Over the years and disconnected from its original context, “It was a dark and stormy night” has become the cliché-iest of all opening line clichés. For any of you who don’t know the dark and stormy origin, here’s how it first appeared in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s novel Paul Clifford, published in 1830:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents – except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

bulwer_lytton
Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873)

Bulwer-Lytton is known for more than dark and stormy. He also coined the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword,” and it’s thanks to him that Estella and Pip get together in the end in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.

Inspired by dark and stormy, the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest invites entrants to write the best worst opening sentence. William “Barry” Brockett won in 2016:

Even from the hall, the overpowering stench told me the dingy caramel glow in his office would be from a ten-thousand-cigarette layer of nicotine baked on a naked bulb hanging from a frayed wire in the center of a likely cracked and water-stained ceiling, but I was broke, he was cheap, and I had to find her.

Read more: It was a dark and stormy night: The story behind

 
Photo: iStock.com/tomorca

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