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In my current book, the main character is a knight and in one of the beginning scenes, he interacts with the princess. He's intimidated because of who she is (royalty) and acts very formal around her (never calling her by her first name, etc.). There's a scene with just the two of them before they know each other. my question is, what kinds of things can I have them say? I'm kind of hitting a block. In my head, the characters are both sitting there awkwardly because I cannot think of a single natural thing for him to say. Any ideas? (Again, he acts very formal and polite around her, because she's a princess.)

How can I make this scene? I need some ideas for dialogue.

EDIT: The knight is kind (not shallow/vain or overly courageous, just a typical boy who was drafted when he was young and trained to serve the kingdom) and not typically shy, but he doesn't know what to say around the princess. I think this is where my problem lies. I don't know how to make their conversation happen when he doesn't feel like he can talk to her without being "improper" or whatever.

As for the romantic interest, the princess is interested in him because he's different than the men she is usually around. When he was drafted to be a knight, he came from a farm. So he's very different from the boys who grew up in the castle. And, he has a girl back home, so he's not interested in the princess. He is nervous/stiff around her because of her status.

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    In what country and what period? The word princess was not used for the daughter of a monarch in England until the 18th century (long after knights were knights). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess#Descendants_of_monarchs – user16226 Feb 18 '16 at 13:54
  • It's a futuristic twist with some medieval stuff blended in. Interesting note though! – Abs Feb 18 '16 at 16:05
  • so it is a fantasy then, and the social position of knights and princesses is really something that is entirely in your hands. That said, familiarity breeds contempt. How large a kingdom you are talking about and how well they know each other will have a great deal to do with how they talk to each other. – user16226 Feb 18 '16 at 16:26
  • I do not know about the royalities in your world, but a knight usually was a royal himself. If he just got drafted he might be more a soldier than a knight; At all, knights in our world were nobility and being around a king or something like this isn't anything they would feel uncomfortable (if they are good with that kind, this is).... so does you guy own land, or is he just a commoner? – Confused Merlin Feb 19 '16 at 11:21
  • He actually is a soldier but later goes through extra training to become a knight. Do you think that would make sense? Most boys who are drafted become soldiers but the ones who are really good become knights to protect the royal family. – Abs Feb 20 '16 at 2:32
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It would entirely depend on their personalities.

If the knight was charming and superficial, he would be in his absolute element in this situation. Spouting off lines such as, "You are as radiant as the sun above, with a smile that lights up this chamber like it were midsummer's day", which sounds good but doesn't really mean anything. Then later on when they got to know each other she would see he is a shallow buffoon.

If she is intelligent and worldly she might respond to this coldly and know immediately that he is simply flattering her, and shrug off these comments with aloof pleasantries such as, "Thank you, kind sir. You flatter me so." However, if she is also quite vain and pompous she might blush and respond in kind with, "Why, sir knight, your compliments match your bravery and valor."

Yet, if he is quite a rude/ brash knight, or is rather inexperienced with entertaining dignitaries, he might stumble over his words and end up embarrassing himself. Or he may inadvertently insult her by trying to be polite in a situation he is uncomfortable with.

She may also be rather reserved having had a sheltered upbringing, and be equally as nervous and awkward. In which case, your scene would likely work as is, with a couple of chunks of broken and indelicate dialogue thrown in. If this is the case, you can focus more on the inner thought process and the stress of the situation, with the characters attempting to think of things to say that will not seem inappropriate (and likely failing).

For one of the earlier scenes, it would be a perfect opportunity to portray to the reader what your main characters are like (in a formal situation anyway), which may lead into the character development later on in the story.

They may turn from vain/superficial into deeper, more thoughtful characters. They may develop from awkward, nervous people into brave, more assertive ones.


If you're still struggling for specific dialogue, try thinking about what a real person would think about saying to a superior, such as an employee to the CEO of their company if they were in a business meeting. Then simply convert the context into that of a fantasy setting.

  • Your suggestion of focusing on the "inner thought process" and the stress of the trying to find appropriate things to say was helpful. I'm also struggling with how to end the scene... he is obviously uncomfortable and doesn't feel like talking to the princess is appropriate (esp. in the environment they are in, a common tavern). But he can't really just walk up and leave... any ideas? – Abs Feb 18 '16 at 16:21
  • Well I'm guessing if they're in a tavern then she doesn't want to be recognized as a princess, so he could stand and make a very polite and formal goodbye, stumbling halfway through saying "princess" before remembering she is incognito, then attempting to simply say her name but feeling it is far too inappropriate, so stumbling over that as well, and then simply turning to leave before he has actually finished his goodbye. This provides a way for them to be more familiar with each other when they meet again, with a "sorry for my behavior", or "you never finished your goodbye". – Mike.C.Ford Feb 18 '16 at 17:00
  • That is the perfect idea. It helped spark some ideas on my previously blank-slate of a mind. Thank you, you've been extremely helpful! – Abs Feb 18 '16 at 17:57
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Are they focusing on a specific topic? If not, I would suggest having the princess ask him questions, trying to get him to talk, but when he answers, it is either short and unsatisfactory, or he doesn't know what to say and he awkwardly tries to mumble out answers.

  • I think I will do this. Have the princess try to get him to talk, but he'll answer very politely, etc. The problem I have now is how to end the scene... he can't very well get up and walk away from a princess... any ideas? – Abs Feb 18 '16 at 16:38
  • If you don't know how to end a scene, let the reader end it in his head. For example, picture a conversation before a great battle. The heroine says, "You know this is the end, right? You will die." The hero replies, "... Yes. I know." You can stop the chapter there and pick up with the battle in the next one. The reader will assume that the hero got up and left, maybe with a final farewell, but you don't need to put it in. I'm having trouble explaining this concept; hopefully my example conveyed what I meant. – Thomas Myron Feb 18 '16 at 22:10
  • I think I get what you mean. – SpiralStudios Feb 19 '16 at 18:00
  • @TommyMyron Yes that makes sense, thanks for sharing that. Useful tip. – Abs Feb 20 '16 at 2:29
  • Eddings's relationship development of the farmboy Garion and Princess C'Nedra is nothing short of brilliant. If you haven't read the Belgariad, you may wish to kick your feet up and mark your calendar as booked for the next week. – Stu W Feb 20 '16 at 4:21
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Assuming your knight is supposed to be courageous, and there's some romantic tension between knight and princess, have him take a few chances. He's polite because he has to be, but how far can he push that without getting executed? Have him push the boundaries. Good manners alone aren't going to arouse much interest from the princess.

If you want historical realism, this kind of chivalry was mostly in fiction. A knight probably wouldn't have needed to be overly courteous to a king's daughter, because she didn't have much say in who she married. He'd be better off impressing her father.

  • I updated the question, but the your right; the princess wouldn't be impressed just because he's polite or courteous. He actually saved her in a previous scene when her horse was being wild (that ties into the plot later, the horse was different than the domesticated castle horses). That's why she's trying to talk to him, but he's insisting on being formal with her because she's a princess. – Abs Feb 18 '16 at 16:13
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    It reminds me of Wesley in The Princess Bride—subservient but confident. That might be one good model here. He may be more appealing if he's sure about the rules he lives by. In that case, perhaps she's pushing the boundaries and flirting, while he refuses to flirt back, despite his attraction to her. – Duncan McKenzie Feb 18 '16 at 16:38
  • I had never seen The Princess Bride before but I watched it today so I could see the comparison. I liked it more than I expected! Very funny movie. Thank you for mentioning it. – Abs Feb 19 '16 at 1:29
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I like that they're not romantic interests. It seems to always be romantic these days. In modern movies, and a bunch of YA books, it's often mandatory that they fall in love/have sex/sexual tension. It's like, a law or something of stories these days. But you DON'T. The sheer number of stories that have the woman be the romantic interest is just mind-boggling, and kinda transparently forced.

One example I like from a great author is David and Megan from The Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson. David sees Megan for the first time and is awestruck. He's almost never met a girl before, and he's actually surprised that she sees right through his transparent wooing attempts. At first he doesn't know what he did wrong to offend her, but she's quickly made up her mind about him. He does win her over later, but he has to work for it. Prove he's not as clueless as he seems (he comes off a naive kid at first though).

That's an example where the romantic interest is clearly not interested, at least not at first, and she's just that much stronger than he is.

Somewhere along the line, a lot of people decided that every story has to have a romance subplot. It's so in-vogue that a lot of other readers I know are getting sick of it. I mean sure, love, sex and relationships are part of the normal human experience, and it's messy, and books can help us navigate our own. To have that missing is to make people really sad and frustrated, so love does make life better. Not easier, just more bearable with someone by your side and on your side. (Being a hopeless romantic in a hookup culture is a special kind of Hell!)

Not many mainstream books or movies or games deal with man-woman relationships as anything BUT romantic or sexual, or at least with tension or potential. It's in the Hollywood Handbook. Don't bother looking it up. :p (Hey, that's a great title for a book I could write on the three main story-telling industries, ie the big buck ones - books, games and movies).

Harry Potter was originally supposed to end up with Hermione because of course he was. I loved how she and Ron ended up together instead. They are a classic opposites-attract deal. Harry is the every teen. Hermione is little miss genius, while Ron is ginger loser. Pretty much every fan liked that better. It might have been more interesting if Harry never actually got a girlfriend that it ever worked out with, though. (He did end up marrying his biggest fan, Ginny, ie Ron's star-struck younger sister. At least you know there that she likes him for him, not his fame. That's not a bad way to do it. Him NOT getting a girl, at least in the seven books so far, would certainly make for an interesting alternative to the standard rules of books, where all characters that are good end up happily ever after. Happy endings are always more popular, but sad endings are where you can really show your teeth as a writer. You can also show you aren't pandering to the fans by having a non-romantic, non-sexual friendship. It'd be a good idea to give readers a break from the kinds of stories where it has to be a HEA.

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    Didn't really answer the question, but you made an excellent point. Everything nowadays is so romance-centered, to a point where it's expected. I prefer things to unfold naturally or not at all. And I agree with you that sometimes romance needs to step back (although I am a sucker for a good romance too). – Abs Apr 17 '16 at 21:29
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Actually you have the makings of a good story there. That's because your "characters" are acting a little "out of character" for who they're supposed to be.

As one of the commenters pointed out, a knight is a member of the nobility. Not quite "royalty" but not far from. And ordinarily someone who would not be intimidated by a princess, because he is "milord" himself. That is, someone who is rich himself, but not quite as rich as say, Ivanka Trump (who may become "first daughter or "princess" if her father is elected President).

Thus, the knight shouldn't lack things to say, because they will be prescribe by royalty etiquette. A "safe" subject is weather. He might say something like, "It's a nice day, Your Highness." The conversation could get awkward when it gets "personal." But that's not limited to knights and princesses.

The princess is an unusual one, because she is willing to look past the knight's "status" to who he really is. Most princesses aren't that way, because they expect to be queens someday; the classic counterexample is Marie Antoinette, who was a princess before she became Queen of France.

Your knight is a perfect foil. He is not an "opportunist" who wants to capitalize on the princess' status. And he's got a viable alternative in his own sweetheart. That's why the princess wants him for all the right reasons. The prince has a choice to make. He's clearly comfortable with his sweetheart and uncomfortable with the princess.

How will he make his choice? Will the sweetheart "fall down" and the princess come through? Will there be a "national emergency" that goes beyond the personal emergency of the knight saving the princess' life and will that help define the knight's choice? That was the plot of Aida. If the knight elects the sweetheart and not the princess, will that be a tragedy, or will she go about her business of finding another one?

There is also a potential conflict because the princess is "chasing," dating, and potentially marrying "beneath" her. What do the laws of the kingdom say? Do they forbid her to date "knights?" Do they allow her to marry a knight, but she will have to forfeit her role as princess to become a knight's wife? Will she be happier if she does this? Or do they allow her to raise him to her level?

In real life, the Crown Princess of Sweden married her gym trainer, that is a "knight." He will get to be called Prince," but when her father dies, she will become "Queen" and he will remain a prince and not a king.

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