Defining Terminology

In fantasy, it is almost inevitable that terms, names, and concepts will arise that are wholly invented by the author.  It can be confusing for readers to follow the story if there are unfamiliar words or references.  Thus it becomes the author’s job to give the reader understanding of these things; sometimes it’s done through background information or context, or by bringing in a character who is new or uninvolved ask questions or receive an explanation.

 Sometimes it’s just easiest to define something.  Obviously a writer can’t simply follow every unfamiliar term with a definition, but occasionally it works.   For example: “She watched the discussion between the Yniall, as they preferred to be called, with a great deal of curiosity.”  If you already know the characters having the discussion are what humans refer to as elves, you now have a grasp on what that term means and will have a frame of reference if I mention it again. 

Everyone has terms they use on a regular basis in their work.  We’ve all had to explain what a word means in conversation.  It’s just a matter of finding the right way to clue people in without making them feel like an outsider or an idiot.  🙂

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