27 July 2006

Openers that Make Books Close Quickly

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest announced its winners for 2006 a while back. This contest seeks bad writing, but it's not for bad writers. You actually have to be mighty good at writing to pack all those mistakes into a single sentence. And, frankly, I think too many of the entries show the strain and go for the easy laugh.

For truly bad opening lines, we should turn to the world's most courageous book reviewer and her POD-dy Mouth blog. PODs, for those writers and readers spared the knowledge so far, are books created through print-on-demand (POD) technology. There's nothing inherently literary or un-literary about that approach; in fact, within our lifetimes I predict that most novels will be printed that way.

For now, however, POD technology's most visible use stems from how it makes printing a book cheap enough to appeal to authors who want to self-publish. And self-publishing means that an author can avoid considering the opinions and advice of agents, editors, marketing and sales people, and booksellers. In most cases the author ends up avoiding readers as well, though that clearly wasn't the plan.

POD-dy Mouth has dedicated some of her valuable time to seeking the worthwhile books published through POD avenues. She offers an award she calls the Needle (as in haystack). She has thus found an even better source of bad openings than the Bulwer-Lytton Contest, which she summarizes in a blog entry titled
"Opening paragraphs of recent PODs that yielded an abbreviated read."

Many of POD-dy Mouth's examples start with declarations of odd sexual tastes. Some offer multiple grammatical or spelling mistakes in a single line. But I think it says more about the reviewer than about the book that the swiftest closure came after only four words. These four words:

9. In the year 9892 . . .

No comments: