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!)