The chapter opens with Agnes walking in the woods while leading a gigantic boar demon on a magical silver chain. To keep herself awake, she talks to it, confessing that she wants to study its magic in an effort to revitalize the fortunes of her dying kingdom. The demon eventually begins to reply to her in garbled human speech. It responds strongly when Agnes asks about a golden medallion that she found on the battlefield after she spared its life. The demon, who is clearly in pain, asks Agnes to place the medallion against a scar on its forehead. She feels compelled by something larger than herself to do as it asks, only to be overwhelmed by magic.
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During the past two weeks, I submitted all of the writing I owed to various venues. I’m sure there are still going to be edits here and there, but I think I’ve wrapped everything up. I want to hold off on writing short fiction for the time being so that I can focus on An Unfound Door, a novel I started last October but abandoned at the beginning of this year due to a major life disruption.
As I prepared to return to the story, I changed almost all of the character names and reconsidered their appearances. To summarize, I was strongly influenced by the visual design of The Green Knight when I first started the project, but I think it might be best to move away from that influence for various reasons. Recontextualizing the characters helped me think through the details of the setting, which I think is much stronger now.
An Unfound Door is a Gothic mystery set in a decaying castle. Agnes, the princess of Faloren, hopes to save her crumbling kingdom by unlocking the secrets of long-lost relic, but she must conceal it from Fhiad, a mysterious emissary with sinister motives. As their paths cross in twisting corridors and hidden passages, Agnes and Fhiad realize that they must descend into the shadows of the past together if they hope to bring light to the future.
This story summary needs some work, but I’ll keep editing it as I write.
In terms of “Save the Cat” story structure, this initial chapter provides the opening image: A young woman sitting at a campfire next to a boar demon in the darkness of a huge forest.
The closing image, which will mirror the opening image, will be Agnes and the now-human demon sitting in the shade of a lone tree as they watch the sun rise. In both cases, Agnes will be leaving the scene of a battle with the demon to return to civilization. What Agnes considers to be “civilization” will have changed, as will her understanding of herself and her relation to the magic she’s trying to harness. And obviously she and the demon will have kissed.
This chapter sets the Gothic tone of the story – a brave but somewhat naive young woman not-quite lost in a dark and sinister place – as well as the central set of mysteries. What is the demon, and where did it come from? What is the medallion, and what relation does it have to the magic that created the demon? Where did the hero come from, and where did he go? Why is Agnes’s kingdom in decline, and why is she alone in the forest with a demon?
To establish Agnes’s character as the protagonist, she has literally “saved the cat” here, except the “cat” in this case is a giant horrible boar demon. I assume the “hero saves the princess from the evil demon” narrative pattern will be familiar to most readers, who will hopefully be intrigued by the element of Agnes’s character that leads her to capture the demon instead of killing it. She perceives her need of the demon’s magic to be worth the risk, but she’s also intellectually curious and looking for trouble. Essentially, she is the sort of person who willingly gets herself caught up in forbidden magic.
Agnes is going to start wearing a series of masks once the story gets going, so I think it’s useful for the reader to see her true face at the beginning. As corny as this sounds, the way that Agnes needs to change over the course of the story is to learn to follow her heart, by which I mean she needs to recognize her own face underneath the masks she wears. Also, I want to use the story to explore the beauty of decay, and I’d like to use Agnes to make an argument that some kingdoms should be allowed to crumble.