Toasty halibut overtones

Do you enjoy reading phrases like, “the agnosticism of lugubriousness is almost independent in its nobility” and “the 1998 Semillon from Bear Valley Winery unites free-love-inducing Home Run Pie elements with a feminine mustard essence.” If so, the 2017 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is for you. (Personally, we detected notes—highly nuanced, mind you—of tsetse fly dung (local, organic and sustainable, to be sure. We believe they were Namibian tsetse flies, not the oh-so-last year’s ones from Ethiopia.)

The Contest honors the memory of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (even his name is too long). One could argue Bulwer-Lytton’s fame is based on a beagle. Charles Schulz’s Snoopy adopted the first line of Bulwer-Lytton’s novel “Paul Clifford” for his own adventure stories: “It was a dark and stormy night.” Rarely quoted, for obvious reasons, the entire opening line reads, “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents––except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” (One of us thought of having this opening line tattooed somewhere to help remind her to avoid writing turgid prose, but she ran out of leggy real-estate.)

The 2017 contest is upon us, with only a couple months until the June 30 deadline to compose epic opening lines: epic as in of unusually great size or extent, not epic as in impressively great. For those seeking a pinnacle achievement for their writing career, visit the website for contest rules. We suggest you also read through the contest winners from 2016 at Some of our favorites phrases from 2016 include “when your home smells like a three-week-old buffalo carcass” (for one of us it is only 2-weeks since she’s had the carcass) and “my mind bent under the weight of it all like a cheap paper plate at a family barbecue when it is filled with all the wet heavy stuff like baked beans and sauerkraut.”

We leave you with the overall winner of the 2016 Bulwer-Lytton Contest:

“Even from the hall, the overpowering stench told me the dingy caramel glow in his office would be from a ten-thousand-cigarette layer of nicotine baked on a naked bulb hanging from a frayed wire in the center of a likely cracked and water-stained ceiling, but I was broke, he was cheap, and I had to find her.” —
William “Barry” Brockett, Tallahassee, FL


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