Name: Emma Dykes
Twitter Handle: @emmydee73
YA or MG: MG
Title: Milton Hits the Headlines
Twitter Pitch (140 characters max): Tiny spider Milton, branded deadly by tabloids, risks a squishing to save his species by starting a ‘web’ campaign- with a house-human!
1st 250 words of opening: When humans scream, little spiders run.
So when Zoe started screaming, Milton ran in the opposite direction, as fast as his eight little legs would carry him.
Running away was preschool stuff—basic training. Spiders didn’t usually stop to think about it. But then Milton wasn’t your usual spider.
He was a thinker.
So, while survival instinct controlled his body, Milton’s brain worked overtime.
Surely Zoe isn’t screaming at me?
A false widow spider, Milton could easily pass for a raisin, and as such was both totally un-terrifying and utterly un-scream worthy.
He liked Zoe, the smaller of his two house humans. He felt they had an understanding—a sort of ‘live and let live’ policy. And anyway, she wasn’t the screaming type, more the ‘pretend-it’s-not-there-and-throw-a-sock-at-it-if-it-moves’ type. She’d occasionally greeted him with a surprised ‘eek’ if he appeared suddenly (like from under the sofa while the telly was on, for example) but nothing like this. This was a full-on shriek—a right leg-wobbler as his dad would’ve said.
Milton was worried. Maybe something had changed between them?
Zoe’s school shoes clacked on the floorboards behind him.
He’d read somewhere that zigzagging made you more difficult to squash, but then he tripped over a gap in the floorboards and went flying.
Mid tumble, he spotted his friend Ralph in the kitchen doorway. Unlike Milton, Ralph was a proper, big, hairy house spider.
That explains it—she must be screaming at Ralph.
So why is she still coming for me?!
Synopsis (200 word max): MILTON, a curious false widow spider, is returning from a long-weekend break in the downstairs loo, when the smaller of his two house humans screams at him. Milton is terrified—school-girl, ZOE isn’t the shrieky type.
After a good deal of running and screaming, and Zoe chasing him with her smartphone, Milton spots Zoe’s laptop. On-screen, a tabloid headline declares him ‘The deadliest spider in the UK.’
Milton begins wrapping his possessions in silk, resigned to moving out, when he discovers that Zoe has sent his photograph to an arachnologist, who declares him: ‘perfectly harmless.’
Zoe, determined to do the right thing (and nail her communications homework), researches spiders on the internet. Watched by Milton and spider-buddies, AUDREY and RALPH, their collective (26) eyes are opened to the inconsistencies of ‘facts’ online.
Milton’s relief is short-lived. Seeing other false widows forced from their homes, he resolves to help them, and holds a meeting to explain about the headline. His efforts backfire—garden spider bullies heckle him about his size, and pro-human stance.
Milton is crushed by failure, but his friends convince him he’ll never be himself if he doesn’t try. Milton realises he’s been thinking too small and decides to do something bold. At enormous risk of squishing, he speaks to his house human.
Zoe and Milton instantly become friends and together they start a social-media campaign: the Perfectly Harmless Challenge, raising money and awareness for good spidery-causes.
Milton hits the headlines again, this time for all the right reasons.
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