A 20-year-old journalism student's perfectly awful automotive metaphor featuring a woman named Portia whose lips were "as dewy as the beads of fresh rain on the hood" was judged the best of the worst in the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.
Rachel Sheeley, 20, a student at Franklin College in Franklin, Ind., was victorious this week over more than 10,000 writers.Contest founder Scott Rice, an English professor at San Jose State University, said the aim of the contest was to write the opening sentence to the worst possible novel.
"It really takes a very good writer to write deliberately bad," Rice said.
Sheeley's winning entry:
"Like an expensive sports car, fine-tuned and well-built, Portia was sleek, shapely and gorgeous, her red jumpsuit moulding her body, which was as warm as the seatcovers in July, her hair as dark as new tires, her eyes flashing like bright hubcaps, and her lips as dewy as the beads of fresh rain on the hood; she was a woman driven -- fueled by a single accelerant -- and she needed a man, a man who wouldn't shift from his views, a man to steer her along the right road: a man like Alf Romeo."
It was the seventh annual Bulwer-Lytton contest, named after the British novelist who wrote the line, "The pen is mightier than the sword," but was known for his awkward language, unfollowable plot twists and overdone descriptions. A Bulwer-Lytton opening line, "It was a dark and stormy night," gained everlasting fame through the "Peanuts" comic strip, where Snoopy the dog uses it frequently when embarking on literary voyages.
Rice said the "It was a dark and stormy night" line was the first sentence of Bulwer-Lytton's 1830 novel, "Paul Clifford."
Rice compares the contest to the annual "Bad Hemingway" contest held at one of the many Harry's Bar and American Grills. The difference is the Bulwer-Lytton contest does not restrict itself to the style of one author.
The contest attracts entrants from around the world, and Rice's three anthologies of entries have sold more than 90,000 copies.
Among the several runners-up was this from Joan Mazulewicz of Liverpool, N.Y.:
"The silent snow fell relentlessly, unceasingly, mercilessly from the sordid, sullied surreality of the sky as if some enormous, ethereal diner were shaking grated parmesan on the great, soggy meatball that was earth."
And from Joette Rozanski of Toledo, Ohio:
"The evilly gibbous moon shed its leering light upon the moor and the running figure of Ronald Brownley who -- with hands clutching the forbidden amulet and ears filled with the hellish ululation of thousands of bounding, spectral hounds -- realized that it had been he, and he alone, who'd cast the horribly portentious deciding vote against the town's leash law."