Purple prose isn’t enough to make you the best of the worst — the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for the most terrible writing in the English-speaking world also requires mixed metaphors, bad puns, overlong sentences and general wretchedness. This year, two Northern Virginia writers were cited for their groan-worthy entries in the 30-year-old contest named after the author who penned the opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
The contest, which seeks the worst first sentence of a novel, attracts thousands of entries. Among the 38 entries that received accolades this year were those by Warren Blair, of Ashburn, Va., and David S. Nelson of Falls Church, Va.
Blair was the runner-up in the “Adventure” category for this dank metaphor:
The shallow cave behind the mighty river’s thundering waterfall seemed more like a damp, cold, misty, poorly lit hallway leading from the shower room in some cheap-dive gym under the Elevated train where mugs who couldn’t crack the glass jaw of some washed-up palooka on their best sober day still deluded themselves that they could be somebody; and yet, Bill thought, “at least it’s got runnin’ water.”
And Nelson was the winner for Children’s Literature, which imagines a very different “Wizard of Oz”:
He swaggered into the room (in which he was now the “smartest guy”) with a certain Wikipedic insouciance, and without skipping a beat made a beeline towards Dorothy, busting right through her knot of admirers, and she threw her arms around him and gave him a passionate though slightly tickly kiss, moaning softly, “Oooohh, Scarecrow!”
And even though he’s from Texas, Kevin Bruemmer paid tribute to Washington, D.C., in his entry for the “Crime” category, which received a Dishonorable Mention:
The smooth hand I was caressing felt as if it belonged to a Persian monk that had been rubbing moisturizing body oils on his fellow monks all day (but not in a gay way, come on, he’s a monk for God’s sake), when in all actuality the hand belonged to a body that I had just pulled out of the Potomac for forensic investigation.