What Is Craft and What Does It Do: Part 1


What Is Craft and What Does It Do, Part 1

  1. Craft is a set of expectations.
  2. Craft is a history of power. In other words: history is craft. Craft is a lineage of whose stories are passed down and by whom, what kind of stories are on record.
  3. Craft is both much more and much less than we’re taught it is.
  4. Expectations extend to theory of mind. We make stories about every person we see, hear, hear about. We fill in their motives and desires. We make them make sense to us. Most of those stories don’t have anything to do with the other person, but with the expectations of others that we have bought into, knowingly or not. Craft is a kind of shorthand that helps us to fill in a story from the barest of details. How do we fill in the story? With bits of stories we’ve heard before and are taught that a story should be.
  5. Craft, even things like arc and plot and round and flat characters, always operates either as cliche or like epithets in oral storytelling: familiar forms to give the storyteller space to innovate elsewhere. There’s no innovation in craft. There’s no meaning in craft except power.
  6. In a vacuum, craft allows us to put our imagination elsewhere. It allows us to find meaning from something other than our expectations.
  7. Outside of that vacuum, in the world we live in, craft must reckon with the meaning of our expectations.
  8. Craft satisfies a cultural idea of shape.
  9. Craft activates the pleasure of being right. But for whom?
  10. Craft is an idea of audience. If that idea is the lineage of stories above, then the audience is what writers often call immortality but which is actually power. The acceptance, and perpetuation, of it.
  11. To judge a person by their clothes, by the color of their skin, by the way they talk, by how much money they were born with, to see the story unfolding from those details in accordance with cultural norms, is the same as the craft we wield in a causal plot or an epiphany or a three-act structure leading to a character’s change. To wield craft morally, though, is not to pretend those expectations do not exist or can be innocently or artfully met, but to engage with the problems they present and create.

To be continued…

Photo Flickr/daren

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