Hey, congratulations on entering a writing contest! For this challenge, we’d like you to write poorly.

Only once have I looked at a real, published book and read a passage so awful that it made me laugh but also forced me to quit reading. When I was in jail, the pickings were slim at the library, and there was this hideous horror novel about a baby grand piano that walks around and eats people. As a comic novel it would be gold, but I was really supposed to be scared, or something.

Little did I know there was an existing contest to write opening sentences to bad novels just like that one. This challenge is called Bantam Bulwyr, named after the overwrought writer who gave the world the following:

“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.”

This dude Adam Cadre runs a contest every year to see who can write the worst possible opening sentence for a novel. It’s produced some real winners over the years:

The pain wouldn’t stop, and Vern still had three cats left.

Gordon strove to be a nice pimp.

John, surfing, said to his mother, surfing beside him, “How do you like surfing?”

Ah, poetic Paris: with its pâtés and beaujolais, tiramisu and au jus.

Emperor Wu liked cake, but not exploding cake!

“Crime,” declared the police captain, “is everywhere, crime, crime!”

I placed the dynamite and waited for Caden to get home from t-ball practice.

“Uh-oh,” because the goop had inevitably grown arms and was on a collision course with Jason!

And what the hell: here’s our favorite from last season, with comments:

A painful moment – when the Spanish Armada that was my heart was unexpectedly blindsided by surprise waves of cruelty like harpoons to my soul – was your departure for picturesque Sweden.

B: Inappropriate use of the dashes is the highlight here. But “Spanish Armada that was my heart” is a close second. I just know the rest of the paragraph is going to be filled with continued seafaring metaphors and I am running (or is that sailing?) away screaming. Good work. In fact, excellent work. I hate this sentence more and more every time I read it.

K: Oh, look at that insanely stupid mixed metaphor. Why mention that Sweden is picturesque here? Why would one need to be “unexpectedly” blindsided? This is brilliant. Er, the opposite of brilliant. And that’s perfect.

As you can see, it’s hard to explain but somewhat easy to spot a good one. To be clear, if the sentence intrigues us and makes us wish we could read more, that’s a problem. If it works, we’ll be laughing, and in pain. We’ll set the word limit at thirty for this thing (EDIT: it can be more than one sentence, if you like). Note that many of the best ones above have much fewer words, so don’t be afraid of falling way short of thirty.

Scoring will work the same way, although I want to make a small amendment to the elimination rules for this opening three-week thingy: if there are two people who “lead” in non-submissions, regardless of team affiliation, they will be eliminated. So, if both Tara and Scott manage to do no challenges and Nate recovers, Tara and Scott will be gone. As always, this is just to protect players.

These are due on Sunday the 30th at 2pm Central. Why the earlier hour? Because I’ll be off next Sunday, and I’ll be bored and in need of something to do. Results should go up shortly after, and the final challenge of our opening section will go up as early as that night. Send them again, and as you always will, to foreverunchanged@gmail.com.

Enjoy this one, Survivors. I know I will.
Cheers, Spookymilk