A way with worlds: 11 - Attitude
by Steven Savage of Seventh Sanctum
Page 1 of 1
Attitude. Its a simple word,
but to me, it heralds so many possible problems in writing.
Attitude. What do people
mean by it? In many cases, a variety of different things that are
pretty confusing to a writer.
Ever been told your fic
lacks attitude? Ever been told its the wrong attitude? Ever felt
an attitude was off? Ever been sick of hearing about attitude,
especially in a column? Then read on as we get an attitude about
attitude, because when it comes to continuities, worries about
attitude can produce a lot of problems . . .
. . . that can give you a
(And yes, the bad jokes end
here, thank you for tolerating them, I couldn't resist, though
maybe I should have.)
So, I'm going to explore the
concept of attitude in fiction, especially how it affects
critique and concepts. For this column, when I refer to attitude,
I mean "a general emotional and intellectual tone of a
piece" - is it happy or sad or diverse, deep and analytical
or poetic, etc.
TYPE 1: "YOU'VE GOT THE WRONG ATTITUDE FOR THIS FANFIC"
Beg pardon? Excuse me, but who's writing this?
One of the things that
annoys me is people assume a fanfic, one using an existing
continuity, must have a certain attitude. Yes, a dark pokemon fic
may seem weird (well, unless you've seen anything with Mewtwo),
or a funny Gabriel Knight story may not be what you expect.
However, attitude is what comes from continuity, not what
continuity is - and in fanfiction, continuity is more than it
Fanfiction, as mentioned
last column is metaconcepting (building on and filling in
concepts), and to some extent may involve exploring radically
different ideas, even to the point of confronting flaws or
percieved flaws in the original continuity. The exact same
attitude of a show or book is not something to expect in a fanfic
- if it achieved, fine, but funny ideas have a way of leaking in,
and in some cases they should.
Fanfiction is exploration,
and new ideas may mean new attitudes.
TYPE 2: "I DON'T LIKE YOUR ORIGINAL STORY'S ATTITUDE"
Excuse me? OK, if #1 was annoying this is infuriating.
Yes, have seen people
criticize attitude in an original story. The assumption usually
seemed to be a certain attitude was "right" for most
any fiction, or that the attitude was somehow wrong for the
Any good writer's stories
come from a solid continuity, and the attitude of their stories
from that continuity and their focus in the series. Their
attitude is the result of writing what they've carefully designed
and how they've chosen to look at it.
If the attitude fits the
characters, the setting, the method, etc. stop worrying. As long
as the author didn't force an attitude (and if you harp on
attitude you may tempt them to do so), deal with it. The
continuity is where attitude comes from - live with it.
TYPE 3: "I'LL JUST USE THIS ATTITUDE"
Oh, gods, no . . .
Do not under any
circumstances whatsoever assume that you must give a certain
attitude to your fiction, especially if it's an original world
you've created. OK, maybe your fun Ranma fic isn't quite what you
wanted, maybe you did miss something, but don't force an attitude
on your world whatever you do.
Attitude arises out of
continuity, as mentioned. Trying to "top-down" the
attitude of your story is only going to mess your world up as you
attempt to make it fit a mold. It'll make it shallow and
unbelievable and very, very frustrating as you go on.
TYPE 4: "THIS ATTITUDE DICTATES EXACTLY WHAT I MUST DO"
Assuming a certain general feel dictates your plot is another way
to mess up your writing. You get such thoughts as:
"Well, in a story with
this attitude it's OK to do XXXX." - a sure way to discover
XXXX can break your continuity when you least expect it.
"I'm doing XXXX, other
stories with this attitude do XXXX, so I don't need to worry
about it." - another way not to think about what you're
"XXXX is required in
this genre" - I doubt any one thing is required in any
"attitude," and placing requirements on yourself that
don't fit good continuity will only cause problems.
Attitude, genre - they're
general terms. Don't let them dictate what you do specifically -
or you'll break your continuity and make it stereotypical. If
something has been done before - deliberately doing it again is
not the best idea.
TYPE 5: "I'D LIKE TO EXPLORE THIS ATTITUDE IN THIS
This is one I actually understand, and it can be useful:
taking a setting and seeing what happens when you write with a
However, as mentioned, don't
force it. What I recommend if you're in the mood to write a
certain attitude, look at a setting and find what tales and
characters would naturally have that attitude - if you want to
write sad, find an unwritten sad incident in a characters life,
for instance. Don't force the continuity, work with it.
Just be ready to be
surprised by what happens when you start writing, and don't force
Attitude is useful for three things:
- Classifying a story.
- Seeing if you've
radically departed from your continuity (if an attitude
feels wrong, see if you tried enforcing it without
- Getting an idea of how
Otherwise, Attitude is what
happens, not what you enforce. Don't get hung up on it.
And see? No more
Take a trip to my own alternate world, the Crossworld of Xai, at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/xai/
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Steven Savage, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.