The Greek tragedians were likewise criticized by Aristotle. In his Poetics, Aristotle does not just put forward an early version of Western craft (one closely tied to his philosophical project of the individual) but also puts down many of his contemporaries, tragedians for whom action is driven by the interference of the gods (in the form of coincidence) rather than from a character’s internal struggle. It is from Aristotle that Westerners get the cultural distaste for deus ex machina, which was more like the fashion of his time. Aristotle’s dissent went forward as the norm.
Craft, like the self, is made by culture and reflects culture, and can develop to resist and reshape culture if it is sufficiently examined and enough work is done to unmake expectations and replace them with new ones. (As Aristotle did by writing the first craft book.)
We are constantly telling stories–about who we are, about every person we see, hear, hear about–and when we don’t know something, we fill in the gaps with parts of stories we’ve told or heard before. Stories are always only representations. To tell a story about a person based on her clothes, or the color of her skin, or the way she talks, or her body–is to subject her to a set of cultural expectations. In the same way, to tell a story based on character-driven plot or a moment of epiphany or a three-act structure leading to a character’s change is to subject story to cultural expectations. To wield craft morally is no tot pretend that those expectations can be met innocently or artfully without ideology, but to encage with the problems ideology presents and creates.
In my research for this book, I found various authors (mostly foreign) asking ho it is that we have forgotten that character is made up, that it isn’t real or universal.”
-Craft in the Real World, by Matthew Salesses