Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 #YayYA Entry #17: One-Way Ticket to the Multiverse

Name: Katherine Hillis (@kehillis)

Genre: Science-fiction

Title: One-Way Ticket to the Multiverse

35-word pitch: When an alien pulls Alex Turner through a wormhole to an alternate version of Earth, she goes from helping her family pay bills to navigating the enthralling and treacherous worlds of a multiverse-spanning empire.

First 500 words: 
Alex Turner lowered the blinds on the dark windows, keeping her eyes averted from the glass. Despite the precaution, something caught her eye, motion in the front yard. It’s definitely not a serial killer, she thought, I mean, what are the chances—?

“You’re so paranoid,” Sara closed the front door behind them and tossed her overnight bag on the couch.

“I always think I’ll see someone out there.” Still, Sara had a point. Alex’s house was too far out in the country for anyone to creep on them. But knowing someone could look through the windows and observe them unseen—

“The young’uns asleep?” Sara attempted to step lightly through the house, but the old floorboards gave her away.

“Yeah.” It was nearly eleven. Molly and Oliver still had a bedtime of nine. “Mom’s at work ‘til morning.”

“Third shift again?”

“Pays more.” Alex followed Sara into the kitchen. Her stomach ached from being ignored since lunch. She and Sara had both worked shifts at Taco Bell, but after two weeks making cheap tacos, Alex couldn’t stomach the food.

Sara, however, would eat just about anything and was always hungry. She grabbed some chips off the counter while Alex opened the fridge in search of more substantial fare.

“Ugh.” Alex stared at the gallon of milk, which had turned and separated into thin yellow liquid and white chunks. No gush of cool air met her skin. Great. “The fridge is doing the thing again.”

Outside, Pancake started barking, which set Watermelon off, too. The Turner’s had the most excitable mutts in creation. They’d probably seen a squirrel. Alex’s hand was on the back doorknob when their barks stopped.

A note of fear echoed through her chest. The first thing a murderer would do would be silence the dogs—

No serial killers in Oakville, North Carolina. We don’t even have a Wal-Mart.

Despite her hunger, Alex went to bed without eating. She took the couch and gave Sara her bed. The gesture wasn’t entirely altruistic—Molly would snore from the top bunk all night.

In the dark living room, the house made strange noises. Alex was used to the way the wood sighed around her own bedroom, but sleeping in another part of the house was like wearing a pair of shoes a half size off. Almost normal, but different enough to irritate.

Alex closed her eyes and tried to ignore the lumpy cushions and the draft coming through the cracks under the front door. The quiet grew heavy, amplifying every tiny sound—

Something had been outside, moving. She’d seen in through the window. And the dogs hadn’t just up and decided to quit barking on their own, at the same time.

The gun safe was in Mom and Dad’s room, too far away to be of any help. She could probably open it and get a rifle without waking Dad, but sleeping armed was a great way to earn a Darwin award.


  1. Hi Katherine!
    The pitch's concept is awesome!! The whole idea of going to another version of earth is epic!! I know there's limited space, but it'd be nice to see why the alien stuck her through the wormhole.

    As for the 500, I think you meant to say something motioned in the front yard, because right now it's a typo. Also, it seems at first she's lowering the blinds because of the object in the front yard, but then you mention that she only just noticed the thing, so that's a little confusing. Especially since she doesn't really react or stop to double check whatever is out there.

    I feel like telling us about Molly and Oliver's bedtime isn't really needed. She could just say, yeah they went down at nine, their usual time, thankfully."
    Also, with the way everything flows there, the beginning dialogue is confusing, we don't know who says what.

    This jump "They’d probably seen a squirrel. Alex’s hand was on the back doorknob when their barks stopped." is very confusing too and throws the reader off because we don't know she went to the door until after it already happened.

    We get Alex is paranoid, but to jump to the idea of there being a murderer right away feels a little odd. Maybe hint why she immediately thinks this way or have Sara tease her a little more. One thing I'm trying to figure out is if Sara is a sister or friend or babysitter... I'm assuming sister.
    Love the line about walmart but the very last line is a bit confusing.

    Just a suggestion, but if you maybe want to add to more tension, maybe have her see something weird about the creature in the yard, then have it vanish. Then the dogs start barking a few lines later. Then stop. Maybe even add a noise or something blinking outside for a moment to add to her worry and to chew at the reader's anticipation more.

    I hope this helps! :D

  2. Hi! Your pitch is intriguing, but I'd like to know what it is about Alex that got her swept up into this intrigue. One way ticket sounds like she might never get back? I don't know how your story ends, but in general, you want your beginning to prepare the reader for the end. If this homey scene is supposed to set the stage for us to root for Alex to make it back home, you are on the right track, but might want to include more tangible details of her family then just names.

    Alex's paranoia about serial killers seems unmotivated. A little tidbit like "ever since I defied mom and watched XYZ slasher movie in 5th grade," or "After a girl was abducted from our town 3 years ago." Something like this might also be a way for you to provide some rationale for why Alex gets picked by this alien. Perhaps her town is a hotbed of weird phenomena, or something. I think a few more clues to her state of mind will spark more interest from readers.

    I like knowing about her Taco Bell job with her friend, but details about hunger and chips might go on too long. The fridge being on the fritz may also be unnecessary. In order for milk to actually separate, the fridge would have to be out of order for more than a day or so, and the presence of an uneaten bag of chips in a home with young kids seems to indicate adults paying attention to food so they'd probably have dumped the milk. ANYWAY, I've gone on in nit-picky detail about food inconsistencies way too long, which brings me to my point--avoid distracting your reader with details that don't add to the suspense you are trying to build with your story. At first I thought the non-working appliances were supposed to be a clue to a mysterious power failure or something. THAT would be cool, but if so, don't be so subtle.

    I'm also curious why she thinks she needs to get the gun without waking Dad. What's up with that? Wouldn't Dad normally be the person you call if you suspected an intruder? Perhaps play up his failure to protect as part of her reason for fears. At the beginning it seems like the girls are coming home to an empty house.

    By the end of reading this I feel like I have a good sense of the setting,but not as much a sense of where Alex's thoughts are coming from, or what she wants as a character.

  3. Love your title! That alone would get me to look at your story.

    Cool pitch.

    Your first paragraph gives some good insight into Alex. I think you could ditch her last name, but that’s personal taste. The impression I got is that she’s a nervous, anxious person. Does she have a mental illness that causes it, or is there someone she’s aware of that’s actually after her?

    “The Turner’s had the most excitable mutts in creation”—no apostrophe in Turners

    I like the last sentence. Great voice in that.

  4. I love love love the voice already, and I have to disagree a little with those who want more context about Alex's fear. I like that we don't quite know whether there is any justification for her fears or whether she is just a nervous person. It creates an air of intrigue.

    I was a little thrown off when she reached for the door as the dogs barked, however, mainly because if she is as nervous as it appears, I can't imagine she'd willingly open the door to see what's going on with the dogs. It can work but I'd want a hint that she hesitates at least a little, or is trying to work up the courage.

    The dialogue and action flow really well and you do a beautiful job setting the scene. This is a great line: "Alex was used to the way the wood sighed around her own bedroom, but sleeping in another part of the house was like wearing a pair of shoes a half size off."

    Overall I think it's a really strong first 500 words. Interesting character, vivid sense of place, and a hint of trouble to come! Nice work.

    Emily #15

  5. Hi Katherine,

    Pitch: Cool! An alien abduction. This reads more to me like a logline at the top of the query than a more typical contest pitch which requires goals and/or stakes. Once she gets to the multiverse, does she want to go home? What causes the source of conflict in the multiverse? What kind of decisions is she going to have to make on her journey?

    500 words:

    Regarding Alex's paranoia: I'm falling on the side of we need a hint of whether this is motivated by something in her past or if it's just her personality. Serial killers were my #1 unrealistic fear when I was younger, so I get it, but giving us a bit of insight into her personality helps.

    I am surprised, though, why she is so afraid and nervous if her dad is home and asleep? Why isn't her dad being home mentioned when they first get home?

    There are a few words choices I stumble over: “The young’uns asleep?” <-- that sounds really old-fashioned. Sara could just say "Everyone asleep?" and then that's when it could mention there are two siblings plus the dad in the house.

    "Alex followed Sara into the kitchen. Her stomach ached from being ignored since lunch. She and Sara had both worked shifts at Taco Bell, but after two weeks making cheap tacos, Alex couldn’t stomach the food." What about something like: "Alex followed Sara into the kitchen. Her empty stomach rumbled out an angry protest. After two weeks of shifts at Taco Bell, Alex couldn’t stomach the cheap tacos, even if they were free."

    Does Sara spending the night need an explanation? Seems odd to me they get off their shift, go straight to Alex's house in the boonies and go to sleep, not even in the same room. I wouldn't have done that with my friends as a teen unless the friend was staying with me for a reason (like their parents were out of town or we had to be up early for something.)

    I think giving us more details about her personality and situation will help us get grounded as we get prepared for the alien kidnapping. The pitch mentioned she goes from helping her family pay bills, which I imagine is a source of stress and conflict for her, and it would work well to get that established early.

    I hope this helps!

    Julie (#3)

  6. HI!! :D

    Okay so I have an unfair advantage here, because we're CPs and I've read more of your story, BUT this is a new opener and I'm excited. I think the best way to fix the back and forth over whether or not Alex's fears are founded could be fixed with a paragraph at the end narrating her thought progression while she's on the couch. For example:

    "Everything was so quiet in the house; the kind of quiet that that turned shadows into monsters. She remembered the flash of movement in the yard. It had to be a trick of the eye, right? The dogs were still quiet. It wasn't like them to get worked up and then stop barking. Anxiety crept through her limbs as she tried to convince herself it was all a coincidence."

    THEN talk about the gun since she's worked herself (and hopefully the reader) up!

    Also I just love the line about sleeping in the wrong part of the house. What an awesome's something a lot of people can connect with and triggers that sense-memory.

    Having the advantage of knowing your original first chapter, I LOVE this. It boosts the tension and lets you know Alex more before the shenanigans start. <3


  7. Hello! Thank you so much for entering #YayYA!!

    Pitch: This pitch lacks stakes, which won't be too hard to fix because between getting basically abducted and her family being poorer, you've got lots of material for stakes in a pitch going on here. As someone who grew up in similar circumstances to your MC and a fan of sci-fi, I'm interested to see where this goes!

    First 500: Can you give us a heads up on who Sara is? It's pretty obvious she's some sort of friend, but they must not be super close if they're sleeping in separate rooms for a sleepover. Why is she over to visit? Is she a cousin? Or another sister?

    I also think you can start right after they go to bed. Start us in the creepy dark with an already nervous Alex and tension. Give us a lot more sensory details. Anchor us and make our eyes widen so when what happens, happens, we freak out as much as Alex. You've got an attention for detail. That's definitely a clear strength of yours. Smash us over the head with it. Also, excellent job on not overwhelming us with what's clearly going to turn out to be a complex story first thing but still getting us to turn the page. That's what it's all about!

  8. This sounds like a cool idea! I love how you start in-scene, at night with a creepy ambience. I think your voice and dialogue are good, but I have a small issue with pacing. I want more to happen before they go to bed. It feels rushed from the time Sara comes in until they are tucked in for the night. I also feel like Alex would eat something if she's that hungry, even if it is just the chips or something else from the cupboard. Maybe she and Sara could heat a can of soup while creepy things happen around them.

    I would love a few more setting details and description of Alex and Sara, too. Good luck with this. See you at PitchWars!

    Angie, #16

  9. Hey Katherine! Thanks for sharing ONE-WAY TICKET TO THE MULTIVERSE with us! I love Science Fiction, so I’m glad someone subbed it!

    The first part of your pitch clearly sets up what happens and I like it a lot! I think you can delete the part about paying family bills. It’s already clear she’s going to be out of her element since an alien dragged her through a wormhole. What does she specifically do once through the wormhole?

    I have so many questions about Sara, specifically who she is and why she’s there this night specifically. I got the vibe she’s a friend and we already know she’s her co-worker, but no info is given on why she is there. Since Alex’s family doesn’t have a lot of money or space, how does Alex feel about having a friend over? Is she embarrassed at having someone see how run down her house is or are they so comfortable it doesn’t matter?

    Also, you don’t need the “She thought” between your italics since italics almost always mean thoughts in fiction!

    I like the detail of the dogs barking at nothing, but the way it’s currently worded is very telling and a little choppy. That paragraph could probably flow into two sentences max and give you more room for details. Also, I don’t think “The Turner’s” should be possessive, it’s just the plural of her last name.

    The time skip is a little jarring. Consider having that flow in better.

    I think you have a lot of room to go deeper into Alex’s POV! Slow down a bit and really show the reader how Alexis reacting as she’s moving through her normal world before the extraordinary happens. I’d recommend looking into Deep POV and how to incorporate into your writing (This is something I’ve recently been working on as well)
    Best of luck with Pitch Wars!

    -Rosie (#12)