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In my story, there is a certain man in his late twenties, who is one of the commanders in a war against a great threat for a medieval-like kingdom (this kingdom is also in such an unstable state that a civil war can break out at any moment). Now, he is fighting for a certain branch of the royal family and he is loyal to them. The youngest member of this branch of the royal family is a boy who is 10 years old. During the course of the story and the war, this little prince grows close to the war commander's heart, and they become genuine friends, and the war commander once risks an important mission in order to save the boy's life.

My question is: how can I make this a genuine friendship, even though there is such a big age gap between them? It would be different if the prince was 20 years old and the commander was 40 or 50 years old, but in this case, the prince is just a boy. So is there any way for me to make a genuine, strong and realistic friendship between the two even though they have such a great age gap?

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    It could a mentor, the commander is an exceptional swordmaster or good strategist and the royal family want their kid learn from him, so you can have an good excuse for their friendship. Another reason for the friendship could be that the commander is actually related to the royal family, maybe not close family but still related to them. – B.J. A.A. Jun 16 at 17:47
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    It could be similar to a father-son relationship. This could work even if the boy has a father and gets along with him well. Your character could be like a second father to him. – Naomi Jun 17 at 0:40
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    @Naomi, maybe you should put that into an answer... – ArtickokeAndAnchovyPizzaMonica Jun 17 at 8:31
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Keep in mind that this will not be a peer-to-peer kind of relationship; however, that does not mean it cannot be genuine.

You might make that the king or whoever is in charge has entrusted the safety (and perhaps the instruction) of the boy to this war commander. Another way to go about this would be to have the boy badly want to learn whatever skill it is he admires in the commander (horse riding, swordplay, etc, depending on the time period you are writing about). Perhaps the commander is reluctant at first, but gradually he begins to notice the skill and maturity of the boy--add in the bit about the younger brother, who he is reminded of, and you have a relationship that grows stronger with time.

A tip: Something in each of your characters must be attracted to something else in the other character to make the relationship work. Consider having the commander remember his own boyhood when he was eager to learn, or something about his boyhood that reminds him of the prince--perhaps deep inside he is still a boy at heart, though a mature one, and thus can relate to this younger person. And/or have the prince demonstrate maturity for his age that the commander secretly (or not so secretly) admires. He sees the potential in the boy to become a great warrior.

The king (the prince's father) could be a strict, overbearing man, or he could be a good father--it doesn't really matter. The friendship in question might differ in nature depending on this, however. Another thing you could do is liken the relationship to a father-son relationship. Perhaps both characters have gaps in these areas that need to be filled or supplemented with this relationship. If this is not the case, the teacher/mentor/guardian scenario works well--and as I mentioned in my above comment, you could even have this commander be like a second father to the prince. Or perhaps he gets to be that way over time. Maybe the king dies and the prince turns to the commander for guidance. The possibilities seem endless...

Any way you slice it, it can certainly be a genuine friendship, even if it is not a peer-to-peer relationship.

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  • Thanks a lot, this was helpful a lot!:) – curious Jun 18 at 19:28
  • You’re welcome very much! – Naomi Jun 19 at 14:56
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The concept of friendship covers a lot of ground. As you note, the twenty-year difference would be a much different thing if the characters were ten years older. A friendship between a 30-year-old and a 10-year-old could work if they came from a common background; that is, they both grew up in the same neighborhood. Add royal status to the mix and you have a hard problem.

The only scenario that occurred to me was that the older man lost a child (and perhaps a wife) and the royal boy becomes a substitute for the lost child. Let the child have a lost parent or a distant parent that is strict and demanding. The boy wants to do well but does not know how to. The man knows what to do but has no one to teach. Now each character has a need that the other can satisfy.

On a trip accompanied by the older man and isolated from the Court, the child asks, if this happens, what should I do. The older man replies that it is not his place to instruct but the child, as a Royal, insists. The older man treats it as a hypothetical situation. The child listens, absorbs, and learns. Another question and another hypothetical answer. Then, one of those what-if situations becomes reality; the child reacts properly and the relationship is re-enforced. Rinse, repeat.

Such a relationship has a natural tension, and an inevitable conflict. Just what a storyteller needs to make a story work. However, I am not sure that such a relationship, particularly in the early years, could be called a friendship. It might turn into one when the child becomes a man. But perhaps your story can make that work.

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    Anecdotally: my Aunt's sister ("Aunt" as in "married to my Uncle", not "sibling to a parent") had her fourth child when her eldest was 20 - so, the substitution could be that of a younger brother rather than a son (which adds more of a "friend" aspect, and reduces the "mentor" role slightly) – Chronocidal Jun 16 at 14:15
  • Chronocidal Actually, in the story, the war commander has the younger brother who is five years younger than him, bu they haven't seen each other in years. And the boy reminds him of his brother when he was little and this is one of the reasons the boy grows close to his heart. – curious Jun 16 at 14:38

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