Thursday, March 12, 2015

"It Was A Dark And Stormy Night" and Defying Reason

It's tough to argue with the philosophy that the first line to your novel needs to have impact. It has to set the tone and suck the reader into your world. Just think about these iconic first lines:

"Call me Ishmael" (Moby Dick)
"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins." (Lolita)
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." (1984)
"I am an invisible man." (Invisible Man)
"It was a pleasure to burn." (Fahrenheit 451)

Did you know there's a fun contest for writers to come up with the WORST first line of a novel?

The English department at San Jose University has held a little contest called the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest since 1982. All you have to do is submit the ugliest first line you can come up with, and you could win bragging rights and about $150.00.

You can learn more about how to enter (via email) HERE.

Coming up with a horrid first line is actually tougher than it sounds. Here are just a few of my favorite winners from years past:

2002 Winner: On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky, not quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the toilet paper roll gets a little squashed so it hangs crooked and every time you pull some off you can hear the rest going bumpity-bumpity in its holder until it goes nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of annoyance that Angela had now almost attained. -- Rephaph Berg

2012 Winner: As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and if so, his soul needed regrouting. -- Cathy Bryant

...and last but not least, the 2010 Winner and my personal favorite:

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss - a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil. -- Molly Ringle

What are you waiting for? GO ENTER!

Defying Reason by Elizabeth Seckman

Did you know that the 7th President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, once killed a man in a duel over his wife's honor? Seems Rachel Donelson Jackson had a checkered past. It was scandalous enough that she was a divorcee, but it was later determined she was a bigamist. She'd been unhappily married to her first husband, Captain Lewis Robards, and left him thinking he was filing for the divorce. Seems he never did.  When Jackson ran for president, the news picked up on Rachel's past and she was labeled a wicked woman. Jackson still won the election, but sadly Rachel didn't survive the campaign and never got to be the First Lady. 

The Blurb:

Jo Leigh Harper comes from a long line of trouble-making, white trash stock.
Tanner Coulter comes from a longer line of wealth-creating, blue blood stock.
Jo graduated college top of her class, moving toward a future full of possibilities.
Tanner dropped out of college, trading a law degree for drinking games and one night stands.

A family crisis throws the rich party boy and the poor genius girl together. The attraction is immediate, though neither one is a heart-in-the-sand-drawing believer in true love. But as the summer sun heats up along the shores of the Outer Banks, so does the connection between them. Maybe, just maybe, they can win at love by defying reason.

Author Bio:

Elizabeth is a multi-published author of books for people who are believers in happily-ever- after, true love, and stories with a bit of fun and twists with their plots. The mother of four young men, she tackles laundry daily and is the keeper of the kitchen. She lives along the shores of the Ohio River in West Virginia, but dreams daily of the beach. 

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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

World's thirstiest gerbil. Not a good visual.
Congratulations, Elizabeth!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And no, I didn't know that about Jackson's wife.

Pat Hatt said...

Never knew that about Jackson. lol some of the worst visuals ever in those opening lines

Loni Townsend said...

I'd heard about that contest. Wince worthy entries. :)

I didn't know about Jackson's wife. Huh. My how times have changed.

Southpaw HR Sinclair said...

What an awesome contest! I think everyone here should enter something!

You know, I like Moby Dick, but not that first line.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Thanks for having me over Jay!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Congrats to Elizabeth. If I had time, Jay, I wouldn't mind trying that terrible first line contest. Sounds like it would be fun to judge.

Dixie@dcrelief said...

I'll be checking out the contest.
We do have a country with interesting leaders, some more so than others.

Thank you Jay, and Elizabeth.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Behind every man is a good woman, but I guess not in Jackson's case.

it would be hard to pick a best worst first line because I bet people come up with some good ones.

Suzy Turner said...

Elizabeth, can you imagine if that happened to today's Mr.President? Would make a great novel :/
Jay, that last first liner is horrendous!!!!!

Beth Ellyn Summer said...

yay, love seeing Elizabeth! congrats to her! and hahahah DYING over that last bad line! hysterical!

cleemckenzie said...

Yay for Elizabeth! Love her work.

As to the contest. . .I taught at SJSU for years and this was a highlight. Lots of my students entered. One actually won. No reflection on my teaching, he assured me. :-)

David P. King said...

Oh man! I love it when I hear things like this exist.

Many congratulations, Elizabeth! :)

Anna Soliveres said...

LOL >_< Those were hilarious lines. I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make it perfect and up not knowing where to start at all.

Congrats, Elizabeth!! :)

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