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.

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  • 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.

  • Stacy

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

  • Augustus Carp

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

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

  • 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.

  • lamacher

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

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

  • 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.

  • Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

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

    Horse tranquilizers?

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Anything from Ann Coulter make the cut?