Shelter From The Storm

This week the theme suits the recent weather and also celebrates the lyrical brilliance of Bob Dylan.

But everyone knows about Dylan’s poetic prowess so I thought it was a good time to remind our writers of the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (too late to enter this year, alas). This annual competition award challenges participants, “to write an atrocious opening sentence to a hypothetical bad novel.”

It takes it’s name from Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose famously purple opening sentence to his novel, Paul Clifford is appropriated by Snoopy in Charles M Shultz’s Peanuts cartoon. Snoopy endlessly tried to write a novel but despite his aspirations to literary greatness, always begins, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Though it has become a joke, the sentence is not too bad in itself. The problem was that Bulwer-Lytton didn’t stop there. Here is the opening sentence in its full glory:

“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.”

The challenge laid down by the English department at San Jose State University is to write a similarly grisly opening sentence to an awful imaginary novel. This year the prize was won by Lisa Kluber of San Francisco:

“Her Dear John missive flapped unambiguously in the windy breeze, hanging like a pizza menu on the doorknob of my mind.”

Your prompt this week is not to write the worst opening sentence to an imaginary novel that you can (though you are very welcome to do so if you wish!) But to write something about sheltering while the storm rages about you howling like a banshee…  in other words, an ordinary evening in the Hebrides in Autumn!)


2 thoughts on “Shelter From The Storm

  1. Shelter from the Storm

    This year we have had a big storm
    A pandemic of a storm
    It started in the east and spread
    To the west and north and south
    It quietened down for a while
    Then returned with a vengeance

    People are having to shelter in their homes
    Stay away from other people
    The miniscule particles attach themselves
    Inside other people’s bodies where
    They multiply and leave to attack again

    We are having to shelter
    Self isolate and not travel to visit family and friends
    Apparently it is safe to get some fresh air
    Go for exercise away from other people
    Who may be carrying and shedding the particles

    Best to stay in the wind where
    The tiny particles can be blown off course
    Stop the particles from entering us
    Then go and shelter at home
    Live a hermit existence

    The lucky ones amongst us have cars
    They can shelter in them while travelling
    To favourite haunts
    Some us travel to town by public bus
    As long we are protected and
    Protect others by wearing face coverings
    Perhaps meet with another person
    And enjoy a meal and some company

    Some of us live in an household and so
    Are not alone
    Whilst others of us do live alone
    Cannot have people come in and chat

    However there is the phone and the internet
    We can keep in touch and there is
    A new phenomenon called Zoom
    We can communicate sheltered from the storm
    Groups of us can have meetings

    We can hold meetings
    Discuss this and that
    Learn Tai Chi or make collages too
    Attend Bahai’i devotionals with people all over the world

    Whilst we communicate by Messenger every day
    Sending photographs or written words
    And reply immediately
    Write or draw our messages which
    Our friends and family can retrieve at will

    But some people have lost their livelihoods
    Not everyone can work from home
    So there is a panic in the land
    As we all take shelter from the storm
    For how long? Nobody knows.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s