Last week we took a look at some of the entrants in the Bulwer Lytton contest. They were all, you’ll agree, very good at being very bad.
But they were trying to be awful.
What about the writers who weren’t?
The organizers of the contest have quietly been collecting entries from real published books.
Like this one:
"She wore a dress the same color as her eyes her father brought her from San Francisco."
He … he what? No, I’ve got it now; he was looking for an iPod or an iPad and didn’t have enough money so just got her the i’s.
That author sells millions of books worldwide every year.
I love this, from Harlequin:
"The possessiveness in his voice was deep and strong, its triumphant throb cutting through the layers of sexual delight as thoroughly as a knife through warm butter, and it hit her like a deluge of cold water."
I loved a good mixed metaphor, especially a throbbing one.
From the same novel:
"The fifty-or-so-mile drive to Donato's magnificent villa in Sorrento would be no problem – the Mercedes’ excellent air conditioning added to the fact that the late-April temperature was only just touching seventy degrees made traveling at midday still a pleasure, unlike in high summer – but sitting in close proximity to Donato for well over an hour was a different matter."
This next one is just so bad, it’s brilliant. I suspect it’s Donato again, switching publishers. He sounds like he’s the easy-going type. But this time he’s using a different antiperspirant:
From a book published by Zebra Press.
"She rode astride him like a bucking bronco in the rodeo of the flesh."
This next one is written by a man. Can you tell?
"She popped the elastic at the top of the second sock and pushed her sexually ambiguous Timex watch up along the blond hairs of her handsome forearms."
My own humble Tissot is not sexually ambiguous at all, I’m afraid, but it does glow in the dark. I’ve always found it helps when my sock elastic pops at night.
Or there’s this:
"He was as guarded as a virgin, but infinitely more experienced."
It might be me, but I found that confusing. I’ve not met that many guarded, experienced virgins. Maybe I should get out more.
Still, I think experienced virgins and bucking rodeo flesh (yee-aah!) is still an improvement on what readers had to endure a hundred and fifty years ago.
I don’t like to speak ill of the dead but her name was Adeline Dutton Whitney and this is from one of her nineteenth century novels called ‘Faith Gartney’s Girlhood’:
"East or West, it matters not where – the story may, doubtless, indicate something of the latitude and longitude as it proceeds – in the city of Mishaumok, lived Henderson Gartney, Esq., one of those American gentlemen of whom, if she were ever canonized, Martha of Bethany must be the patron saint – if again, feminine celestials, sainthood once achieved through the weary experience of earth, don’t know better than to assume such charge of wayward man – born, as they are, seemingly, to the life-destiny of being ever 'careful and troubled about many things.' "
I hope you got all that. There’s going to be a quiz later.
Until now I have kept the entries anonymous but I’m sure you will all recognize who wrote this:
"Even before the deal with Straker had been consummated (that’s some word all right, he thought, and his eyes crawled over the front of his secretary’s blouse), Lawrence Crockett was, without doubt, the richest man in ‘Salem's Lot' and one of the richest in Cumberland County, although there was nothing about his office or his person to indicate it."
Now, here’s the thing: it is a Stephen King novel so did his eyes actually crawl over her blouse – or did he mean it just figuratively?
And were they the same eyes that other author bought in California?
He’s Stephen King, he’s allowed small lapses. This, on the other hand, is taken from a murder mystery. I’ll give you a clue, it isn’t Elmore Leonard.
"Having had time to think it over, Andrew had decided that he did not believe in this for a moment. If he had not been so unfortunate at different times during the last few years as to become involved in the solution of a murder or two, so that he was more inclined than he would have been before he had been drawn into that rather gruesome activity to think that his own wild guesses were sometimes perhaps to be taken seriously, he would not even have considered such a possibility."
Unless you’ve had some training in predictive legal analysis, I wouldn’t advise attempting that sentence a second time.
Let’s finish with Harlequin again. I could get hooked on these novels!
"He spun round in the doorway with a violence that was tangible, surveying her bitterly with hard, blazing eyes before banging the door so savagely that the whole room shuddered and whimpered before sinking into an unearthly silence."
Ah, unearthly silence.
Sounds good to me!