Thoughtful Thursday: Worst opening lines

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsIt was a dark and stormy night.

That’s considered the worst, most clichéd opening line in fiction.  In honor of that author, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton and the opening line to his novel Paul Clifford, there is now an annual contest to pen the most horrendously bad opening sentence to a novel that you can imagine. And to make it even better, there’s a fantasy category.  Below, for your delectation and delight, are the winning and runner-up from last year’s fantasy contest.

Winner: Fantasy Fiction

A quest is not to be undertaken lightly — or at all! — pondered Hlothgar, Thrag of the Western Boglands, son of Glothar, nephew of Garthol, known far and wide as Skull Dunker, as he wielded his chesty stallion Hralgoth through the ever-darkening Thlargwood, beyond which, if he survived its horrors and if Hroglath the royal spittle reader spoke true, his destiny awaited — all this though his years numbered but fourteen.

Stuart Greenman (Seattle, WA)


Towards the dragon’s lair the fellowship marched — a noble human prince, a fair elf, a surly dwarf, and a disheveled copyright attorney who was frantically trying to find a way to differentiate this story from “Lord of the Rings.”

Andrew Manoske (Foster City, CA)

Okay, the gauntlet has been thrown down, dear readers.  Can you top these specimens of spectacular badness? 

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsMy challenge for you is to come up with the worst opening line to a fantasy novel that has never been written.  Or if the muse doesn’t move you, share with us the worst opening line of a fantasy novel you’ve read.

Give us your entry for this year’s Bulwer-Lytton contest – and enter it for real, if you like – and we’ll enter you in a drawing to win a copy of Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells.  Or if that book doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can pick a book off our stacks.

You have a week to enter into the drawing here, but the deadline for the real contest is April 15th.

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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  1. What, no takers? Must I do everything myself? :P

    Arl’meth’ia stood beneath the silky summer moon, her skin-tight leather armor a second skin poured like candle wax over her voluptuous figure, her waves of luscious golden hair spilling free down her slender back, her eyes glinting like steel beneath the silver-blue sparks of a forge fire as she raised her arm to greet the starlit shadow of her gold-winged soul-bonded gyrfalcon.

    …I suppose if my career never pans out, I could always ghostwrite for Sunny.

  2. wow congrats beth, that’s really terrible…lol

    Here’s my entry:

    “I do not need a man, and I have the scars to prove it, for my name is Justyce Jones, a vampire hunter”

    ugh…not even sure I punctuated that right…regardless it makes me feel ill to read it.

  3. Haha! I love it. Oh all right, I will take a crack at it.

    “The old wizard looked the stable boy up and down, noting his fair hair, the light eyes and by the gods yes, the mark of the King that would set his destiny in stone!”

    Hur, couldn’t help myself. I love this post. Thanks for sharing that, it made me laugh.

  4. My attempt.

    “The dark of night was even darker this particular evening, with a dark shroud covering every dark corner, darkening every soul, and in turn blackening all hopes and dreams, this night.”

  5. Okay, here’s my entry… And I warn you I’m an expert at bad fiction…

    “No, dear, I think it was back in January; that sweet elf-girl February Yu just marched right past April Rayans, held her hand out and said, “May I,” to June Cleavage who as you know has been bragging since last July about that phone call she allegedly received from the august Sept member of the October Club, November Crewel – or, well, possibly it was back in December – but anyway, February, being quite impressionable about such things stared at her until June looked down her nose and said, “Yes, Yu may.”

  6. such a great idea. it’s fun to be absurd and ridiculous, like with a good genre mishmash.

    “Her lover of the ages compelled her heart to sing to the dark and windless night sky and as the words left her mouth, her hero, her conqueror stepped down from the shuttle’s platform, clicked the auto-close remote then turned to her to embrace her as the onslaught of trolls and goblins made their way towards them.”

  7. Wow. There’s some serious badness going on here!

  8. Andrew /

    The wind swept down the mountain—not any particular mountain, though this mountain mattered to the locals because of its high concentration of maple trees that did so much for the local economy which, in general, was in a slump due to the crash in the novelty magic item market, a market that had given jobs to any number of farmers in the winter off-months, but other than that, this mountain was unremarkable to anyone outside a twelve mile radius, unless you’re particularly fond of maple syrup—and the wind brushed past the river—once again, not much of a river, one way or the other, but Billy McGuppins had slipped off the ferry just that morning and dunked himself (and his father’s expensive tobacco pouch) right into the water, though he came out of it all right (alas! the same can’t be said for the tobacco), but do any of us really care about a boy named Billy McGuppins?—and the wind found its way to a city—a city that hereafter will become known as Plague Home, Death’s Gate, the Lower Lip of the Mouth of Hell, but that (before all this) was simply called Twice Town, because if you’d been through twice you’d seen all there was to see, even including the Mayor’s prize chicken, Burp, who had been swallowed whole by a young dragon and come out the other end, three days later, just as happy as she’d gone in (which wasn’t very happy, by all accounts)—and the wind was a beginning—not the beginning, since that actually happened last October about the time that Grace Kudgins opened that Blasted Urn her father had traded for in Far Eastern Brukle’s market for odds and sundries—but it was a beginning.


  9. You guys are entering these for real, right? ‘Cause they are awesomely bad.

  10. (On a side note, I love the name “Justyce Jones.”)


  11. D’evlyn wiped his bloodied sword on the felled man’s cloak and resheathed it. He looked up and his cold blue eyes met Reetha’s. They were like dark pools that a man could lose himself in and were full of hot promise. With his gaze, D’evlyn slowly raked her curvaceous body which was gleaming with a light layer of perspiration. She wore only a thin layer of hot pink silk which clung to every curve. Around her neck hung the sparkling jewel of power that the thief had once again failed to obtain. On its thin gold chain it nestled between her voluptuous breasts which were heaving from the exertion of the fight. Her breath was coming in ragged gasps. The long thin fingers of one hand were holding closed the bodice of her ripped gown while the other hand was struggling to contain her raven hair which had been loosed from the bonds of the filigree net and was in wild disarray.

    “Don’t bother,” said D’evlyn.

    [That’s more than one line, but I got carried away. Sorry.]

  12. A filigree net even. You could ghostwrite for sunny too, Kat.

  13. Andrew /

    “All gods die,” said Borgath, driving his dagger deep into the heart of Mimwick, the Star God, claiming the power as his own—but unaware of Amrod’s sword, sweeping in to remove his head from his shoulders—who was unaware of Lordin’s arrow, ripping through the air to his throat—who was unaware of Tordal’s poison, coursing through his veins to its final climax—who was unaware of the barrel, accidentally dropped by Wad, the stable-boy, who was to become the first accidental god in a thousand years.


  14. Andrew is seriously cracking me up.

  15. Our lucky winner is……Captain Laekira

    Don’t want this book (have you lost your mind?) or Live in the UK? Visit the FanLit stacks.

    Please contact Justin within 5 days after contest ends.

  16. Andrew’s entries were truly memorable. I do hope he enters the contest.

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