I’ve spoken a little bit recently about Stargirl, the novel I’ve been working on. Its second draft is now finished – and I’m still looking for people to read it and feed back, by the way, so leave me a comment or message if you’re interested – and I’m starting to think about what to do with it next. Something that a few people I’ve spoken to about it have asked me is ‘so what’s it about?’ Simple question, but one that’s leaving me stumped. So I figured it might be a good time to do a bit of a synopsis; hopefully, it’ll help me to clear up what I should be telling people to sell them on it, as well as setting out the story so I can try to get it straight. Plus, of course, anyone that sees this post might be super sold on the idea and offer to give me lots of money to publish it! Hooray!
Here’s what I’ll do: a quick introduction (in an attempt to establish some sort of blurb-worthy central theme I might be able to use), a complete synopsis (so, obviously, spoilers, in case you did want to read it), and then a separate run-down of all the major characters complete with a bit of fan-casting. One of the things I haven’t done very well is to know what they all look like, so I’ll try to find maybe three faces for them; perhaps then I’ll be a bit better with their appearances, since I think I know their personality traits much better.
Stargirl is sort of a fantasy story. Like many of the novels by one of my favourite authors right now, Haruki Murakami, it’s set in a world which is pretty much the same as the ‘real’ one, the one that you and I live in. It’s just a world that happens to be a little bit weirder. The beginnings of the story came about when I was doing a creative writing module in my second year at university, a whole three or so years ago now; we were supposed to be writing dialogue, to teach us how to give each character a distinctive voice. I wrote a short back-and-forth between two men named TM and Veggie, in which TM tried to explain an idea for something called an Octobike. Eventually, they were interrupted by a girl dressed as Ziggy Stardust, for no good reason.
None of this really made any sense to me at the time. I didn’t know why she was dressed like that, or what an Octobike was or who TM and Veggie were. After a while, though, I found that I kept thinking about them, trying to work out the answers to these questions. When November 2015 rolled around (about a year and a half after that first short bit of dialogue), I signed up for National Novel Writing Month and just sort of went for it, writing 50,000 words of a story about these people without knowing exactly what was going to happen. It turned out that TM and Veggie were struggling inventors, the Octobike being TM’s latest idea for a product, and the Ziggy Stardust girl was dressed like that because she literally was a star. Then things just sort of… rolled on from there.
As it is now, Stargirl is a story about the love that forms between the three of them – not a romantic love, but still a real love. It’s about this star trying to find out what it is to be human, and about the humans she meets trying to find out what it is to exist in a vast, infinite universe. It is, I hope, philosophical and whimsical in roughly equal measure.
As I say, this is the story as it stands in the second draft. Things may well change for the third, which I hope will be the final one before I start seriously trying to learn how to put it out into the world as a published novel.
The story goes something like this:
TM and Veggie, two inventors, aren’t having much luck as of late. By chance, they meet a girl dressed like Ziggy Stardust, who claims to be a star and doesn’t offer much other information about herself. TM and Veggie’s reaction to this, as it is to most peculiar things, is a resounding ‘well, that’s a bit weird, but let’s just roll with it’. Somehow, the girl ends up joining their failing inventor business and coming to live with them in their tiny little flat, which they share with their two cats Michel Furcoat and Maurice Meow-Ponty. TM tries to establish a bit more about who she really is, but all that they can agree is that she’s now a person named Ziggy. She demonstrates some odd abilities, like being able to change her appearance. Again, TM thinks this is a little bit weird but doesn’t really worry about that sort of thing.
Ziggy quickly proves her worth to the business, and TM and Veggie introduce her to their friends Marty, Derrida and Dominika. Derrida and Dominika are both ex-romantic partners of Veggie’s; Marty has a pretty successful local rock band. They play a Dungeons and Dragons-type game together, helping Ziggy to learn how to bond with people and teaching her some useful life skills as they go (for example, always clear the area before looting the corpses of your enemies). They also watch a pro-wrestling match involving Kazuchika Okada, whose finishing move is the Rainmaker.
The six of them head over to a local fair, which features special guest appearances by local weatherman Al Tyer and survival show host (think a female Bear Grylls) Riegel O’Ryan, plus her dog Keelut. Ziggy seems totally enthralled by the two of them, which Veggie considers a pretty normal reaction when meeting celebrities. TM’s parents are also there; Ziggy sees their close relationship and wishes she had something similar. Later, she attempts to make a romantic move on TM, though he refuses her because he knows she doesn’t fully understand what it means. Throughout the first two-thirds or so of the story, TM often recalls an old relationship with a girl called Aster, of whom Ziggy reminds him.
Next, TM, Veggie and Ziggy go to a museum where Tyer and O’Ryan are making their next scheduled appearance unveiling the museum’s new exhibit: a meteorite. Ziggy decides, though she can’t explain why, that she needs to have it, and persuades TM and Veggie to help her steal it. A pretty hefty chunk of the story is then dedicated to their training for the heist, which doubles as more bonding between them. Well, train might be a bit generous; they play stealth games and enact a similar sort of scenario in their tabletop RPG with Derrida, Dominika and Marty’s help (these three are unaware that they’re doing it to prepare for a burglary).
Though they’re all aware that this is nowhere near enough training to actually enable them to pull off a robbery from a public building, the trio decide there’s no time like the present and mosey on down to the museum. They make their way to the room containing the space rock; when they reach it, however, Ziggy finds herself overcome with doubt. She thinks that the rock has some sort of power over her, but can’t explain it; now convinced that it might be better just to leave the thing where it is, the three of them make their exit. A small fragment of the rock breaks off during their inspection, which Veggie keeps.
As they leave the museum, Al Tyer appears before them. Turns out he’s more than just a weatherman: he’s a star, too. Specifically, he’s Altair, the brightest star in the Aquila constellation. He’s come for Ziggy, who, as a star, was also part of Aquila; protocol, such as it is, dictates that when a star goes rogue and comes to earth, the lead star in their constellation comes down after them and brings them back. Stars can’t be allowed to just go AWOL; Tyer explains that fundamental forces like gravity have no mercy, and changing the balance of the cosmos can only be disastrous. The trio try to flee from Tyer, but they’re cut off by Riegel O’Ryan. Surprise, surprise: she’s a star, too. Actually, she’s an entire constellation: she’s Orion, the Hunter. She’s accompanied by Keelut (Sirius, the Dog Star). Turns out that the lead star doesn’t come down on their own; they get help from a specialist. Orion hits Ziggy with the Rainmaker and takes her away, back to the stars. TM and Veggie grieve their loss, and discover that Ziggy left them a piece of paper with the words ‘Muscles & Mussels’.
Three years later, the pair have turned Muscles & Mussels into a full-on money-making business. It’s a sort of gym-slash-seafood restaurant. Pretty dope. Over the intervening period, Marty and Veggie have hooked up and got engaged, and Dominika’s come to work at M&M. They’ve also spent some time building a ship which they hope will enable them to fly up to Star!Ziggy and rescue her. It’s a stupid plan, but it works; using the fragment of meteorite taken from the museum as a sort of magical space fuel, they manage to blast TM up into space. He’s able to speak to Ziggy, but she can’t come back. She does hint that she might not be the only star on Earth, though.
Back on terra firma, Veggie gets an email from the one ex-boyfriend he doesn’t still hang out with: Johan, known mostly as ‘the Swede’, who’s an absolute tosser. The Swede claims to have rights to the intellectual property on Muscles & Mussels, saying that he invented a gym-cum-fish-bar before they did. So, naturally, TM and Veggie enlist Dominika’s help and put their heisting skills to work again. They break into the Swede’s house to steal whatever evidence he might have; as it turns out, he just wanted to lure them there and ransom their release, and in fact he doesn’t have any evidence at all. They beat him up a little bit, then head out. On their way, they encounter Al Tyer, who’s not looking well; he’s supposed to be back up in the stars, of course, but he got a bit too fond of being a minor celebrity. Veggie beats him up too, going a bit overboard; Tyer goes back to the stars, though not before telling them that the universe doesn’t care about anything and this is all very unlikely to be over for them.
He’s right: when they get home, they catch an advert on TV for Riegel O’Ryan’s new show. She’s back, too.
Trying to forget about it, Veggie, Derrida and Dominika go to watch Marty’s band play a gig, while TM goes to see his parents and talks about life and stuff. Another band, Lauren and the Ire, ask to meet Marty, Veggie and TM after the gig to discuss teaming up for a concept album. When they arrive, the only person waiting for them is O’Ryan. She explains that another star’s come down to Earth and it is, as they know, her job to hunt them. Since TM and Veggie are the last known associates of a runaway star, she’s starting with them. They tell her they don’t know anything; she leaves an address for them to come and see her if they hear anything. Still angry over what O’Ryan did to Ziggy, Veggie impulsively heads straight to the address with TM, Dominika and Marty in tow (TM asks Derrida to pop into their flat and feed the cats while they’re out).
When they get to the place – a warehouse a bit of a way out of the city – Lauren and the Ire are waiting for them. In a SHOCKING TWIST that probably doesn’t shock anyone at this point, they’re all stars too. The star that’s gone missing this time is Vega, brightest star of the Lyra constellation; Lauren and the Ire are four of the next-brightest stars from Lyra. They explain that Orion suspects them of having Vega, so she drew them away from their home so she could search it. The four Lyra girls are there to make sure they don’t get away.
Naturally, the heroes do manage to get away and hot-foot it straight back to the flat on the Octobike, which TM had been secretly building in one of the nearby warehouses over the last few years just in case. Orion and Keelut are already in their flat, holding Derrida (remember, TM asked him to go in to feed the cats) hostage. Things go south when Orion manages to catch TM, Veggie and Dominika – Marty gets away – and discovers a letter addressed to Veggie, whose full name is Jonathan Vega. Perhaps reasonably, she infers that Veggie is Vega and takes him away. TM, Derrida and Dominika escape the flat with the help of the cats, who take out Keelut for them, and go back to the museum because there seems to be a very bright star above it trying to tell them to go there.
In the museum, Orion stands in front of the space rock and seems to be talking to it. She discerns that Veggie is not in fact the original Vega, but he ‘burns brightly enough’ that they can use him as a replacement. The heroic trio burst in on her; she exits, leaving the Lyra girls to take them out again. With a bit of kung fu and a bit of a bomb TM invented, they escape and take out Lyra, though Derrida’s injured. Dominika stays with Derrida; TM heads out to confront Orion once and for all.
She beats him pretty much to a pulp before he manages to hit her with the piece of space rock, which sends her flying. Then the bright star above the museum falls on her. Turns out it was Ziggy, who’s been keeping an eye on things. Veggie doesn’t make it, so Ziggy, after a final goodbye to TM, promises to take him up and teach him how to be in his new life as Vega.
Ziggy goes back to the stars, as does Orion. Veggie, too, leaves Earth.
In the final scene, TM reflects on everything that’s happened. He meets the real Vega, who apologises that she’s caused so much trouble but says that since she’s been gifted a life where she won’t be chased, she owes it to Veggie to make the most of it. TM starts to let her leave, then stops her and asks her if she wants to come help him run their business.
And that’s the story of Stargirl!
So, as promised, a quick dramatis personae while we’re at it. I’ll sum up a bit of their personality, maybe discuss how I came up with them, and include a possible casting or two to try and show what I picture them to look like. Appearances only, by the way – I might include some non-British casting possibilities, but everyone is English unless otherwise stated.
Real name Tom Major (as in Major Tom), TM’s an inventor who has some interesting ideas, but tends not to think about the practicalities of how they’ll work. I’ve never had much of a picture of what he looks like; all I know is he’s mixed-race and pretty tall – and probably a bit younger than Noel Clarke, but he’s the closest I could think of. By the end of the story, he’s lost a lot of people, and he doesn’t really try to get over it so much as to remember them and live the life they’d have wanted for him. Favourite takeaway: beef chow mein.
Jonathan Vega has been TM’s best friend since childhood, and the two have spent most of their adult lives living together and trying to come up with an idea that’ll finally make them some money. He’s magnetically charismatic, though there’s nothing too distinctive about how he looks. In the end, he becomes a star – he wasn’t the original Vega, but he’s got enough ‘Star Power’ to burn brightly as a replacement, allowing the real Vega to live a life free of Orion, hopefully. Favourite colour: magenta.
She’s literally a star from space. When TM and Veggie first meet Ziggy, she’s dressed as Ziggy Stardust, but she soon changes her appearance so as not to stick out quite so much. Unlike her namesake, she’s terrible at playing guitar. She’s a tricky one to put a face to; she certainly appears, most of the time, to be of slightly ambiguous descent (mixed Caucasian and East Asian, I think), and has dark purple hair. Favourite sandwich: sage and onion stuffing with sweet chilli sauce.
Marty Rook is the lead singer of the Inciting Incident, a local rock band. It’s just a stage name; he was born Benjamin Miles Parker. In the first draft of the story, he dies to give Veggie more motivation to fight Orion, hence I named him after Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben (and gave him the middle name Miles after Miles Morales, the first African-American Spider-Man). The second draft spares him, but he’s now left alone after Veggie’s death, so he doesn’t get much of a happier ending. He’s the only one of the three ‘friend’ characters who isn’t an ex of Veggie’s at the start of the story, though they end up engaged. Favourite instrument: laser harp.
Though his name’s homophonous with that of famed deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida, this Derrida isn’t as smart as all that. He loves to pretend he is, though, and always tries to exploit glitches in the games they play in order to win. Favourite book: he claims it’s Of Grammatology by his namesake, but it’s probably actually Catch-22.
Dominika’s from… somewhere in Eastern Europe, and doesn’t do an awful lot of talking. In fact, Veggie thinks she can’t speak English for most of the story. She’s a bit of an ace, being better than pretty much everyone at pretty much everything, making her useful in a tight spot. Favourite album: Mutter by Rammstein. (By the by, it was stupid hard to find a picture of ScarJo as Black Widow without the catsuit, so just take my word for it that, while I picture Dominika as having similar hair and features, she doesn’t tend to wear… that.)
THE BAD GUYS
In the guise of Riegel O’Ryan, this enormous constellation is a successful presenter of wilderness survival documentaries. (Riegel is, of course, the brightest star in Orion. It’s also probably not a real first name, but roll with it.) Her real job, however, is as a hunter of rogue stars. She speaks with an Irish lilt, and is always accompanied by her dog Keelut. She’s also probably a little bit older and harder-looking than both Angela Scanlon and Karen Gillan, being a bit weathered by all that survival and whatnot. Favourite submission hold: armbar.
Orion’s faithful dog, who exists cosmically as Sirius, the Dog Star. Keelut’s based on Kia, my fiancée’s family’s dog, who’s the most beautiful dog I’ve ever met; nobody’s quite sure what she is, since as far as anyone can tell from her parentage she’s a pure German shepherd but she looks like a blonde-white Alsatian. Either way, she looks more like a wolf than anything else. Keelut was originally called ‘Keyer’, a phonemic reproduction of ‘Kia’, but I decided that didn’t work so well as a name and found something with a more mythological tilt. Favourite activity: fetch.
Al Tyer is considered one of the most minor celebrities in the world, being an incredibly boring weatherman. It was kind of hard to think of somebody to cast as him, since he’s supposed to be the most dull-looking person on the planet; he’s actually described as almost black-and-white at one point. The two I’ve picked might bear a superficial resemblance, but he’s nowhere near as charismatic. Favourite item of clothing: plain black shoes.
Lauren and the Ire appear as a band opposite Marty’s Inciting Incident. The four of them are pretty much identical. Favourite animal: hawk.
Thomas Major, Sr. and Lily Major make a couple of cameos, usually for TM to bounce off and try to work his feelings out with. TM’s dad is perhaps the character I have the clearest picture of in my head: he’s a big, friendly, cuddly guy. His mother, meanwhile, I couldn’t even think of anyone. She’s probably around fifty, very small in every way but still pretty badass. Favourite cake: triple chocolate.
Just a guy, not gonna bother casting him. Favourite fish: haddock.
The real Vega, brightest star of Lyra, who comes into TM’s life at the very end of the story. She won’t replace Veggie and Ziggy, but maybe he’ll be able to move on with her. Favourite accent: Danish.
An old girlfriend of TM’s. She appears only in flashbacks, so I really don’t know what she looks like – probably not dissimilar to Vega. Her purpose is basically to give TM some context when he meets Ziggy; Aster left of her own accord, and he’s had to accept that he can never get her back. Ziggy, who reminds him of her, is taken against her will, so he’s strongly motivated to rescue her. Favourite way of cooking an egg: scrambled.
Michel Furcoat and Maurice Meow-Ponty are TM and Veggie’s faithful feline friends. Named after Michel Foucault and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, they mostly just eat and sleep, but ultimately manage to save the day by fighting off Keelut. I’m not going to find pictures of them, since they’re… just cats. Favourite food: whatever’s lying around.
Well, that was fun. If any of this has sold you on Stargirl, let me know and I’ll give you the link.