03 July 2009

The Best Bad Writer Ever: An Interview With 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Winner Eric Rice

You loved his sentence about a lady who looked a little like a bird. Now, in an exclusive WORMBOOK interview, detective category champ Eric Rice talks about bad writing and good reading.

How did you first hear about and decide to enter the Bulwer-Lytton contest?
I first heard about the Bulwer-Lytton contest a few years ago. I didn't specifically decide to enter it at the time, but I thought it would be fun to try to come up with some entries. It wasn't until this year that I actually actively tried to think of some opening lines that would be worth entering.

What does it take to write a truly bad sentence? How is the process different from writing a regular sentence?
I think that to write a really bad sentence, you first have to know what makes a sentence good. Not rules, but guidelines about what makes a sentence flow well, what makes it sound effortless instead of awkward, etc. Then deliberately make all those mistakes. What I really like about the sentence I wrote is all the interruptions and irrelevant clauses that completely mess up the pace of the sentence. Several people have told me that their favorite part is that I emphasize that the birds are pink a couple of times, and then state that "she wasn't wearing pink."

I think the biggest difference between writing a good sentence and writing a bad sentence is the amount of laughing you do when no one is around.

Being as vague as you have to, what is your non-writing-contest-winning occupation?
I pay the bills by cooking and baking.

You won the detective category; would you describe yourself as a fan of detective fiction? If not, what do you like to read?
I'm somewhat a fan of some detective fiction. I lean more towards the thriller side of mystery fiction, especially if there's a serial killer involved. I also love science fiction, horror, psychological thrillers, anything funny, parodies. The list is very long. I've whittled my library down to just over a thousand paperbacks, and about three hundred hardcovers. It used to be larger.

What kind of writing do you do when not attempting to craft the worst sentence possible?
I'm very new to trying to write fiction myself, so I don't know if I've really settled on a style or voice yet. The few stories I'm currently working on are all science fiction/fantasy. That's probably what I have the most experience reading, so it's easiest to fall into that sort of style. I'd like to try to come up with a noir detective parody, sort of Douglas Adams meets Mike Hammer. I think that would be fun.

Thanks Eric! We feel inspired.

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