10 March 2006

My Bulwer-Lytton Entry

So how is this for a beginning:

The tears burned in Stella's eyes like that time last summer when she was making nachos and got some jalapeno juice on her hand and then rubbed her eyes, making them burn like acid and almost blinding her in the process, although this time there was no real danger of being blinded, since these tears were only from the shame and guilt Stella felt from having been at a movie, not even a good one, when her mother died, and not at her mother's bedside until the end.

Now, your turn.

09 March 2006

What do you do?

People often ask me, "what do you do if you can't think of a good idea to write about?"

This entry would be a good example.

At least people would ask me, if I was famous, or something, and giving interviews to people who would ask questions like, "Where do you get your ideas?" or "What do you do if you can't think of anything to write about?" But I'm not famous, so I have to resort to making up hypothetical interview questions of my own and writing really poor blog entries about them.

I could try to spark a debate by making absolute and insulting statements to see if anyone would respond. I mean, if I said "All Democrats are morons, and should be stripped of their voting rights, except that would not give the Republicans anyone to spar with."

How about that?

Actually, I don't think that, so don't flame me, or anything. I was just trying to come up with something.

This is going to ramble a bit, so if you don't read it, that's fine.

Every year (since 1982, in which year the contest drew 3 entries total), San Jose State University holds the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. The idea is to write the worst opening line to a work of fiction, specifically a novel, you can think of. The contest is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who published the novel Paul Clifford in 1830. That novel begins with the famous line, "It was a dark and stormy night..." I wonder if the point of the contest has been lost over the years. Some of the winners this year (2005) are quite clever and imaginative. I suppose it is true that beginning a work of fiction with one of them would probably not be advisable, but they are clever and funny nonetheless.

Here are a few of my favorites, shamelessly harvested from the Bulwer-Lytton website. They are not my original work, and credit for the entries belongs to those who wrote them and San Jose State University.

When Detective Riggs was called to investigate the theft of a trainload of Native American fish broth concentrate bound for market, he solved the case almost immediately, being that the trail of clues led straight to the trainmaster, who had both the locomotive and the Hopi tuna tea.

Mitsy Rae
Danbury, NE

I liked this one better than the winner, though that one was very good too. But I like word play, and the winner had nothing on this one in that area.

It was high noon in the jungles of South India when I began to recognize that if we didn't find water for our emus soon, it wouldn't be long before we would be traveling by foot; and with the guerilla warriors fast on our heals, I was starting to regret my decision to use poultry for transportation.

Eric Winter
Minneapolis, MN

This one just made me laugh out loud.

Winner: Historical Fiction
Sphincter, the gladiator, girded his loins in preparation for today's games, glad to be part of the season opener since he hadn't been sure until yesterday that his contract would be renewed, given his slump during the Germans-versus-lions series but he knew that swatting Germans into the lion's pit was trickier than it looked and he told the officials that they should look at his other stats, not just Huns batted in.

Robert Peltzer
Baltimore, MD

OK, here's another one with a pun. Or should I say, Hun. Hee hee.

Is it wrong that I love that name for a gladiator?

Dishonorable Mentions
"The night resembled nothing so much as the nose of a giant Labrador in excellent health: cold, black, and wet."

Devery Doleman
Brooklyn, NY

I have felt this way. Hasn't everyone?

Coincidentally, just as Rose hung out the third sheet out to dry, it started to rain down in sheets and not the soft kind like a fine 400-count Egyptian cotton, but more harsh like a cheap poly blend but even so, Rose didn't notice as she was three sheets to the wind.

Barbara Bridges
Sierra Madre, CA

Aaand another pun bites the dust.

I think that's enough for now. The full text of the winners can be viewed at the Bulwer-Lytton web site, which is at http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/#To%20inflict. If you would like to try your pen at the contest, the rules are posted there as well, or you can snail-mail your entry to the following address:

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
Department of English
San Jose State University
San Jose, CA 95192-0090

We could have a small contest of our own, if you want to respond with some entries in the comments. I will try to have some of my own, too.