Oliver introduced the Golden Maiden, but telling you about a concept isn’t good enough. It’s one thing to tell, but it’s another thing to SHOW. Now that you know HOW to find her, can you spot her in the wild? And if you can spot her in the wild, you can make her your own. Now that you have her, what do you do with her?
She can’t just sit around looking pretty all the time. Let’s be real. That shit is boring. None of your characters can sit around looking pretty- you can’t afford that. Those are your employees. Put them to work.
We know the Golden Maiden usually appears beautiful, intelligent, respected or in a position of power or influence, and is the target of affection or sexual pursuit. We know they give carefully crafted advice, don’t engage in violence or will only defend themselves, and they aren’t a part of the regular adventure. The Golden Maiden spurs the protagonist on, leaves them with too many questions and too much pressure to turn away from the adventure.
It’s easy enough to spot a Golden Maiden opportunity in the fantasy genre. They’re practically everywhere. It’s like there’s a GM factory just across from Distressed Damsels, Inc. You can find a ton of examples, now that you know what you’re looking for. But if you’re not writing fantasy, can you still put the Golden Maiden to use?
Why the hell not? The archetype isn’t exclusive to fantasy. She’s easy to spot in my Sleazy Detective story example below. Relevant traits are in bold for the purpose of illustration.
I wouldn’t say I was worried about the meet with Joey Francis and Two Shoes. Nervous wasn’t the right word. Terrified, maybe. I made sure my gun was loaded. Their guns would be.
The cigarette girl at the club was new, some dumb brunette who didn’t know I rolled my own. I sent her on her way without so much as a good looking-over. I didn’t need distractions on a night like this. Across the floor, through the smoke and the mood lighting, I spotted Joey Francis and his boys. They had the best table in the whole place. It glittered with crystal flutes, golden champagne. On the house, no doubt.
I looked around but didn’t see Two Shoes. It wasn’t like him to be late. I slipped into a seat by the door, turning a table for four into a table for one- two if you count my gun. She does most of the talking for me. The chorus act on stage was wrapping up, a big finish. I don’t mind the acts. It’s a lotta legs and a lotta smiles. There are worse things in this world than watching pretty girls kick to some jazzy tune.
Emerging from the curtain behind the girls, a heavenly vision glided across the stage and took the mic. The other girls scattered like fallen leaves, like throw-away garbage. She took the mic stand between her hands and snuggled up to it, crooning into it, weaving a spell.
I dropped my cigarette before I could light it.
She was beautiful. I don’t mean she was pretty, or she looked nice in that dress, what there was of it. She was beautiful like a painting, or an opera. She was clean and smooth and built just right, like she was designed by German engineers. Performance. This was a ride that wouldn’t fall apart underneath ya, never blow smoke. She’d keep getting better with age, so long as you kept the moving parts well-oiled. She was a classic.
She lifted her proud head on that smooth neck and belted out the last few lines. Her hair caught the light, as golden and fizzy as Joey’s champagne, curling around her face. People applauded and she had the grace to blush just a little before stepping off the stage. Classic, I tell you.
She weaved between the tables, stopping in front of mine. “You dropped your cigarette,” she purred, throaty and delicious.
“Usually, I’m better with my hands,” I grumbled. I took up my smoke and lit it, offered her one.
She shook her head. “Bad for the voice, Mr. Hood.” She didn’t ask to join me, but she sat down just the same. I don’t think I could have turned her away if she’d had the plague.
“What do they call you, doll?”
“Kitty,” she said. “Kitty De Haviland.”
“De Haviland?” I frowned. “Like the DA?”
She blushed again, deeply, to the roots of her curly hair. I could see freckles on her cheeks under the thick stage make-up. “My father,” she said softly.
“He know you’re slumming?”
“DA’s daughters don’t get into a club like this, Mr. Hood. I’m a reporter for the Sentinel, under cover. Around here, they call me Angel Munro, and I’ve got a finger in all the pies.”
“I’d like to have my finger in your pie,” I mumbled, trying to tear my eyes away from her.
“I didn’t catch that,” she said.
I waved the comment away. “What do you want, Miss Munro?”
“You’re here because of Joey,” she said. “The meet with Two Shoes won’t go well for him. Expect bloodshed.”
“I always expect bloodshed, Angel. That’s why I’m still above ground.”
“Two Shoes has a surprise for our friend Joey and he doesn’t care who gets in the way.”
“What kind of surprise?” I asked.
“I can’t say.”
“Can’t, or won’t?”
“Two Shoes must be stopped.” She looked deep into my eyes. “Joey Francis is a monster, but he’s our monster. Joey Francis keeps the low-rent players in check. The hole left behind if he’s killed will leave the underworld power structure completely out of balance. That means blood on the streets, Mr. Hood, the blood of innocents, of loved ones…just so some two-bit hoods can try to claw their way to the top of the pile.”
“Hoods,” I said, smirking. She didn’t smile. “Why tell me?”
She looked down, fluttering her eyelashes a little. “You’re the only one who can stop him. My father, his hands are tied. Two Shoes is too smart to get caught up in something little like the law.”
“How do you recommend I stop Ol’ Two Shoes, anyway? And not just him, but the gang of thugs he has with him. I’m only one man…”
“One man with a gun, I’m guessing,” she said. She raised her eyes, fixed me with them. “I can’t tell you how to do it. Plausible deniability, you know. I only know it must be done. Joey Francis dies tonight and the city goes crazy. Two Shoes dies tonight and we all sleep like babies, safe in our little beds.”
I muttered something dirty under my breath about sleeping in her bed, but Kitty-Angel ignored me.
“I have to go.” She stood and walked to my side of the table. She leaned in and gave me a deep drink of her perfume before her lips barely brushed my cheek. “Don’t fail us, Mr. Hood,” she whispered. “Our city depends on you. See you on the front page.”
She disappeared through the backstage door, leaving me with more questions than answers. A huge shadow loomed over me, blocking the view.
“Mr. Hood,” said Arnold Two Shoes. “How unpleasant to see you.”
Kitty De Haviland rocks Mr. Hood’s world. But what does she really do? She shows up, looks amazing, deflects all his advances, and puts him on the path of adventure. He was probably already on the path, but she, as a Golden Maiden, makes sure he stays on track and can’t turn away. Now the city depends on him. Maybe Hood just had a score to settle, or he was just following Two Shoes because someone paid him to… maybe Two Shoes stole his parking place, it doesn’t matter. Kitty makes sure Hood knows there’s more at risk than his personal agenda, and hints just enough at deeper puzzles to hook him right in the natural curiosity. She’s cute enough to put a hook through his mouth like a trout, but she doesn’t roll like that. Kitty is working for the greater good, the city, and she never gets distracted. Now Hood has a spur, pressure to keep on, and just enough questions to keep chasing the answers. Maybe he could have turned back before, but no longer. The story is wide open from here, all thanks to Kitty, our Golden Maiden.