Winner of the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton contest

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh professor Sue Fondrie won this year's bad fiction award.
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.



  1. Sparrow-like thoughts?  As in thoughts of bird seed and insects?  Running from squirrels and chasing birds of prey that stray close to your nest?  I have sparrow-like thoughts all the time.

  2. I’ve never been all that thrilled with the Bulwer-Lytton competition or its winners. That sentence is just baroque and purple. It isn’t bad. It lacks the elegance of (for instance) Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s “Before him, the road receded in both directions,” which is the actual first line of an actual published novel.

    1. “I’ve never been all that thrilled with the Bulwer-Lytton competition or
      its winners. That sentence is just baroque and purple. It isn’t bad.”

      Of course, the same goes for its inspiration, the infamous “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.”

      The BLFC is what it is, and it’s quite good for what it is. Complaining that it’s not a different sort of contest seems to miss the point…

  3. Purple Prose:
    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.There are some gut-busters via the link!

  4. yeah, there are some real gems in there (even the dishonorables).  one of my favs i think was:

    The beast lumbered toward the maiden, its fetid breath announcing its presence to her (since she couldn’t see him due to the blindfold her captors had tied around her head), its jaws gaping open like a sub sandwich with too much meat, so that no matter how hard you try, you can’t possibly keep the lettuce or the tomatoes from squeezing out onto the table or, worse, your lap.

    1. No. 

      No. You made that up. It’s very funny, but nobody included that in their serious work. Was it “serious” work? Was the person not writing to be silly?

      No, you made that up. I simply won’t believe otherwise.

      Edit: Ooooooh, OK, it’s not real. Gotcha.

      1. I *wish* I had the talent in creative writing to have come up with some of the lines in that contest.

        Deanna waited for him in a deliberate pose on the sailor-striped chaise lounge of the newly-remodeled Ramada, her bustier revealing the tops of her white breasts like eggs–eggs of the slightly undercooked, hard-boiled variety, showing a nascent jiggle with her apprehensive breath, eggs that were then peeled ever-so-carefully so as not to pierce the jellied, opaque albumen and unleash the longing, viscous yolk within–yes, she lay there, oblong and waiting to be deviled.

  5. Similarly (you’ll see what I did there)– caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again.The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

    Not “real,” in the same way that the Bulwer-Lytton entrants aren’t real, but funny nonetheless.

    1. I’ve finished reading the fourth in the ‘Old Man’s War’ series, so I had to check this out.

      Night had come to the city of Skalandarharia, the sort of night with such a quality of black to it that it was as if black coal had been wrapped in blackest velvet, bathed in the purple-black ink of the demon squid Drindel and flung down a black well that descended toward the deepest, blackest crevasses of Drindelthengen, the netherworld ruled by Drindel, in which the sinful were punished, the black of which was so legendarily black that when the dreaded Drindelthengenflagen, the ravenous blind black badger trolls of Drindelthengen, would feast upon the uselessly dilated eyes of damned, the abandoned would cry out in joy as the Drindelthengenflagenmorden, the feared Black Spoons of the Drindelthengenflagen, pressed against their optic nerves, giving them one last sensation of light before the most absolute blackness fell upon them, made yet even blacker by the injury sustained from a falling lump of ink-bathed, velvet-wrapped coal.’

      Wow.  I see what you mean.

  6. actually i am seeing a theme here–i am enjoying the ones related to food quite a lot more than the others.  maybe i should go make myself a sammie…

  7. I’d like to encourage all of you to try your hand at entering next year’s contest. You, too, can be awful.

    Sue Fondrie

  8. As I read more and more, I occasionally felt near-physical pain. So saying, sure I’ll enter next year.

    I do wish I could use some of these as examples in my fiction class.

  9. Ehh, I really wish someone would win this contest with a short sentence. It’s more like a contest of who can drag out bad analogies to awkward places than a contest of focused, concise badness.

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