In today’s First Page, Laura Kinsale brought up a question in the comments regarding unfamiliar terms in a story.
I have a question, as a writer, about one of the comments. This isn’t a loaded question, or any sort of commentary on this excerpt itself, it’s input for me.
I had to look up "drafts on collection" to find out what he entrusted with,
As a reader-and I think I mean a romance reader here, vs say an SF/fantasy reader where world-building is more common in the genre-when you come across a term you don’t understand, do you tend to feel uncomfortable until you look it up? Are you willing to trust the author to define it for you in context?
I tend to do the latter as a writer, try to define the term in context without spelling it out in a dictionary sort of way. But having lost my ability to read as a non-writer many moons ago, I was intrigued by DS’s comment.
Which would you prefer, for an unfamiliar technical term like "drafts on collection?"
To try to figure out the meaning from the context? To stop and look it up? To avoid the term entirely? For the author to describe it in more detail, even if that is info-dump? To just go on, not being quite sure?
I’m sure there are many different attitudes about this but I’d like to hear some of them.
For me, I prefer the term defined by the author within the story. When a foreign language is used, I like it translated for me. In a paranormal/fantasy/science fiction romance, I want the author to explain the new terms within the text. I don’t mind looking up singular words that are new to me in the dictionary. I will say that anything that takes me out of the story likely means I will be putting down the book and that may mean I will get distracted by any number of things. What about you readers out there? How do you feel?