Saturday, December 26, 2015


Name: Bethany Stevenson
Genre: Sci Fi
35 word pitch: When an impeached politician discovers away to completely control the scientifically-enhanced Militis guards, Asa is forced to save his friends before they are completely overpowered and used like robots for the senator's schemes.
First 500 words:

            I am dreaming. It has to be fake.
            Asa tried blinking, but he couldn’t. For some odd reason, he stared up out of someone else’s head. He saw everything that they did. He experimented his limits of moving or speaking in the person but nothing happened.
            Bright lights blinded him.
            Doctors leaned over him, staring down at whomever he was inside of behind masks. Different needles were raised and vanished beyond Asa’s sight.
            The weirdest part was that he couldn’t control what he looked at. He couldn’t feel anything either. It felt like watching a movie but Asa knew he wasn’t. For some reason, his mind connected with someone else’s telepathically.
            He struggled to push or call out to the person’s distant soul but he didn’t know how. Asa fought to wake up but it was impossible to break the connection now.
            Seeing without hearing became torturous.
            The doctors’ words never made noise. Needles should’ve pricked but didn’t. His eye were supposed to blink but wouldn’t when he tried to.
            Wake up, he told himself, Wake up and tell mom and dad!
            Finally, after what felt like ages, the weird dream began to fade away.
            Asa heard a noise. A voice.
            The vision, along with all origins of sleep, shattered. Asa sat up with a jerk.
            He rubbed his eyes and let out a deep breath, seeing that he was still in his room back at home.
            That had to be the creepiest dream ever.
            Asa slipped out of his bed and peaked out the curtains of his window.
            The late nighttime lights and air-traffic of Leeland City flickered and danced on his bedroom walls. Cars flew past his window, headlights and engines blaring. Hologram billboards flashed friendly advertisements, which Asa took the time to memorize each month.
            He sighed and shut the curtains again.
            Something inside Asa didn’t want to go back to sleep. Nor did he want to forget the weird dream.
            Asa knew something was beyond wrong. Strangest, he knew the girl’s mind disconnected from his, out of reach somewhere in the world.
            That had to have been real. I must’ve seen some image or her surroundings that the girl wanted to show me.
            Randomly, everything felt hot.
            Asa turned down the temperature in his room.
            Maybe I can try to figure out how that happened, he thought, sitting on a plastic chair near his assistant and cleaner robots.
            Relaxing, Asa shut his eyes, reaching out with his brain again. Immediately, something clicked. But this time, instead of seeing through someone’s eyes, someone was spying through him.
            Asa scanned the room, blinking the weird feeling in the back of his head away. Something in his sub-conscience panicked. The connection between him and the other ten-year-old boy switched off.
            Someone could see everything I did! Ass jumped to his feet excitedly. He knew he had telepathically knotted his mind with another boy, just like the girl had done to him. I’ve got super powers!


  1. Pitch: I like the futuristic flavor and clear stakes here. I think you have opportunities to save a few words – I’d remove the second “completely,” for example, and “is forced to” could be rendered “must.” Is there some way to state more clearly that Asa’s friends are among the Militis guards? What makes Asa the one who can save them? Technical hiccups: missing space in “a way;” no hyphens after words ending in “-ly.”

    First 500: While I liked the weird, medical creepiness of the vision at the start, I’ve read repeated advice against opening with a dream (including when I did so myself last time I participated in this event!) – it’s a bit of a cliché and makes a return to the real world kind of disappointing, even if the real world is a far-future one. Could you have this vision overtake Asa while he’s awake, maybe? That could have some interesting dramatic possibilities…

    Loved the details that you work in to give us a sense of time and place (hologram billboards, personal assistant robots). I would have liked to have similar hints about who it is he senses on the other end of the connection – he’s thinking back on this presence he felt as “the girl,” but since you don’t describe this person as such in the vision, the reference is a little abrupt and confusing. You could heighten immediacy too by trimming a couple of phrases that distance the reader without adding information, e.g. “for some strange reason,” “but Asa knew he wasn’t [watching a movie].”

    Not sure you need to tell us that his mind has connected with someone else’s telepathically – is this something he would be familiar with, such that he recognizes the feeling and can put a name to it? I think showing us all these bewildering, frightening details – not being able to control where he’s looking, not being able to blink or hear – is more effective on its own, without labelling the experience right away; that keeps the reader right there with Asa, feeling what he feels, instead taking a step back to explain it. After the vision has dissipated, he can reflect on it and muddle through what happened. Likewise, I think you can spend more time on his experiment with reaching out to connect with someone else deliberately. Slow down and show us how this feels – especially the impression that someone is spying through him, which sounds like it will be significant.

    Usage quibble: “peaked” should be “peeked.” Typo alert in the last paragraph – you’ve got a second “s” in “Asa” instead of an “a”. Might be worth doing a find and replace for that one, since spellcheck won’t catch it!

    Hope this is helpful!

    Amelinda (@metuiteme - #2)

  2. Hi Bethany,

    Your pitch is strong. I second Amelinda’s suggestions, especially since “is forced” makes it sound like an antagonist is making Asa save his friends (unless that’s the case?). Can you be more specific about what the senator’s schemes are?

    And yeah, opening dream sequences are tough sells! Considering it wasn’t actually a dream (right?) you might want to do away with any thought from Asa that that’s what is happening. Particularly since, if he thinks it’s a dream, I’m not sure how he would know he’s in someone else’s head. If he’s seeing what they’re seeing, and not seeing himself as another person, wouldn’t he assume he’s still himself, dreaming that he's unable to move?

    It wasn’t clear to me, later, how he knew his mind was connected with a girl. There’s not really anything in the vision to characterize her. Or how he’d know the person who then connects with him is a ten-year-old boy. It would help to show how he arrives at these conclusions. What hints are given?

    Sometimes you explain more than you need to. “Maybe I can try to figure out what happened” – you can show that through Asa’s thoughts and actions. “For some odd reason” – you use that a couple of times in your opening paragraphs, and I think you can show in other ways that Asa doesn’t understand or expect what is happening to him. Same with “something was beyond wrong.”

    You have a nice, clean writing style I enjoy. Some intriguing hints here – I wonder why he bothers to memorize the hologram ads? And what’s up with the robot cleaners? I’d love to see even more subtle world-building here.

    Hope this is helpful!
    Karen (#4)

  3. Hey Bethany,

    I'm fresh from seeing the new Star Wars movie, so I'm all in the sci-fi mood! It actually started to make me think about what made the Star Wars movies so successful. I think some of it has to do with the innocence of the protagonists. They are swept up into this galactic war, introduced to powers that seem beyond their comprehension, but they are faced with situations that force them to make the difficult choice and take up the mantle that is being offered to them by the older generation.

    In your first 500 words, we are introduced to a character who is having strange things happening to him. Telepathic things. Intriguing, but also not totally unique or new (I'll be the first to admit that my story is for the most part unoriginal plot-wise). The thing that is going to hook us is the character and his internal struggle. Yes, the telepathic sci-fi plot can be used to great effect, but it should really serve as a mirror to the protagonist's TRUE struggle - what is it he is really confronting? With Luke Skywalker, it was his sense of being abandoned by his parents along with his feeling of being trapped on a desert planet with nowhere to go.

    The most interesting thing in your first 500, for me, was the bit about memorizing hologram advertisements. That is a totally unique thing that I can't recall any other character I've read about or seen in a movie do. Use it! Make that the central thing we are introduced to! We're reading a sci-fi novel (you can imagine a great cover for this story, I'm sure), because we know we're going to get some of that futurustic, telekinetic stuff. But what is going to make us want to read on in the story is the central emotional conflict.

    I like the idea of this first 500 starting out without any strange visions or sensations, but just about this guy and his habit of memorizing hologram advertisements. Then maybe a friend of his calls him on some kind of cool advanced technology device - and the friend tells him something that moves the plot forward. But the phone conversation is not straightforward.... the protagonist is nervous about something he heard on the news, or he is worried about the fact that his mom never came home, or instead of it being randomly hot, the room temperature regulator is malfunctioning again and his family can't afford to fix it, or maybe he remembers the dream he had last night, which is kind of vague, but had something to do with seeing through someone else's body. He thinks it's just a dream. Then something really dramatic happens in the first chapter to make him realize "holy crap, it was real!"

    The way you have it laid out, we have the stakes raised really high to begin with and then they're kind of resolved in this non-intense way "Maybe I can figure out how that happened". He should be put in a situation where he's FORCED to figure it out, or else something bad is going to happen.

    Anyway, great job! I can't wait to see what you do in the revision.

  4. Hello Bethany!! Thanks for entering (and co-hosting) #YayYA!

    Before I critique your work, remember that all advice in writing is subjective, and you are welcome to take or leave my two cents. Whatever works best for your story! Also, I haven't read the previous critiques, so I apologize for redundancy.

    So, for your pitch: I'd change "is forced to" to just "must." "Is forced to" makes people wonder who is forcing him, and cutting it gives you some extra words.

    For the first five hundred, not a lot of people like having the first line in a story be dialogue or internal thought. So I'd change that with a really killer first line.

    I feel like the dream scene is extremely unclear. Not sure how he knows she's a girl, for one. If you intended it to be unclear and confusing, then I would really shorten it and then focus on Asa himself and his conscious confusion, because in the Awake World, the writing is a lot clearer, which is why I think the dream sequence is SUPPOSED to be unclear.

    Also, unsure why he would associate someone seeing through his head and him seeing through someone else's as super powers. That's like in Rise of the Guardians "JACK FROST IS REAL" XD

    I'm a little skeptical of this as a starting point, but maybe if you fixed it I'd be more on board :D

    Okay, no more. I get to read the rest anyway.