It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – Famous Opening Line to a Novel?

“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night” Famous Opening Line to a Novel?

In 1965, Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts featured Snoopy writing his first line as a novelist.
“It was a dark and stormy night”
Although Snoopy made the the phrase famous, it’s a misconception that it had never been used before.
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The line became famous as the worst possible way to open a novel and epitomized an amateur style of writing. That said, a number of published novels have actually opened with that very line. English novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 novel Paul Clifford contains this startling first line. “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.”

Wow, should I draw your attention to the fact that the line is too long and may be hard to follow? No kidding.

In 1982, the English department at San Jose University began the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest to celebrate decidedly bad opening lines. Each year, it challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. Another of Bulwer-Lytton’s lines is “the pen is mightier than the sword.”

The Paul Clifford author wasn’t the only person to begin a novel with those same seven words. Madeline L’Engle’s 1962 science fantasy novel, A Wrinkle in Time, opens with the line. Ray Bradbury used it for comic effect in his 2004 mystery, Let’s all Kill Constance. He followed it with, “is that one way to catch your reader?” Even Snoopy himself tapped-out variations on the line, including “It was a dark and stormy noon” and this opener for another would-be novel: “He was a dark and stormy knight.”

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