Monday, September 19, 2016

Using Context to Define Terms

QUESTION: I'm writing a Victorian steampunk novel, and I'm trying to be accurate about the period by using correct terminology for everything, but I'm afraid terms like "gaiter" will stymie readers.  What can I do?

Give some clue in the writing's context. 

You could say something like 

Miranda lifted her skirt slightly and glanced down at her feet. Blood spattered her gaiters.

The reader then would think, "Oh, shoes," which is close enough to what gaiters are for the reader to understand.

If the heroine removes the gaiters from over her shoes to hide the evidence that she'd been near the body, then the reader would get a closer hint that the gaiter partially covers her shoe.

Either way, you would not be talking down to the audience, and you'd give them information that they need as well as a hint they may or may not need.

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