Let’s Read Stargirl! – Chapters Twenty-Eight to Thirty-Two

This is part of a series aiming to annotate the entirety of the second draft of Stargirl, and is most definitely not to be taken as advice for anyone else who might want to write something! For more context, please see here.

Welcome back! If you’ve stumbled upon this without having read the previous instalments, you can read the annotations for chapters one through three herefour through six hereseven through ten hereeleven to fourteen herefifteen to eighteen here, nineteen to twenty-three here, and twenty-four to twenty-seven here.

I think we’re approaching a bit of a home stretch now, which means Part Two is a hell of a lot shorter than Part One. It took me twenty-three chapters (and six commentary instalments) to do Part One, and now here we are probably only two more instalments from the end. If nothing else, doing this reread has helped me identify some structural stuff that I might want to take a look at for v3!

Chapter 28: Mail

As I mentioned last time, the spaceship stuff was all new for v2, so this chapter was initially the first one after Ziggy’s disappearance. It contained a bit more exposition, which has by necessity been moved to chapter 26 (I think), but is otherwise much the same.

The Swede’s email was a lot of fun to write; I didn’t know much about the Swede when I got to this point other than that he was really just a giant dick, so I hope I got that across through his writing style (and the fact that, despite his faux-intellectualism, he’s more than willing to take cheap shots to rile people up). I also just thought it would be really funny if he sent them an attachment that they couldn’t open – I toyed with having him just forget to attach the file entirely, but password-protected is just that bit more irritating, I think. (TM forgetting he’s on the phone and nodding is another stupid moment that really doesn’t add anything to the story, but I thought it was hilarious and included it anyway.)

In Part One, there was this giant build-up to the heist, which ultimately was a bit more of a whimper than a bang. This time, there’s no real build-up at all for them to decide to heist the Swede’s mansion, but I think the ensuing scene is much more of an appropriate payoff for all the setup done for the museum robbery, so I guess it’s just an exercise in delayed gratification.

Chapter 29: Mansion

This chapter feels way more like the heist Veggie wanted to pull off back when they were doing Heist Prep, and I hope it feels reasonably satisfying for all that to finally see some use as opposed to just fizzling out. It felt similar to write, tonally speaking, to the Hero’s Adventure scenes, so those also came in handy in some way (even if I am fairly resigned now to the fact that they will probably need some extremely enthusiastic pruning for v3).

I think this might be the first time the characters actually feel competent, too, rather than just sort of being pulled along. TM gets to use his skills as an inventor, which we know he does have but which have been mostly sidelined until now (I should really have more of his little inventions hanging around through Part One, just to show that he can actually invent stuff and the inventor business isn’t completely stupid), while Dominika is literally a ninja and Veggie gets to live the hashtag-heist-life he’s always dreamed of.

A few more wrestling moves crop up through the chapter, for those keeping an eye out: Dominika hits the gardener with a tilt-a-whirl headscissors (or hurricanrana), which female fighters in movies use quite a lot, Black Widow possibly chief among them; Veggie and TM use the Young Bucks’ Meltzer Driver on a guard, and TM employs Katsuyori Shibata’s Penalty Kick to take one out. Dominika also uses AJ Styles’ Styles Clash, which is a dumb move that would not work in real life at all.

I think I mentioned in an earlier instalment of these notes that Veggie gets what I think is quite a nice, subtle character development moment here: he looks away when Dominika’s turning her shirt inside-out. I do think Marty is a good influence, and I think I probably need to show more of that, but I hope this moment is a good start.

Oh, and I think TM’s line ‘do you ever think maybe we have a… slightly exaggerated view of how reality works?’ was originally somewhere else in the story, I think, but I ended up moving it to here because otherwise there was just this moment of silence while they waited for Dominika. It seemed a good opportunity to slip in this little beat, which is just another instance of me deciding it’s always fun to poke fun at my own surreal world.

I don’t know what the Swede’s actual goal is here, by the way. Why is he trying to trap them? I actually forget whether I had a reason for that. I’ll have to come up with something better.

I got some feedback on v1 that Veggie and TM beating up the Swede here was… too much. All the violence until now has been stylised, over-the-top, pro-wrestling beat-em-up nonsense, but this is actually realistic violence. I did it on purpose because I wanted Part Two to be this tonal shift where things got a lot more serious, and kept it in v2 for that reason, but… like the swearing, it may well get toned down a bit for v3.

Oh, yeah, and Altair’s here too.

Chapter 30: Fallen

Altair didn’t get much comeuppance when I was initially thinking of the story. He just sort of came down, got Ziggy, then vanished again and nothing else really came of it. So, late into the outline of v1, I decided that he needed a bit of a tragedy of his own, something that would also help to express what a star’s motivations might be in coming to Earth in the first place and something that would codify all the star characters, even the antagonistic ones, as very human almost despite themselves.

So this is what you get: Altair returns to space after getting Ziggy, but finds that the allure of being a ‘star’ in the metaphorical sense is just too strong and comes back. He’s significantly weaker, though, due to his first trip being… signed off, I guess, and this one being of his own accord – and the fact that he left a lot of himself in his place so that Orion wouldn’t come after him. He can’t quite sustain it, and his failure to live up to his own hype is what causes his power to fade over time (he’s been on Earth for a while by the time we see him here, probably a couple of years). Spoiler for the very end of the book here, so highlight to reveal if you’ve read the last chapter: Vega won’t fade in this way for a couple of reasons, so don’t worry. Firstly, she’s completely on Earth rather than having left part of herself, while Altair’s remaining star-body exerts this pull on his Earth-body that drains him over time. Secondly, she only wants to live and experience an authentic existence, so as long as she’s meeting that goal she can keep sustaining herself; Altair’s motivation was to be all celeb-ish, and the power that he summoned in order to achieve that faded away when it was not in fact achieved.

Veggie’s beatdown of Tyer in this chapter is less realistic than his and TM’s attack on the Swede in the previous one, but possibly more disturbing. Altair’s body is literally decaying even while he lives in it, so… imagine punching a sack of flour, or a blob of plasticine, and you get the image. Eventually, Tyer lets go and ‘returns to the stars’, a phrase that intentionally doesn’t really tell you exactly what happens to him. I think I imagine him turning into little specks of light and drifting off like dust.

Chapter 31: Distance

Veggie really breaks down a bit when confronted by Altair in the last chapter – it’s just a reminder that yes, they really did take Ziggy, and he never got a chance to vent his rage about that – so seeing Orion here must just hurt like a kick in the balls for him. His strategy is just to go and seethe and hope to sleep it off, although I can’t imagine he’s able to fully forget that if Orion’s here, that means someone else is about to get taken; someone else is about to get hurt like Ziggy did, and like he and TM did as a result.

The second half of the chapter is one of the single biggest removals from v1 to v2: originally, TM was actually in the audience for Marty’s Battle of the Bands. It was, like two thousand words of the Inciting Incident and Lauren and The Ire just upstaging each other and singing songs laden with nerd culture references, and at one point Marty sang ‘Funiculi, Funicula‘ for no reason, and it was so self-indulgent and it was just too much. There was an MC who literally flew around the ceiling on a harness, for heaven’s sake, and I think I even went FULL Scott Pilgrim and had the two bands summon these weird illusory monsters to fight each other. It was so dumb. I loved it, but it really was far too much, so in v2 TM just sees a little bit of the scene via video call with Derrida.

In exchange, we get a little bit more time with Senior, who didn’t appear at all in v1 beyond the one scene we’ve already seen him in. I wish he had more to do, really; perhaps in v3 he’ll make another appearance, or even have an actual plotline! That would take a fair bit of shuffling, though, so I’m not sure what the extent of his involvement is likely to be.

Chapter 32: Return

This chapter is another one that’s very different from its incarnation in draft 1: for one thing, obviously, TM has to travel to the venue, whereas he was already there in v1. On the way, he encounters Gary Mackerel, who (like Senior) I just liked too much not to give an extra scene if I could find a way to fit him in. Gary’s Fish is just so joyfully flipping idiotic in that way that I just can’t help but love. Again, Gary Mackerel’s involvement in the overall plot is minimal, but I’m glad he gets to be in it. (The door code TM gives him, by the way, is 080147. If you’re someone who tends to look for Easter eggs, you’ll almost certainly have pegged that as a date – January 8th 1947, because I am English and therefore write dates in the, ahem, correct order – and a quick Google will tell you that that is David Bowie’s date of birth.)

The divergences from v1 don’t end with TM’s arrival at the venue; what happened in v1 is that TM and Veggie went backstage looking for Marty and found him dead in his dressing room, then Orion explained that he’d basically just got in her way. This is the reason his band’s named the ‘Inciting Incident’: Marty’s death was to provide motivation for Veggie to go on a rampage of revenge against Orion. It’s also why Marty’s real name is Ben Parker – I put this in a spoiler section of a previous annotation, but he’s named after Spidey’s Uncle Ben, who is perhaps the most famous character to die during a character’s origin story.

This time, of course, Orion hasn’t killed Marty. When I was trying to think about how to structure v2 and what differences I’d need to make, I just couldn’t really see why I’d killed Marty off. He didn’t need to die, and the overall ending was just too bleak, so he gets to live this time. Another spoiler for the very end: The list of casualties is, other than Marty, pretty much the same from v1 to v2, with Ziggy and Veggie gone for good and Derrida having sustained serious injuries. Derrida was unlikely to walk again at the end of v1, though, whereas in v2 he’s expected to recover. I just realised that I didn’t quite know why I’d made everyone suffer so much when there was no need for it.  Orion’s reason for being there is still the same, though: TM and Veggie are the people who were last known to assist a star-on-Earth, so she’s seeing whether they know about this newly missing one. She also expresses more of Altair’s fearful philosophy, continuing to display that the main motivation of the antagonists really is just fear of the unknown and of powers they don’t understand (which, as TM said earlier, might be one of the most human of emotions). Are these cosmic forces she and Altair live in fear of actually malevolent? Are they sentient? Are they real?

I dunno.

Well, yes, the forces of gravity and so on are real and they’re probably right that they will cause chaos if things get out of order, but I don’t think they’re these Lovecraftian abominations that Orion sometimes thinks they are. She just doesn’t understand them entirely, so she – even knowing it’s a mistake to do so – can sometimes fall prey to the (again very human) temptation to anthropomorphise them, to give them personalities.

Anyway, despite Veggie’s initial determination to simply ignore Orion’s presence on Earth despite knowing what it would mean for some poor escaped star, seeing her in person is enough to motivate him to stop her. I think that’s enough of a reason; I think Marty’s death was (pardon the pun) just overkill.

Next time, then, I guess we’re gonna go kill a constellation! (All may not go entirely to plan, though.)

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