Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, August 24, 2007

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night -- Or Was It?

by Kerry Blair

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. ~Edward George Bulwer-Lytton in Paul Clifford (1830)

I shudder to think what it says about me, but that has always been one of my favorite lines from literature. (And I don’t use the term facetiously like the folks at San Jose State University, either!)
Almost certainly, my appreciation for Lord Bulwer-Lytton was inspired by my first love, Snoopy. From the late 60s well into the 70s I cut from the Sunday comics every Charles Schultz cartoon that featured the indefatigable, always-optimistic writing beagle.

A few of my favorites:

Snoopy sitting on his dog house typing: It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! Then another! And another! And then some more. Shots, that is.

Snoopy sitting on his dog house, typing: It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out!
Lucy: Isn’t there enough violence in the world today? Can’t you write about something nice?
Snoopy, typing: It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a kiss rang out!

Snoopy, typing: Some nights were dark. Some nights were stormy. Some shots rang out. Some maids screamed. Some more editors sent rejections slips.

Lucy to Snoopy: I heard you got a six figure offer for your next book. May I ask what the six figure was?
Snoopy: 000,000!

Alas, Julie relates to Earnest Hemingway while I relate to Snoopy. Do you think that in any way explains my "success" in the world of arts and letters?

Moving on . . . as a proud protégé of both Snoopy and his mentor, it is with mixed emotion I tell you that the results for the 2007 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest were announced this week. (You know, that contest where they make fun of bad writing – presumably bad writing done on purpose.) The winner was Jim Gleeson of Madison, Wisconsin. Gleeson wrote: Gerald began—but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them “permanently” mean the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash—to pee.

Admittedly, that will be hard to top, but I think you can do it! We’re going to have our own 2007 Snoopy as Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest here on the Frog Blog – and, boy, do I have world-class prizes! The winner of our contest for the WORST opening paragraph for an LDS novel will receive (drum roll, please):

*A vintage copy of Bulwer-Lytton’s most famous work: The Last Days of Pompeii. (First published in 1834, but this copy is from the early 1900s – 1913, I think. I happen to have picked up two in my thrift-store hauntings or you’d never get it!)

*A matted, full-color photocopy of my very favorite Snoopy writing cartoon of all time. (If you think I’d give you the original you’re loony as a ‘toon.)

*A fabulous six-figure cash award. (The figure is – you guessed it – $000,000!)

Enter in the comments section. Next Thursday, which I sincerely hope will be a dark and stormy night, The Frog will pick one winner and two runners-up. The Six Writers -- including me! -- are eligible to enter. (The Frog is absolutely impartial, I swear!) You may only enter once, so give it your best shot. Extra points may be given for including dark, stormy and/or night somewhere in the paragraph. Paragraphs may exceed one sentence, but no more than 100 words.

This is it: your chance to prove to the world that you can write worse than Robison Wells! Don’t miss it!


At 8/24/2007 2:44 PM, Blogger Janette Rallison said...

I love Snoopy and his writing attempts too! Here is an attempt for your contest:

Alicia's lips were bright red--the exact color of that little button on turkey timers that pops up when the turkey is done--only Alicia never knew that, because she was a strict vegan and just made tofu turkey on Thanksgiving, which of course doesn't have an actual little turkey timer button, but everyone else who saw her thought, "Ahh, the turkey is done."

At 8/24/2007 3:30 PM, Blogger Marnie Pehrson said...

Here it is -- exactly 100 words of meaningless drivel:

It was a dark and stormy night when I lay in my bed dreaming of sugar plums and mayflowers which, of course, I do not know what those are, but perhaps you the reader will … so you do the imagining for me, will you? You might ask how I can dream of things that I do not comprehend, but I digress… for I was writing about a dark and stormy night in which the rain fell in buckets dumped like garbage on a hot, shiny, green tin roof that a black cat pranced and hopped like a rabbit across.

At 8/24/2007 3:41 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Janette: Since you were the very first (and only) one to play my game, I will hereby speak at your conference, send a very gushy review of "How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend" to everybody on my mailing list, and nominate you for a Whitney.

Of course, I was going to do all that stuff anyway, but don't tell anybody. Maybe then they'll play along just to see what else I might offer from the depths of my insecurity that nobody wants to play games with me.


At 8/24/2007 3:47 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

We all want to play your game, Kerry. We'd even consider playing tag with you. But after that first entry, we're pretty gun shy.

At 8/24/2007 4:17 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Marnie! I can't believe I missed you! Your comment must have popped on while I was writing one myself. Sorry, sorry!

Let's see...I can't think of anything good enough to give you! Maybe I could give you six months off from running my web site? No! Wait! Anything but that! :-)

And, Jeff, I do see your point. Besides, I haven't exactly tossed my rock onto the hopscotch court yet, either.

At 8/24/2007 4:26 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Ooh, I love the Bulwer-Lytton contest! I have one of their books, and the entries are a hoot.

Save a spot for me in your contest! I'll be entering as soon as I get time to wax poetic.

At 8/24/2007 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like corn flakes, but sometimes they taste kind of bad. But it's okay because that's why I like them. My story starts on a dark, stormy, wintery, cold, freezing night. I was out of corn flakes and needed some more for breakfast the first meal of the day. It kind of was sad or something. But whatever. Sometimes grapefruit is good for breakfast. Or Cheerios.

-Meredith L. Dias

At 8/24/2007 6:16 PM, Blogger ChillyGator said...

Janette intimidated me away from the game (o: but it was a very awesome entry

At 8/24/2007 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a dark and stormy night. Thunder crashed across the sky and lightning illuminated the face of the man before me in garish proportions. His sinister smile sent a chill up my back and I started to run. I could hear his footsteps behind me getting closer and closer. I ran hard, my sweat mixing with the rain, feeling his cold hands grasping for me, reaching for my throat. Then I woke up. Was it only a dream? The note taped to my mirror said otherwise.

Julie Bellon :)

At 8/24/2007 6:42 PM, Blogger Janette Rallison said...

Yesss, I knew if I was persistant enough you'd eventually do my will and bidding!

Plus I think I'll go tell my editor that I've got my first sentence done for my new book. It's good to scare them every once in awhile.

At 8/24/2007 7:55 PM, Blogger Marnie Pehrson said...

Kerry, I want that six figure book advance. It might be the only one I ever see. Please send me that check for $000,000 asap! I have bills to pay! Btw, are you getting my emails? Or has aol relegated me to the junk pile again. *sniff sniff*

At 8/24/2007 8:32 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Ok, I'll play! (a little concerned that Julie's is similar, and yet...)

It was a dark and stormy knight I came upon in the otherwise deserted castle. I could feel rather than see the glare from behind that visor, burning deep, deep into my soul like a curling iron left on a block of ice. I cowered and try to shrink away from that merciless gaze, like a Styrofoam cup in the oven, but I slipped and crashed headlong into the knight, making a clatter not unlike that I time I tried to carry too many dishes down the stairs from the dishwasher.

“Oh, my mistake. Just an empty suit of armor.”

At 8/24/2007 11:28 PM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

Only for the queen of contests do I make this feeble attempt. I've chosen to write outside my genre and experiment with the delicate touches of romance fiction. For the sake of winning at all costs and also because I really want whatever consolation prize you can find among your frogo-billia I should point out that not only did I follow the format of the example given, I also used the words dark, stormy and night, along with thematic words like thunder, struck and rainforest. Also, please note that night is used twice and that a close relative of stormy made a guest appearance. And of course the little twist between the first two words and the dialogue has got to be worth at least a couple of warts, a webbed foot or maybe a few ribbets of praise from the most gracious judge of this most prestigious of contests.

* (It seems I’m using these little asterisks a lot lately) I'll do anything for a gourmet fly on a stick so please smile kindly on these fewer than 100 Bulwer-Lytton-esque words:

Thunder struck, Joe leaned over the corner table at La Bernardin until he was close enough the back of her hand brushed the tip of his tie—a dark gray paisley with multiple patterns of storm drains positioned vertically across the finest Indian silk money could buy from an elderly rainforest native immigrant shop owner who sewed all of his wares by hand at night—and said, "Wow! Did you hear that?"

At 8/25/2007 2:01 AM, Anonymous marlene said...

Kerry, I was going to add my account to the rest tonight but while rereading your rules and my competitors' contributions I was filled with such raucous laughter that I found myself having fallen upon the floor when a man, his dark face deeply lined with concern, stormed into the room saying, "You will pay for this." as he stared at the deep piles of dark paper that had been strewn across the floor as if by a turbulent storm when I fell. Still glaring at me with stormy eyes as I sat in the deep, dark shadows where I had fallen he asked. "Are you looking for a frog or something?"

At 8/25/2007 12:47 PM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

I could never compete with janette's (which I'm still laughing over) but I once entered a contest for the worst first line. So instead of coming up with something new, I am regurgitating an old effort: “He was in love with her, loved her like he loved lasagna, not just any lasagna, especially not the vegetarian kind, but the meaty juicy savory kind with extra cheese, and he could tell by the way her face flushed like steaming marinara sauce underneath a thick layer of melted ricotta that she must feel the same way; he only hoped that their love didn’t end like his love with lasagna always ended, filled with excruciating pain on the toilet.”

At 8/25/2007 1:15 PM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

Seeing as Bulwer-Lytton sounds a lot like Dickens to me, and because Dickens is an old favorite of mine, I couldn’t resist a British Victorian twist to my paragraph. And no, I’m not the same age as Charles (Dickens, that is--not Prince). Here goes with my most awful version--and do I get extra points for using "night" twice? :-)

A thick, dark, swirling, choking, stormy fog, frothed and coughed its way down the alley close to the River Thames, shrouding Egbert against the vile night in which humiliation had followed embarrassment of the most mortifying magnitude, when sweet Gertrude discovered the tattoo on the toe next to his pinky--it was something his cruel and merciless step-mother placed there twenty-one years ago on another dank and miserable night when she left him as a shivering infant on the doorstep of Mister Mervin of Mobberly Mansion--a lime-green, one-eyed, red-lipped frog.

At 8/25/2007 1:18 PM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

Ummm--that would be the tattoo that was lime-green, one-eyed, and red-lipped . . .

At 8/25/2007 2:14 PM, Blogger Janet Jensen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8/25/2007 2:16 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

It was a dark and stormy night, or at least that was the reason Sheryl gave her family as to why they were sitting in the storage room in the basement, eating cold green beans and spaghetti sauce, with wheat sprinkled with powdered sugar for dessert. (I must work on my food storage, Sheryl thought). Her heart pounded like a child’s drum given by a well meaning but clueless and childless uncle. Pound, pound, pound, never ending, but leading towards headaches. Would her home teachers truly think they weren’t home, or would they demand entry and see that the breakfast dishes were still on the table?

At 8/25/2007 2:17 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

And even though I hold out hope for myself, I think I have to vote for Jeannette's. I'll never look at a turkey timer the same way again.

At 8/25/2007 3:02 PM, Blogger Janet Jensen said...

OOOOPS!Sorry! I looked at the directions again, and here is my 100-word version:

Tifffany Jo surveyed the darkening sky, her heart achy-breaky. A thunderstorm with a well-placed lightning bolt could call Jason to repentance, to turn his back on the yesterday’s sudden and drastic actions: his Bic- shaved head (oh, that beautiful wavy brown hair and receding hairline, how she missed it already!), the beginnings of a scraggly beard sprouting under his lower lip, the new Harley purchased with his BYU student loan, the pierced eyebrow, the tattoo of Snoopy the Red Baron on his upper arm, the studded leather jacket, and his new band of biking friends, the Bald and the Beautiful . . .

At 8/25/2007 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

His face was dark and stormy. Her heart beat like a child pounding on a little toy drum that his grandparents gave him for Christmas. (Because it's not possible for grandparents to find quiet toys.) Her hands trembled as she fumbled with the doorknob, but his companion stuck his shoe, that was as dark as midnight, in the doorframe. His smile was as big as a hot air balloon. There was no turning back now. These missionaries were more persistent than a grass stain in a little boy’s white pants. She would have to let them in.

--Janice Sperry

At 8/26/2007 11:04 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Worse than Robison Wells, eh? How about this:

"For the second night in a row I sat in my ancient, black VW on the seedy side of town doing what I do best--minding someone else's business."

At 8/27/2007 8:21 AM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

I'm afraid to enter but I like snoopy I'd almost forgotten his writing attempts. I'm going to steal him for the author quotes section of my website. thanks for the laughs

At 8/27/2007 5:52 PM, Blogger ChillyGator said...

Ever willing to support your games, Kerry. (o:

Lucy’s brown eyes were like two chocolate chip cookies, only burnt and made with mint chocolate chips used rather than milk chocolate, making swirls of dirtied-green in her dark and stormy glare for only a moment ago she had received the heartbreak of her teenage life; “CHAD IZ N LUV W BRT-NY” came the ominous text from her best friend followed by an obligatory “R U OK?” Lucy was sure she would never love again.

At 8/29/2007 12:49 PM, Blogger Janette Rallison said...

I'm not even sure why that is so funny--but it is! You totally rock.

At 8/29/2007 4:08 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Okay here's my attempt:

At the sight of Erdrick Hunter standing on her porch, Wilma screamed—not a lace-edged, rose-scented, Victorian scream, but an an eardrum-piercing, soul-wrenching cry, the kind of noise you make when you whack your little toe on the leg of a chair and most of your toes go one way and your little toe goes the other and the agony nearly knocks your eyeballs out of their sockets, not that such an accident had ever happened to Wilma, because she’d avoided chairs ever since that mishap with the Cheez-Whiz, a parakeet and a bronze bust of Socrates.


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