Why is "It was a dark and stormy night" so bad?

I fail to understand why the sentence “It was a dark and stormy night” has become so famous (or infamous) as the worst opening line of a novel. I always assumed it was because night is always dark – is that the reason? But there are clear “bright” moonlit nights, so I never thought the line was so horrible. Not great writing perhaps, but I could find many worse examples in current books.

Please educate me.

Here is the full line:

You tell me.

AFAIK the sentence was made (in)famous for being the opening line of Snoopy’s many failed attempts at writing a novel. A quick Google turns up that it actually came from a real novel, Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (I had no idea). That site is the home page for an annual “worst first sentence” contest, the prize for which is a print of Snoopy on his dog house typing out the sentence.

Oh! I had never seen the complete opening line. Yep, pretty bad. :cool:

‘It was a dark and stormy night’ isn’t actually the bad line. It’s the first 7 words of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton first sentence in Paul Clifford.

That first sentence is the famous bad opener that inspired the creation of The Bulwer-Lytton contest - a contest to come up with the most tortured first sentence for a novel, possible.

Some of the entries beat Bulwer-Lytton’s (reproduced at the top of that page) by a mile.

I am not a writer, but I think in general that it is a bad idea to start a novel with a pronoun.

(I am now bracing for a flood of examples of great novels that start with a pronoun)

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … " :stuck_out_tongue:

Here’s Snoopy’s version:

I, personally, hate 19th-Century verbosity & overdescription. I despise Poe, for example. But I think that’s a damn good opening sentence (the parenthetical is questionable, admittedly), certainly for the expectations of a 19th-Century novel, where language is used to describe what later generations would use cinematography to show.

None of this absolves Bulwer-Lytton for, well, being Bulwer-Lytton.

Aw, shaddap :stuck_out_tongue:

Now we know why beagles shouldn’t write novels. :wink:

It should be noted that this (without the dashed, semicoloned, and parenthetical parts) is also the opening sentence of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, a very good book. But of course, L’Engle was aware of the earlier usage and included it as a bit of a joke.

Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock also parodied it in one of his Nonsense Novels: “Gertrude the Governess or Simple Seventeen”

The next paragraph perhaps had some influence on later British humorists:

After reading Snoopy’s version

But what about the King?

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”

Isn’t “It was a dark and stormy night…” simply used as a generically cliche start to a novel? Nothing much wrong with the phrase itself, just a bit hackneyed. It’s also a bit of a cliche to use the weather as a foreshadowing metaphor for events that inevitably will follow in the first chapter.

[my grandfather]

It was a dark and stormy night, and around the campfire sat a band of robbers. All was quiet, until one of them spoke up and said: “I will tell you a story.” And here is what he told them:

“It was a dark and stormy night, and around the campfire sat a band of robbers. All was quiet, until one of them spoke up and said: ‘I will tell you a story.’ And here is what he told them: (etc, etc…)”

[/my grandfather]

Pride and Prejudice?

Anyway, I don’t have enough time to stick out my tongue individually at everybody who proves me wrong, so everybody just select one from the bunch:
Please, no shoving.


Pronouns to go…

“It was a pleasure to burn.”
"It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. "
“It is a sin to write this.”
"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. " (One can argue the greatness of this one, but I love it).
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

I’ll take half of the bottom row, Manduck. :stuck_out_tongue:

Roland Orzabal. LOL!! Whew… that was a good laugh… made even funnier because I know someday soon I’ll USE that little story! Tell your grandfather thanks, wherever he is.

There are some real doozies among this year’s Bulwer-Lytton winners and runners-up. Check them out.