I’ve had a reminder that things that are obvious to me may be completely unknown to others.
Toini, the main character of my current story, Toini Comes Home, is a paladin. I’ve read a lot of fantasy and I’ve played a lot of computer games taking place in a fantasy setting. The word paladin has been sitting in my vocabulary since… well, since very long. In some of my social circles it’s a word that people use on a daily basis.
It didn’t even occur to me that there are people who aren’t familiar with the word.
Obviously, this is the case. For example, my sister, who I tend to ask to read my stories I write, had to look up the word in google.
Someone else who also read the story was in a similar position. They told me that at first they’d been intrigued by the word, as it had seemed important, but that when no explanation came they couldn’t apply it to the character. That’s not good.
At the moment, I don’t have the room to fit in the explanation of what a paladin is in the first scene of the story. Technically, there’s no explanation at all in the story. A ready will eventually find out more about it, but that takes a while. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to expect a reader to get through several thousand words to find the explanation.
Her being a paladin is an integral part of who Toini is, and it’s important for how she’s perceived. I can’t just let my readers hang without a clue, and it’s not right to expect them to go find out on their own – then they might as well read another story.
For now, what I’ve done is I’ve added a “dictionary entry” to the top of the first scene, with a short explanation of the word. Hopefully, if I get someone new to go over the text, it will save them a bit of confusion.