So Bad It's Good

Photograph CC Dan Brian G. Gerona by-3.0

Ricardo and Felicity’s affair was doomed from the start. But, like all characters in love stories, they surrendered to their passion blissfully unaware of their hopeless future or that their first kiss would be their last. Their relationship was so perilous, in fact, that their story never even went past an opening line.

Writer Molly Ringle ’96 created the couple as the focus of her grand prize-winning sentence in San Jose State’s 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Since 1983 the contest has called on writers to lower their standards and write their best opening sentences to really bad novels.

“It’s supposed to be bad,” Ringle explains of her dreadful creation.

Ringle has published three novels since graduating from the Robert D. Clark Honors College with a degree in anthropology and says her fictional stories often come from real life. The inspiration for Ricardo and Felicity did as well, coming to her while nursing her son Toby. From there it took a turn for the worse.

“He looked like this avid little animal,” she says. “I thought an animal with a water bottle would be a good metaphor for something—maybe for something eating. It would be really awful if you put it in romance.” And Ringle did just that:

“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.”

The story ends here. It wasn’t meant to turn into a novel, Ringle says. The point of entering the contest was not to further her career as an author, and though the $250 cash prize was an added bonus, winning was never about money—“It’s about glory.”

By Adeline Bash