Bad Opening Sentences
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The bleak winter gale thrust its icy tentacles unimpeded up the bare legs of Jock McMuffin, inflicting painful shrinkage upon his manly appendages and reminding him that it was not a good night to be wearing a kilt outdoors … but having scaled the prison wall it was too late to go back for the long pants he now wished he’d worn instead.
What’s that all about, you may ask? Its just something I felt inspired to write after visiting the website of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest and reading the 2006 results. This parody contest is a “whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels”. It is named after Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who is famous for the immortal novel opening “It was a dark and stormy night”, commonly viewed as a good example of a bad way to start a book.
Visiting the website and following the link to the Results of 2006 Contest will reveal a smorgasbord of entertaining and imaginative opening sentences. Reading them made me itch to write something, and the competition is open to anyone so why not have a go yourself?
If the purpose of a novel’s opening sentence or paragraph is to engage the reader’s attention and make him/her want to continue reading, then most of the winning entries do their job, even if they are supposed to imitate bad writing. And if you’re wondering why Jock McMuffin is scaling a prison wall in a kilt, or whether he escapes successfully, or if he gains comfort for his chilled appendages … then my dubious-quality example has done its job too.