer), suddenly opened the door to their cozy loft holding a cup of coffee and said, ‘This cup is for you, Elsie’ — and this cup would of course be her last . . . but you do not know any of this yet.” (Frederick Ankowski, Santa Monica, CA)
Romance Dishonorable Mention
“They had gone through fire and ice to be together, but the general mood of the wedding would have been improved if he wasn’t suffering from second-degree burns and she hadn’t lost several toes to frostbite.” (Eliza Frost, Bellingham, WA)
Historical Fiction Dishonorable Mention
“Congratulations, dear Trojan soldiers: you are the lucky winners of the latest model Wooden Horse Supreme 2000; you can redeem your gift by opening the doors of the city and bringing it inside, but hurry— the offer ends at sunrise.” (Gloria Glau Burkstaller, Rome, Italy)
Hope you’ve enjoyed these. You can see winners from more than two dozen years at the Bulwer-Lytton website (https://www.bulwer-lytton.com).
And, should you get inspired, you can submit an entry any time.