Elements of Setting: Attitude

Elements of Setting: Attitude

Ciao, SEers! Today, we’re finishing the setting series. We’ve already discussed time, locale, and atmosphere. Today, we’re going to end with attitude.

I know. That’s kind of a vague term. Think of it like the culmination of the first three elements and how the characters embrace and interact with them. It’s actually the most important of the elements because without the characters’ attitudes toward their surroundings, we have very little to ground us in their world.

Attitude and Time

You characters are going to have an opinion about the era they live in, even if they don’t know it. Scarlet O’Hara loved the gentility of the antebellum South, but she hated a woman’s powerlessness in society. Consequently, she used feminine wiles to disarm the men in her social circle and get what she wanted from them. Her machinations didn’t always work when one-on-one, and she certainly couldn’t stop the war, but she wielded a certain amount of power over many men in her social circle, which elevated her status in reality if not on paper.

Your characters will also have an attitude about the time of day or the season of the year. Remember our college student who was ill-prepared for his early-morning exam? He dreaded the morning because of the physical effects (hangover) and the academic ones (potential failure). An athlete may yearn to go back to school so he can play football. His shop teacher may dread autumn because he hates his job. Remember, it’s not the time of day or season of the year that’s inherently bad or good. Rather, it’s what those times mean to your character that gives them relevance.

Attitude and Locale

Where a character is on the grand scale or the small scale also is largely unimportant without his feelings on the matter. Does it matter if someone is on a foreign planet? Not really. But a character like Dr. Smith (Lost in Space) who fears everything and hates the uncertainty of his condition is going to have a lot more problems with being on an uncharted planet than someone like Obi-Wan Kenobi, who has traveled to countless planets and (at one point in his life) needed to go into hiding so he wouldn’t be killed by the Empire. It’s not the planet, but rather the character’s attitude toward the planet, that provides context for the story.

The same is true on a smaller scale. An agoraphobic might go catatonic if she was forced onto her unoccupied porch. A rock musician might get antsy in silent spaces and crave the crowded venues he performs in. I’m a bit claustrophobic. I assure you I’d have a much different outlook sitting on my patio than I would if I were stuck in a closet. Use rooms and outdoor spaces to show what kind of person your character is.

Attitude and Atmosphere

You might think this one is barely worth mentioning. A character should be scared in a spooky setting, happy at a wedding, sad at a funeral, right? For most people (when using common attributions), that’s true. But remember the second part of atmosphere? Meaning reassignment? What does it say about a character who is excited in a spooky setting? Angry at a wedding? Delighted at a funeral? The way a character feels when it’s not typical goes a long way to establishing character.

I think you can see how attitude is the most important of the four elements of setting. Without your characters’ reactions and interactions, readers would have no context. How have you used attitude in your writing? Let’s talk about it below.

Staci Troilo's bio

51 thoughts on “Elements of Setting: Attitude

  1. Pingback: Elements of Setting: Attitude – menthor of mind

  2. Excellent wrap-up, Staci! I know I’m behind on … well, pretty much everything … but I have been enjoying all SE posts as usual, and saving most for more in-depth studying. This series is one I’ll be looking at very closely as I try to get back to my writing. Thanks for all the input and suggestions. Great topic on one of my favorite parts of a story! 😀 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Staci, a great post. Your comments about a wedding setting being a happy one brought to mind the wedding scene in Harry Potter when the Ministry of Magic falls and the Death Eaters crash the wedding reception. A clever way of manipulating the usual ideas of a specific setting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know I have. How a character is portrayed to other is important to establishing how they will react to that character. Someone who comes across as sympathetic will gain empathy and a crass person will garner disdain and the reactions that go along with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A super discussion on attitude, Staci. I was thinking as a result of your post, how great it would be to have a disruptive character in classic settings. The idea of one who is happy in sad situations and sad in happy ones would be a defining and not easily forgotten character. Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I love the examples of being angry at a wedding and happy at a funeral. I can think of so many ways both could work. I like it when a character’s reaction even surprises him. This was a great series of posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, Staci 🙂 I love a good twist on a normal attitude of a character. When it’s unexpected and draws you into the story wondering how it will effect what happens.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Meaning reassignment is such a great way to enhance characterization. I love that, Staci. Great series and very useful tips that give our stories more depth and richness. I’ll be paying attention to this as I work through my WIP. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Fantastic post, Staci. I’ve not given this much thought but I know my attitudes toward certain things (settings, seasons, etc.) have reflected in my characters. When we do incorporate those things, it makes for a much better story and well-rounded character. The idea of a character getting excited about a spooky setting opens up a world of possibilities.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. What a great post, Staci! I became aware of attitude when I started reading your books. The characters are alive with quirks, opinions – attitude. And truth be known, attitude is one of the reasons I love your writing. Your characters are real. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  11. It’s amazing all the nuts and bolts that go into creating a story that we never really stop to consider. This is a perfect example of an element that I don’t consciously think of but that I definitely employ. These are excellent examples, Staci, and really make for some lightbulb moments. A great post!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. This is really interesting! I thought back to my book and realized I am writing with attitude when it comes to my setting but didn’t realize it. But this might help me solidfy my edits as I think about it more consciously. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Pingback: Elements of Setting: Attitude | Legends of Windemere

  14. Pingback: Elements of Setting: Attitude — Story Empire – Typography

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