It's common in Powered by the Apocalypse games, as a part of the narrative flow, to ask players questions about the world to which their character would know the answer.
For example you might say:
As you browse the wares, you notice the imposing form of Tlexkirash the hunter only a few stalls away. Tik-tik the elf, why does she want your head?
These questions (when done well) are great, because they give an opportunity for players to add characterization to their characters, and having everyone at the table involved with the creation of the story just makes it richer in my experience.
However it seems that in other sorts of games it is not common for GMs to ask this sort of questions of their players. And when I GM games for beginners with experience in D&D these question are often one of the things that trips them up. With confused players I get two types of responses to this. Either they ask a question back:
Who is Tlexkirash?
or they just respond with:
I don't know.
I can't really know why players respond like this, since I am not in their head. It could be that they just don't know they have permission to have fun with the question. They might think it's some sort of cruel quiz, with right and wrong answers. Or maybe they are just not comfortable with improvisation yet and so they want me to do it for them. Sometimes it's probably a mixture of the two.
I usually respond to these with two different strategies:
"Show them the ropes". In this case I stop the game and explain what I am trying to do as a GM. I tell them that they have full permission to answer the question how they want. "You may not know, but your character does! I'm asking you to come up with an answer that fits how you see your character."
"Lead by example". In this case I take their words at face value. I answer their question honestly as if they were an experienced player asking it, but still giving them a hook to improvise. If they say they don't know then I assume their character doesn't know and I play with it. "Tlexkirash is out for your head and you don't even know why?!"
The first way is nice because it gets everyone on the same page. If a player is ready to answer but doesn't know that they have permission to then this works great. However it can also feel like a lecture or a scolding. I think players can interpret this as you can't ask questions back, or you need to be ready to come up with something cool at any time. And players who are just not ready to improvise something can end up feeling a lot of pressure to do something that they are not ready for or confident in.
The second way is nice because it keeps the energy of the game flowing. It also gives the players some practical experience with questions like this. Hopefully they will begin to experiment with other ways to respond and get comfortable at their own pace. The issue is that sometimes you need some nudging out of your comfort zone. I think this risks a player simply passing on all these questions because they feel like the GM would do a better job, or they are unsure what the point is.
I could cover this when we explain the rules. And that would probably be nice, but there are a lot of things being explained then, and (in my experience) players have a huge tendency to forget or ignore non-mechanical aspects of the game that are explained to them. And even if they do remember it is my experience that even when players definitely remember me explaining this to them (often from strategy 1) they will still react this way sometimes.
So my question is: What strategy can I use in this scenario? It obviously doesn't have to be one of the above - that's just to show where I am at.