Craft

Craft is neutral. In chapter 1 I said that craft and technique can be used to write any kind of story— science fiction, fantasy, adventure, romance, mystery. It's worth saying twice. It's also important to realize that all genres can be literary. Here are examples of great books in different genres: Science fiction: Brave New World. Fantasy: Animal Farm and Watership Down. Adventure: Moby Dick. Romance: Madame Bovary. Mystery: The Brothers Karamazov.

Whatever the genre, the story must be complete, or it won't get to us, won't give us what we want and need. Craft is what we use to create a complete story. The complete story is the most satisfying, not only for the reader, but for the author. It's the natural form, the most compelling, because it has the shape of our most meaningful experiences. We recognize and relate to it instantly. It reaches us before we have time to think. We connect whether we want to or not. It's impossible to sit and watch a good movie and not be drawn into it.

The complete story gives us what we seek in trivial experience and what we need to manage painful experience. It's easiest to see in extreme cases. (Fiction is about the extreme case—extreme love story: Romeo and Juliet; extreme fish story: Moby-Dick.) What we seek and need from experience is what the survivors and relatives of TWA Flight 800, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine massacre wanted and needed. What they had to have to manage the experience. Know what it was? You hear the word on the news all the time: closure.

And what is closure? Ever heard it defined? No. No newscaster has to tell us what it means. We all know in our hearts. That's fine—for life, but for fiction we have to pin it and everything else down as much as possible. After all, that's what fiction is about-pinning it down, going as deeply into it as possible.

What is this closure that we all need? It's a coming to terms, a final outcome, a putting to rest (as best we can). It's a way of dealing with a divorce, a death, a rape, a broken heart-a way of making sense of it, of finding a meaningful outcome—a way of living with it or dying because of it. It's not necessarily a happy ending. Some only find closure in the grave. And it's the same in comedy as in tragedy. Both must complete, finish, fulfill the promise of the story. Whether our tears are from laughter or sadness, the complete story must give us a sense of completion in ourselves—for the moment. Then we go in search of another connection—the story connection.

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