Winners of Bad Sentence Contest Revealed

by Barbara Behan

Every year the English Department at San Jose State University sponsors the Bulwer-Lytton* Fiction Contest for bad sentences. The event challenges writers to write the worst possible opening sentences for the worst possible novels.

Highlights from this year’s winning drivel:


“The ‘clunk’ of the guillotine blade’s release reminded Marie Antoinette, quite briefly, of the sound of the wooden leg of her favorite manservant as he not-quite-silently crossed the polished floors of Versailles to bring her another tray of petit fours.” — Leslie Craven, Hataitai, New Zealand


Primum non nocere, from the Latin for “first, do no harm,” one of the principal tenets of the Hippocratic oath taken by physicians, was far from David’s mind (as he strode, sling in hand, to face Goliath) in part because Hippocrates was born about 100 years after David, in part because David wasn’t even a physician, but mainly because David wanted to kill the sucker.”  — David Larsen, San Francisco, CA


“She slinked through my door wearing a dress that looked like it had been painted on … not with good paint, like Behr or Sherwin-Williams, but with that watered-down stuff that bubbles up right away if you don’t prime the surface before you slap it on, and – just like that cheap paint – the dress needed two more coats to cover her.” — Sue Fondrie, Appleton, WI


*named to honor Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel Paul Clifford opens with the cliched “It was a dark and stormy night.”