A Challenge: Write Worse Than This Guy : The Two-Way Who can write worse than Edward Bulwer-Lytton?

A Challenge: Write Worse Than This Guy

The worst of the worst. Courtesy David McKenzie hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy David McKenzie

Think it's easy to write badly? (Yes, yes, I know ... we make it look easy every day.)

Yesterday the winner of the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest ("where www means 'wretched writers welcome' ") was announced. It's David McKenzie of Federal Way, Wash., who came up with this:

"Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the Ellie May, a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests."

McKenzie tells the San Jose Mercury News he sent in 20 entries to the parody contest, which San Jose State University has been staging annually since 1982. "I expected it," he says about winning.

Can you do even "worse"?

Write your own worst-possible first sentence of a novel -- in 50 words or less -- and put it in this post's comment thread. The trick is, it has to be so "bad" it's good. We'll spotlight some of the "best."

As for Bulwer-Lytton, who lived from 1803-1873, he has the distinction for being famous for some of the best lines in history (such as; "The pen is mightier than the sword") and some of the most-ridiculed ("It was a dark and stormy night.")

Or, here's an alternate challenge:

Write a "bad" introduction to a story you might hear on Morning Edition or All Things Considered. Think of a classic kind of NPR story you can have fun with.

Update at 3:40 p.m. ET. Here's audio of McKenzie reading his winning entry for Melissa Block of All Things Considered:

A Challenge: Write Worse Than This Guy

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/106090408/106113822" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Tune into ATC later today for more from Melissa's conversation with McKenzie. Click here to find an NPR station near you that broadcasts the show.

Update at 9:30 a.m. ET, July 1: We asked and you delivered. Click here to see the "winner" of The Two-Way's bad writing challenge.