It was a dark and stormy night…

Paul Clifford (1830) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

This line is quite arguably one of the most famous clichés in all of literature. It’s become so cliché, in fact, that I would venture that most people can quote it and that few people know of its origins. Of course, when Bulwer-Lytton first wrote it, it wasn’t a cliché. The opening to Paul Clifford — a tale about a highway robbery set during the French Revolution — has an obvious purpose: to set the mood for the book.

Join me here as I disassemble this phrase and the sentence it’s a part of, and learn more about how to write an effective opener for your own story.

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