Something I've noticed when worldbuilding fictional setting is that there are generally two distinct ways of referring to fantastical elements in a story.
- Using a general descriptor with broadly-understood language that explains what the thing is in layperson's terms
- Using a word or phrase that gives a very specific name or title to the object or phenomenon being discussed
Two examples I can think of that I noticed in recent fiction (both from urban fantasy series) are as follows...
- In some works magic spells are referred to as "sleep spells" or "fire spells" or whatever, versus other works that give them specific names like a "Somniosus" or something like Harry Potter's spell names (Wingardium Leviosa, Avada Kevadra). The same is true with magical artifacts and other supernatural phenomena.
- In an unpublished work that discussed the societal office of a person whose job it was to police the supernatural and keep it hidden, the author was debating whether to refer to the position in very general terms (i.e., regional head) or give the post a specific title and use that throughout the story (e.g., marshal, praetor, or something like that).
I was mostly wondering when it was appropriate to use more generic descriptor names versus more specific names. More generic names can be useful because readers will intuitively know what a "sleep spell" or "regional head" does, and people to tend to talk in that manner, but on the other hand people often will use specific terminology when discussing something, especially if the meaning of that term is well-understood.