Bulwer-Lytton Bad Writing Award

The ugly results of the San Jose State University bad writing contest are in, and the winner–or loser depending on your perspective–is Dan McKay of Fargo, ND. He writes: “As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold . . .” It gets worse from there.

The contest web pages explain, “the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels.”

McKay’s is the overall winner, but other entries were recognized within their genres. I like this one by Randy Blanton of Murfreesboro, TN: “Because of her mysterious ways I was fascinated with Dorothy and I wondered if she would ever consider having a relationship with a lion, but I have to admit that most of my attention was directed at her little dog Toto because, after all, he was a source of meat protein and I had had enough of those damn flying monkeys.”

From the literary file, I find these hilarious, though funny is not as much the point as is bad prose.

Kristin Harbuck of Bozeman, MT writes: “She walked toward him, her dress billowing in the wind — not a calm and predictable billows like the sea, but more like the billowing of a mildewed shower curtain in a cheap motel where one has to dance around to avoid touching it while trying to rinse off soap.”

Devery Doleman of Brooklyn, NY gives us: “The night resembled nothing so much as the nose of a giant Labrador in excellent health: cold, black, and wet.”

Chris Bui of sunny Pensacola, FL carries on this wonderful metaphor: “After months of pent-up emotions like a caffeine-addict trying to kick the habit, Cathy finally let the tears come, at first dripping sporadically like an old clogged percolator, then increasing slowly like a 10-cup coffeemaker with an automatic drip, and eventually pouring out and noisily wailing like a cappuccino maker complete with slurping froth.”


  1. Oh, lordy. This is too good! Thanks, Phil. I love cleaning coffee off my flat panel screen in the morning!

    *I tried a Haloscan trackback at TT, but can’t seem to make it work for CM. After paying more attention, it seems your site is not enabled for them?

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