I used to love reading 'Peanuts' by Charles M Schulz in the Daily Mail (I was just a kid, OK? It was my parents... I didn't know what I was doing.)
My favourite character was Snoopy, the wannabe novelist dog who, like me at the time, never got much past the first sentence of any great work of fiction he was writing.
Did you know his standard opening: 'It was a dark and stormy night' was written by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton at the beginning of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford? I thought the name sounded familiar, and it is because of he annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for examples of really bad fiction. Last year's winner is a fine example:
For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.
--Molly Ringle, Seattle, Washington
This passage must have been perilously close to being nominated for another much-loved literary award - the Bad Sex Award, the winning passages of which I found strangely erotic:
"like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her"
"He unbuttoned the front of her shirt and pulled it to the side so that her breast was uncovered, her nipple poking out, upturned like the nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing the night"
*blushes fetchingly and goes back to the cartoons...*