In the spirit of the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest, here are some of my high school students’ attempts to craft bad fiction: stories that give readers certain tonal and genre expectations, and then make sudden turns to subvert those expectations.
Terry galloped along the circular path facing a crowd of screaming children on his gallant horse of red with a gleaming saddle, when suddenly, the carousel stopped. (J.O., Spring 2015)
It was a dark and stormy night as I realized the poisonous gas filling my house had made me hallucinate and it was really sunny midday afternoon. (T.T., Spring 2015) A quite-unreliable narrator.
I looked out the pale, grim, and gray window, only to see two cats doing it like it was Christmas. (D.K., Fall 2015) I don’t know what this one means, but it does make me laugh every time I read it.
When I woke up in bed last night, I realized there was a fire-breathing dragon in the corner of my room, so I shut the TV off. (M.D., Fall 2015)
Little Jimmy was having a great day, eating his ice cream until he dropped it. Some ask why he dropped it. It was because he got hit by a truck. (J.T., Fall 2015)
So I was about to hook up with this girl and she was super into me. We had to be quiet because we didn’t want anyone hearing us. I didn’t have protection but I just went for it. By far this was the most interesting family reunion ever. (S.C., Fall 2016)
Today for lunch I ate a talking duck. Every time I took a bite, it yelled “Stop!” Until I ate his tongue. (J.B., Fall 2016)
Up the road from my house was a loud scream. The scream was almost as loud as my parents’ when I murdered them the night before. (A.V., Fall 2016)
The dog walked down the street, through a tunnel, over the hill, took a right, and ended up in the same place. (S.V., Fall 2016) This story shows how linear narration is, how readers can’t look ahead but are fed info piecemeal by the writer–who might lead readers astray, of course.
Her personality was like a potato that had been forgotten in the back of the pantry, the kind that starts to rot and grow those little things. The kind that you find 2 years later and throw outside for the raccoons but even the raccoons won’t want it. (S.K., Fall 2016)
He asked his wife, “Do you think we should have kids?” “No, honey, I think we shouldn’t.” “You’re right.” He then kicks out his two year old son. (M.L., Spring 2017)
I enjoy running on the beach with my girlfriend, until the LSD wears off, and I’m running from the cops in a McDonald’s drive-thru. (B.S., Spring 2017)
He traces lines along her back and strokes her spine gently. This surely is the book he wants. (C.J., Spring 2017)
My mom was mad at me for sneaking out last night because she heard the door open, but then she died, so I’m not in trouble. (K.A., Fall 2017)
If I had a dollar for every time I was called “ugly,” I would have, like, two dollars, because people don’t care enough about me to judge my looks. (M.K., Fall 2018) This one starts off sad—and then gets sadder.
He sat on his front steps as the world crashed down around him. Unicorns flew every which way, and rainbows made of jelly beans pelted the sidewalk. Yep, this was it — the end of the world. (A.H., Fall 2018)
Long blonde curls were soaking in the warm water when the boy picked his fork up and ate his ramen noodles. (K.T., Spring 2019)
It was a dark and mysterious cave lit only by the single torch of the traveler. There was supposed to be a bear, but the writer doesn’t feel like describing it. (W.J., Spring 2019)
As the hero approaches the scene, the villain has already killed the entire population. The villain executes the hero with one shot of a gun. (E.S., Spring 2019)
I was so excited that my sister was pregnant, knowing that finally I was going to be an awesome dad. (A.K, Fall 2019)
The story begins like this: two people were getting married at a beautiful park, and I don’t know what else happened because I was only passing by. (I.M., Fall 2019)
The parent was driving through the school zone and couldn’t believe the amount of speed bumps there were, until he remembered there are no speed bumps. (L.P., Fall 2019)