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"It was a dark and stormy night" is an infamous phrase written by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton at the beginning of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. The annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest uses the phrase as a signifier of purple prose. The original opening sentence of Paul Clifford is an example:
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.
It was a dark and stormy night. The wind howled and twigs and leaves scuffled and rattled past the house. Mr and Mrs White sat in the parlour of their cosy home, in front of a blazing fire. Mr White played chess with his only son, Herbert. His wife sat in a rocking chair knitting and watching as they played.
It was a dark and stormy night. In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraithlike shadows that raced along the ground.
The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest was formed in 1982. The contest, sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University, recognizes the worst examples of "dark and stormy night" writing.