Seems like a weird question, but…
I was doing a MOOC on creative writing a while back, and I submitted a piece that was the opening to what I hope turns into a novel (story based on length – publication worthy is not the discussion at this point).
In this scene, my narrator (who you later learn is undercover) is being flirted at by another member of the scene, and the narrator’s thought is: “Alice could have told him I was terrible at flirting.” Later the main character talks to herself in her head, using her real name.
Now I had thought that the confusion would come with people not understanding that fakename/realname were the same person. But no, the problem was Alice. Readers were angry because the narrator mentioned someone who wasn’t in the scene and wasn’t “fully introduced”.
And it got me thinking: when I encounter things like an off-hand reference to another character that hasn’t been introduced yet, it doesn’t upset me, because I assume they will be introduced, and the narrator’s seeming assumption that we do know means that person will be important, so have a little patience.
Then it occurred to me that maybe it’s because I often read series, and don’t always start at the beginning (and one time I did was Stuart MacBride’s Logan McRae series that he deliberately started as though it was at some point in the middle) and it got me wondering if somehow it’s a matter of how we’ve learned to follow single stories versus universes.
So: if you are just starting a new-to-you author (or a new-to-you series by that author) do you need to start at the beginning and know who all the players are one by one, or do dive straight into a world, accepting that the narrator (or maybe even other readers) know things that you don’t and have confidence that they may be explained later? Are you willing to start in the middle and learn how it goes, or do you need a full briefing before you get going?