When is bad writing good?


I always look forward to reading the winning entries in the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. You may have heard of this — every year, hopeful winners submit the worst possible sentence to an imaginary novel that they can think up. [Bulwer-Lytton is the guy who wrote the famously cheesy line Snoopy is typing, so the contest is named after him.] This year’s winners are good for a few laughs.

Top prize went to this doozy: “Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.” Eww.

In the historical fiction category, the winner was: “Napoleon’s ship tossed and turned as the emperor, listening while his generals squabbled as they always did, splashed the tepid waters in his bathtub.” Again, eww. I’ve seen pictures of Napoleon and the image of him naked, soaking in a bathtub, is not a pleasant one.

Other categories include crime, adventure, romance, sci fi, and western. Another of my favorites: “Maggie said they were birthmarks and they very well could be, but the three very small black moles in a horizontal line just above her right eyebrow looked like an ellipsis to some, but to others who did not know what an ellipsis was, they looked like three very small black moles in a horizontal line just above Maggie’s right eyebrow.”

And this gem struck a little close to home: “After five years as a freelance writer, Greg finally managed to double his income, letting him add a processed cheese product slice to the baloney sandwiches he had for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

I saved the best for last. The winner in the “purple prose” category is, thankfully, devoid of any “Eww” factor. But the LOL factor is pretty high. I love this so much it makes me jealous that I didn’t think of it: “As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue.”

I encourage you to read through the entries and have a couple of laughs. There really are some hilarious ones. They inspire me to submit my own entry next year.


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