The Worst Opening Lines Ever

Alex Songe introduced me recently to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, an award given to the worst opening lines in novels every year. I don’t know whether to thank him or curse him. I’m not sure I want to live in a world where people write lines like this:

As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and feces mix in birds’ rectums to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation, although eying Greta’s face, and sensing the reaction of the congregation, he immediately realized he should have used a different analogy to describe their relationship in his wedding vows. — David Pepper, Hermosa Beach, CA

Or this, the 2006 winner for children’s literature:

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe who had so much equity (because our story, dear children, is set in Miami’s hot real estate market) that she upgraded the exterior to blue suede siding as a tribute to her idol, Elvis, moved her kids to a bootee out back, and then reopened the place as the “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” motel (but you’ll have to wait until you’re 18 to read any further). — Barbara Bridges, Sierra Madre, CA

Spectacular. I think my free time may be gone for good.

16 comments on this post.
  1. Orac:

    I’ve been a fan of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for many years now, having bought books that collect the “winners” together. It takes a certain kind of warped mind to come up with sentences like this.

  2. Stacy:

    Love the Bulwer-Lytton Contest! You have lots of laugh-out-loud fun ahead of you, Ed.

  3. Augustus Carp:

    My favourite opening line from a work of fiction: “Hello, my name is Kent Hovind…”

  4. chriswood:

    I’m not much of a literary critic, but that first one is laugh out loud funny

  5. andrewryan:

    They’re written deliberately to be funny, I think. The contest is to come up with the worst line you can, as far as I remember. It’s not like the Bad Sex Awards, where the entrants are taken from real books. But correct me if I’m wrong.

  6. lamacher:

    At #3: I award you ‘the Internet’ for today!

  7. Trebuchet:

    With apologies in advance, because I can’t help myself:

    As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and feces mix in birds’ rectums cloacas to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation…

    Is there a pill or something I can take for idiotic pedantry?

    Incidentally, the eggs you had for breakfast also passed through that same opening. It’s a three’fer!

  8. Karen Locke:

    Yes indeed, to appear to be unintentionally funny is a success indicator in the B-L awards. The winner is posted in the San Jose Mercury News, because the contest is put on by my beloved local university, San Jose State. I’ve laughed at these for years.

  9. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne:

    It was one of the proudest moments in my life (which probably says something unflattering about my life) when one of my sentences (not a winner, sadly) was included in a compilation of Bulwer-Lytton contest entries.

  10. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne:

    P.S. That means that these were, as andrewryan speculated above, written intentionally to be funny.

  11. andrewryan:

    We both have villainous names, Hercules. Though I’m guessing few people are aware of both the Goon Show and BioShock. Congrats on your entry.

  12. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :):

    Is there a pill or something I can take for idiotic pedantry?

    Horse tranquilizers?

  13. Noadi:

    Well there goes my productivity for the evening. Is it wrong that some of these really make me want to read what happened next?

  14. democommie:

    I think I may have posted this before but I wrote an entry years ago:

    “It was on a dark and stormy night that I first learned that my second-in-command was giving the 3rd degree to some 4th estate fifth columnist, because a sixth sense had warned him that the guy was in the grip of the seven deadly sins, behind the 8-ball 9/10 of the time and that he would not in this, his 11th hour, look forward with gleeful anticipation to the verdict of a jury of 12 of his peers.”

    I thought myself clever at the time and THEN I read a collection of other entries and slunk off to nurse my hurt feelings.

  15. procrastinator will get an avatar real soon now:

    democommie, I liked it. Of course I’ve been assured that all my taste is in my mouth.

  16. Raging Bee:

    Anything from Ann Coulter make the cut?

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