Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It's Still a Dark and Stormy Night

Results from the 25th annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest were announced. As you probably know, this is the contest in which bad is good, named for British novelist Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton who gave us this memorable gem:

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 2007 winning entry was written by Jim Gleeson, from Madison, Wisconsin:

"Gerald began--but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them "permanently" meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash--to pee."

I confess that my favorite category is the “Purple Prose” award. Here’s the winner, followed by some fun “dishonorable mentions”:

"Professor Radzinsky wove his fingers together in a tweed-like fabric, pinched his lips together like a blowfish, and began his lecture on simile and metaphor, which are, like, similar to one another, except that similes are almost always preceded by the word 'like' while metaphors are more like words that make you think of something else beside what you are describing." ~~Wayne McCoy, Gainesville FL

"The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife, not even a sharp knife, but a dull one from that set of cheap knives you received as a wedding gift in a faux wooden block; the one you told yourself you'd replace, but in the end, forgot about because your husband ran off with another man, that kind of knife." ~~Lisa Lindquist, Oak West, Jackson, MI

"The car headlights were pale--like a struck match viewed through a piece of smoked glass which you think you remember using to watch a solar eclipse around the time Alison and the children were still living here, which would have been the year before you got the job at the all-night bakery, twenty humid summers ago--because the alternator was faulty." ~~Richard Preddy, London, England

"She had curves that just wouldn't quit, like on one of those car commercials where a stunt driver slides a sexy new sports car around hairpin turn after hairpin turn while some poor musician, down on his luck and having been forced to sell out his dream of superstardom for a lousy 30-second ad jingle, sings "Zoom, zoom, zoom" in the background." ~~ Amber Dubois, Denver, CO

"Her hair was the color of old copper, not green with white streaks like you see on roofs and statues where birds have been messing, but the kind you find on dark pennies from back in the nineteen-forties or fifties after God knows how many thumbs have been rubbing Abe Lincoln's beard." ~~Michael A. Cowell, Norwalk, CA

For a complete list of winners, check here. And if you think you can do better (worse?) and want to enter next year’s competition, get out your purple pen and follow these guidelines.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.