Am I the only one blown away by the badness in NPR's new Three-Minute Fiction contest? As with all their contests, you have to write the story in 600 words or less. The problem is that the story must
1) start with the first line "Some people swore that the house was haunted."
2) end with the last line "Nothing was ever the same again after that."
My God! The pure, cliched badness! Badness so bad it is blinding in its badness! So bad it almost comes full circle back to goodness! (Well, maybe not.)
I mean, come on. If you're going to do a fiction contest, do it right. Don't start by mocking everyone who attempts to write a story for you.
Even worse is that Michael Cunningham wrote those opening and closing lines. He tries to palm off inspiration for the last line on Russian writer Nikolai Gogol--even as he admits Gogol "didn't actually use that line"--but I don't buy it. I think Cunningham doesn't give a shit about the contest and is playing a joke on people. Either that, or he thinks cliches are somehow inspired writings in disguise.
My suggestion is for writers to submit the worst stories they can create. Return the joke on Cunningham and NPR. And if they actually pick one of these bad stories as the winner, let them air it on Weekend All Things Considered before you admit to your own joke.
Now that would be a story worth telling.