Survivors! It’s a late night…if you stayed up for this, what’s wrong with you? Also, congratulations, because you’ll be the first to read these hilariously awful openers.

Sarah Bizek, Big Brass…Band

The winter night was black and bright. Our heavy steps and hearts made deep prints in the deep snow. A wolf howled like a mourning goose.

We had miles to go before we slept.

K: This is quite awful, but at first I thought it was tough to believe the first sentence would be published. But the more I thought about it, the more I could see how an editor might let it go, as stupid as it reads. These aren’t the all-time worst comparisons I’ve seen here, but they’re bad. “Heavy steps and hearts” is the money shot for me here. I love that kind of thing in this challenge.

DK: I just have trouble seeing this one getting anywhere ripping off the last line. Otherwise, you fill the quota of bad metaphors well.

MG: One of the hardest things about this challenge aside from its unspellable name is making the prose feel plausibly publishable. In other words, anything that would be blue-penciled by even the most unattentive, self-loathing editor just trying to churn out a piece of airport bookstore chum is a mark against the piece. A black and bright winter night? I just can’t imagine that one sneaking out of the publishing house uncorrected. Otherwise, this is a fine first entry, and I definitely would put this one down once the wolf howls like a goose. BRONZE

Jack Haas, Freshly Ruptured Hymen

The easterly wind blew into my hair, creating a sideways mohawk that pointed west like a compass to where my thoughts inevitably had no choice but to lie.

K: I want to punch this one in the face. I absolutely believe this could be in some emo teen story, and it doesn’t overstep itself and look too much like intentional humor. SILVER

DK: Bad metaphor, check. Dumb imagery, check. Strained, but not too strained, linguistics, check and check. BRONZE

MG: Ow. Owwwwww. This is just terrible. GOLD.

Colin Woolston, Liam Neeson’s Walrus

Captain Brock Tanner scanned the tombs of the long-past dead for signs of enemy movement. There wasn’t any, and this wasn’t the most terrifying thing – that would be the enemy within.

K: AAAAAAAHHHHHH! As if “Brock Tanner” wasn’t overbearing enough, this one reads so overwrought and lame action hero-y that I loudly guffawed at this drivel. GOLD

DK: Brock Tanner: a great name for a character I won’t care at all about. Or about his enemy within. But yeah, go ahead and set up a deeply ponderous conflicted anti-hero why don’t you. GOLD

MG: I find myself squinting at the end of this one, as if it might help me figure out what’s going on. It’s not utterly dissuading me from wanting to read on…not out of enjoyment, but out of sheer confusion.

Sarah Wreisner, BBB

Maggie swept through the halls, taffeta and brownstone kissing in the inky shadows. Her heart swelled with love; his elegance, newly discovered after the wretchedness of war, lingered long after the engagement party’s late end.

K: Again, an overwrought piece of trash that made me grin. That’s such an idiotic and needlessly complex way to say that two people love each other, and the war bit doesn’t fit the sentence at all. SILVER

DK: I just read this three times and I don’t remember what it’s about. Maybe that means I should give it a point, but I didn’t.

MG: This seems like something I’d read today if I picked up any generic romance at the supermarket checkout counter. It doesn’t offend the senses. In other words, it’s not meeting the minimal requirements to be truly awful.

Margaret Martin, LNW

“But Mama, he’s magic!” She sobbed sadly. “You know nothing about love.”

“And you know nothing about being a mother.”

“Well, this baby is special!” She sobbed morosely.

That day, Harmony’s life changed forever.

K: This is irritating and not well-written, but I don’t know enough about it to know if I should truly hate it. Maybe that’s the intent, but I find myself wanting to read a few more lines just to see what I’m dealing with.

DK: I think this lacks a certain kind of focus, and by that I mean, focus that would actually get it published or something. It’s bad, but maybe too bad.

MG: This one is like a light blow to the back of the head with a bludgeon. It leaves me stunned and unsure whether I can move forward. Nice. BRONZE

Zack Sauvageau, FRH

As I write this I am ascending to the pearly gates of heaven, felled by my recently widowed, estranged wife; the penultimate insult. So pause and I will tell you what happened to me.

K: Okay, this one grows on me (in the right way) as I read it. I’m not big on the intentional misuse of “penultimate,” unless it really was the second-to-last insult, but “as I write this” is senseless since he’s ascending to Heaven, and the idea that the reader must pause to get into “reading character,” or some such, is pretty good trash. SILVER

DK: I like the word penultimate too much. Sorry. Especially since it suggests I will find out about another insult, and I like reading about insults.

MG: See, no, this is just making me want to read MORE. The clumsiness of the prose is acting as a lure, and I find myself wanting to discover whether the author really DOES know the meaning of “penultimate” and has another insult waiting at the pearly gates or something.

Leif Bierly, LNW

Years ago, hungry fans of the New Orleans Pelicans wouldn’t have guessed when the lovable losers inked unknown newcomer T’Mois Best the whole entire city would 360 reverse. At the end of the day, they did.

K: Again, the intentional misuse of 360 doesn’t grab me, but the bad name actually does (a sports book with a guy named “Best”…oy) and the last line, given that we’d just been talking about “years,” sorta does. BRONZE

DK: Point for selecting the Pelicans to write about, cause who wants to read about them? BRONZE

MG: I laughed at this one. It’s utterly hopeless. I gotta take a point or two off for the “360 reverse” line, because I think our mythical downtrodden pulp editor might actually require action on that. But otherwise, it’s sweet searing pain. GOLD

Beau, LNW

On that fateful summer day, when the tornado left waves of destruction (and poor dear Garrett) in its wake, Mallory rediscovered her innocence.

K: This is possibly just bad in an ordinary way, but that almost makes it worse. There’s almost no entertainment value here and I can’t imagine the entire book would have any. BRONZE

DK: Good job with the parenthetical. That is nicely tailored to suggest character struggle with a tossed off central tragedy. And talking about rediscovered innocence can go nowhere interesting. BRONZE

MG: Now, I don’t want to read further than the start of this. But it’s not because of how badly it’s written. It’s because of how dull it sounds. I don’t know if I should reward that.

Joe Harrell, FRH

Casey pulled her hand out of her favorite pair of blue jeans shorts and gazed in awe at the deep red blood. “I am woman, hear me roar!” she yelled to the bleachers.

K: Eh, this is too cheeky to capture me. I don’t really buy that a book would begin this way, either from a man who doesn’t get women or a woman fumbling with empowerment.

DK: I thought my gender bias was showing last week, but now it’s really going to be showing. But really, who wears blue jean shorts?!? GOLD

MG: This one made me sneer. Yes, awful, and the start of a book I wouldn’t want to remember existed. SILVER

Rex Ogle, Miranda Priestly’s Unholy Sweater Crisis

The couple looked longingly into each other’s eyes and kissed–one last time, they promised. They locked hands, pulled out their guns, and readied themselves to storm the bank.

K: Ugh. I suppose this works more on a level of it being a lousy concept than it being bad writing, as the prose is ordinary but not terrible. This Mr. and Mrs. Smith-inspired nonsense would just make me roll my eyes as a book, though, for sure.

DK: Too much actual anticipation set up here. I’m not saying I want to read the whole thing, but I might read a page or two more.

MG: This one actually reads as plausible…maybe even worth reading further. It’s certainly not GOOD prose, but it doesn’t make me want to throw the book across the room.

Brooks Maki, LNW

Shannon was unmovingly stationary, a dervish not whirling. She cast her ears about for the sounds of the predator walking around.

K: I’d cut “unmovingly” to make it more realistic. With that gone, this would be right up there. “A dervish not whirling” is the right kind of hideous. “Cast her ears about” is horrid, too.

DK: Same problem here, with the second sentence at least – it actually sets up a little tension. The first one, meanwhile, might be too badly written to be realistic.

MG: Niiice. Casting ones ears around is some solid craptacular metaphorical writing. SILVER

Rusty Greene, MPUSC

Her wedding ring on her finger glowed in the light like a promise for forever. She smiled and remembered the day her husband put it there. He had married her. It meant something.

K: Oh, good God. I hate this. “Like” a promise for forever. Clunky prose, and not even a true analogy. I can already see this woman being defined by the man/men in her life, and I hate this story so, so much for it. GOLD

DK: I could see this one being a real intro. To a real sappy romance that repeats its emotional beats ad nauseum. SILVER

MG: Custom made for a Hallmark Channel adaptation. Not the worst (or best) entry of the night. But quite clumsy. BRONZE

Annette Barron, FRH

The grizzled, graying detective pointed his piece directly at my heart. “We can make this easy,” he portentously threatened, “or we can make you dead.” Grabbing my smokin-hot girlfriend’s hand, I began to flee.

K: This starts out the right way, with lame slang (“his piece”) and “portentously threatened,” but then this seems too desperate to be stupid with “make you dead” and the smokin’-hot girlfriend.

DK: “Began to flee” is awfully tempting, but I’d feel better, I mean worse, if the girlfriend had been average. Maybe. In truth, this one was close cause basically every section is off-putting on its own.

MG: I got the wind knocked out of me by the end of this, but I don’t think it’s enough to prompt me to put the book away. I might want to see what the hell this author thinks he’s getting away with, and that’d require a few more pages at least.

Melissa Diamond, FRH

She walked into my life like a wide-eyed, russet fawn. My heart palpitated, and I knew, even as she spoke the terrible thing she wanted, that I’d do anything she ordered from those cupid-bow lips.

K: Oh, to HELL with you. This narrator clearly does not have a lot of respect for women given the first sentence, and “those cupid-bow lips” makes me want to straight punch you in the balls. GOLD

DK: You also nail the bad metaphors column, but you come up just short by using a word I like in palpitated.

MG: This is some crummy writing, no doubt. Don’t think it quite approaches the badness we’re looking for.

Bret Highum, LNW

As Jesse watched the red-and yellow-tinged water swirling down the drain, he reflected on how similar it was to his life. It started when he took his Subaru in to get a bigger spoiler installed.

K: This is another one with a great start that cracks a joke that makes it clear I’m reading Bantam Bulwyr. If it’s done right, I shouldn’t be reminded of the parameters, if you feel me.

DK: This succeeds solely on the idea of any story about getting a bigger spoiler being written. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the writing, which means you could get someone to buy this, but it won’t be me. SILVER

MG: You had me with that first sentence, but lost me with that second. An awful, AWFUL analogy really hits me in the don’t-want-to-read-any-more-bone, but then the “it all started” stuff just strings me along a bit and makes me want to know more. Rough one. BRONZE

Pete Bruzek, MPUSC

“Damn you, commie bastards!” Detective Kurt Stone shouted out, letting his words creep like a warm mist into the cold Russian night, “I’m going to shoot all of you in the head for this!”

K: So many of these peak early! Our “hero” yelling at “commie bastards” is a nice antiquated bit of idiocy, but it goes from believable jingoism to cartoonish jingoism at the end.

DK: I’m a little intrigued. A little. But you do have a bad metaphor, so that’s good.

MG: I don’t feel much horrible from this, I’m afraid. Even the simile isn’t exactly terrible.

Roman Feeser, MPUSC

The secret tourist town of Pleasant Valley was nestled proudly on a ridge, six thousand feet above sea level. Seen from hundreds of miles away, hundreds of visitors flocked to the unknown getaway destination annually.

K: This one is difficult. It’s very stupid, but the intentional paradoxes grow in number to the point where I find it tough to buy. All the same, I’m annoyed by it and it partially feels like I’m annoyed in the right way. This challenge is so damned difficult.

DK: What is this story even about? I have no idea, and that’s why you nailed it. This could easily be somebody’s pretentious magnum opus introduction to something that ends with a guy on his deathbed talking about his childhood. GOLD

MG: All the internal contradictions in this are too blatant to miss. This one is trying to make the reader angry; trying too hard and in ways that are merely annoying, rather than painful or wince-inducing.

Sama Smith, BBB

She shed her friends like a snake sheds skin. We’d always been close. The best of frenemies. We competed at school with plastered smiles on our faces. Friendly competition never hurt anyone, until now.

K: Ugh. Having to read “the best of frenemies” makes me want to hurl this writer into a wall. The plastered smiles and the last line make it clear that this is going to be inane high school-level drama that can only end in tears for the reader. I do wish the comma in the last line was an ellipsis. BRONZE

DK: I ended up comparing this one to the next one a little bit, and this one suffered because it didn’t feel as possible to me, as a real work.

MG: Hate to say it, but this sort of has a bit of legitimacy to it. The last line is utterly rotten, but the starting bits feel like they could have been written by Diablo Cody.

Christina Pepper, BBB

For probably the millionth time that day, Gloriana reached up and felt the enormous, bulbous, pus-filled pimple sprouting from the middle of her gleaming forehead.

“Adolescence sucks,” she quietly declared out loud to herself.

K: “Quietly declared out loud” is another reminder that I’m reading Bantam Bulwyr, in the wrong way. “Enormous, bulbous” is too. This wouldn’t be an interesting opening, but I don’t feel strongly that something like this gets published (or even written) in the first place.

DK: What I mean is, I could see this one a little more as a real intro to a cheesy young adult novel where the main character falls in love with a squidman who is just so dreamy but his squidness would be fatal to her if they ever got too close. You know? SILVER

MG: Urgh. That’s not pleasant to read, but I don’t know that it entirely warns me away from the rest of the book. It’s adequately described, and it’s followed by a reasonable observation…that’s just grossness, not horrible writing.

Will Young, MPUSC

“We all know what she’s going to do,” Chuck convinced himself indecisively, “but I shan’t be ’round for the consequence: dinner.”

K: “Convinced himself indecisively” is yet another too-obvious contradiction. Chuck speaking in that weird proper tone in the end seems like the Survivor writer not trusting the concept and falling back on something too close to an intentional joke.

DK: Another close one. I don’t know where this could go that would be interesting, although I guess the dinner description could be appetizing. So I guess that’s why you missed out, but why don’t I have more medals to give?

MG: Another blatant internal contradiction, but it gets salvaged by the “consequence: dinner” part. I would slam it closed on several orphaned ladybugs at that point. SILVER

Erik S, BBB

He waited. The music filled him so completely it threatened to leak out of every hole. He smiled a secret smile, knowing what was in his back pocket: a song that would change the world.

K: Okay, here’s the stuff. This character’s avarice is so completely irritating, in the space of 35 words, that I already don’t give a fuck about his song. “He smiled a secret smile.” That’s the right kind of awful. BRONZE

DK: Change the world! = no thank you. And man, music leaking out of every hole, you should probably get that checked out. BRONZE

MG: WOW. Ugh. That hurt in many places at once. GOLD

Brian David, LNW

Rear Admiral Bricklazer was exploring space when Subcommandante Fiero’s face exploded onto the screen.

Impossible, thought Bricklazer, I saw him die!

“That’s right, Bricklazer” giggled Fiero. “The only thing that died will be you.”

K: Oh, hell. Fiero’s line is comical in nearly the wrong way for the challenge, but the fact that this story doubted its own ability so much that it used two overused action tropes in the first 35 words makes me just loathe it. SILVER

DK: I thought that last line almost was too bad to be real, but when I read it again, I thought it might work. My favorite part was just “exploring space”, though. Just a normal day at the office for the ol’ Rear Admiral. SILVER

MG: Our sole sci-fi war epic? Well, it’s pretty rotten, that’s for sure. Not the most sting-bringing one of the evening, but I sure as hell wouldn’t read further. SILVER


As always, lots of laughs to be had. One player even said (multiple times) that she’d be down for an entire season of this. I maintain that we’d get sick of it, but by God, I love this challenge.

Liam Neeson’s Walrus: 10/1/7/2/3/4/9 = 36/7 = 5.14
Freshly Ruptured Hymen: 9/3/8/0/5 = 25/5 = 5.00
Miranda Priestly’s Unholy Sweater Crisis: 0/9/0/5/3 = 17/5 = 3.40
Big Brass…Band: 1/3/1/3/7 = 15/5 = 3.00

Well, huh. BBB is good at writing well, but bad at writing poorly, according to the last two challenges. BBB and MPUSC, you need to vote someone out by Sunday night at 9pm Central. After that, we’re going to go to single elimination again. It just feels more correct to me, and 20 is a nice, manageable number that doesn’t make me feel like the season’s going to take forever.

Cheers, Survivors.