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In a story I'm writing, the two main characters write letters to each other frequently. The characters are close, and have a romantic relationship that starts midway through the story. The story takes place in a fantasy setting, so the letters are written in a way that uses very little slang, and tries to keep a professional tone. One of the characters is prince, and the other is his personal assistant. In the princes letters, he adresses his assistant by his name. I was wondering how the assistant should adress the prince in his letters without it feeling awkward.

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    Why would the assistant not simply address the prince in the same way that he addresses him face to face? And why would that feel awkward? If the assistant addresses the prince with "Your Highness" in person, he will address him with "Your Highness" in his letters. If they are already lovers and the assistant addresses the prince as Dave (or whatever the prince's name is), he will address him as Dave in his letters. Just like you do when you write a letter! Or do you address people in letters differently than you do face to face? If I'm missing something, please edit your question and explain.
    – Ben
    Feb 1 at 21:20

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Answer these:

  • What does the assistant call the prince when they're in public?

  • How does he address him when they're alone?

  • How high is the risk that some third person may read the letter?

  • If someone did, what would the consequences be?

All of these may, of course, have different answers at different points of the story.

Consider the customs and rules of your setting. Is it on the prince's discretion to let a courtier call him by name outside of formal occasions, or would it be a transgression against God-given order? And conversely, are expressive displays of loyalty to one's liege common and even expected?

And keep in mind that how cautious or casual they are about the possibility of revealing their relationship applies not only to the address but to the whole letter.

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My book is in a fantasy setting (semi-medieval) and I use letters in several places.

Do what serves the story best would be my advice. As with dialogue you don’t always want to literally write it out. Sometimes you can just summarize.

Dialogue summary:

Alice spent the next hour bringing them up to speed with everything that’d happened.

Letter summary:

Brian held her letter in his shaking hands. It confirmed all his worst fears. She wanted a divorce.

At the beginning of my novel my MC is seeing a guardsman. He is not very literate and I express that in his letter by writing it out in the story explicitly.

I also looked on the web for historical details about letters, how they were signed off, sealed and so on.

Hope that helps.

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