I was in a bookstore the other day, and while a man scanned my books and placed them in a bag, I struck up a conversation with him. Now, I can’t account for it word-for-word, but it went something like this:
“mhm.”(upon seeing my choice in reading)
“Oh, have you read this book? Is it any good?”
“No, but I’ve heard of The Fat Man problem.”
“What do you think about it?”
And then the man proceeds to tell me that there is no un-winnable situation. He mentioned the Kobayashi Maru as an example. He believes that a situation only appears unwinnable because one doesn’t have enough awareness of their surroundings. In other words, that they need to look around and find the answer–he’s assuming that every possible situation has a “good” or “right” resolution.
It was refreshing to have a meaningful conversation with someone for once. If you’re reading this, Cashier-At-The-Bookstore, thank you.
I politely said goodbye and left after I had paid. Walking to the bus-stop, I felt unsure. Was he right, wrong, or just an out-of-depth Star Trek nerd(no offense to Star Trek nerds–I am one!)? I put the encounter on the back-burner and didn’t really think about it for a while. Now I have made up my mind. As someone who enjoys drama, fiction, and moral dilemmas, I have decided that I can not accept that all situations are “winnable”(cue complaints about an undefined definition of winning. Bear with me, folks.)
So here it is, my firm beliefs as a writer(and lover of conflict):
- Sometimes, there is no happy ending, no absolute “win-win.” There is no way everyone gets out alive, the prince can’t marry the princess, and there is no miracle cure. This isn’t always true, but it is possible. Yes, sad endings happen.
- Mistakes(and history) repeat themselves– a lot. See: war, racism, child abuse, etc.
- When loved ones die(or are terminally ill), it advances your story and/or a big change happens. This is pretty darn true, even for real life.
- Emotional behaviors and decisions don’t make sense, but make the best conflict between people. But be careful– the emotional behavior should be relate-able or self-explanatory. Otherwise the reader’s disbelief drops like an anvil onto your skull.
- Stuff happens, and there’s(often) nothing to do but just go with it. Oh look, a truck randomly dropped on your best friend. That’s bizarre.
That’s it for now… maybe I’ll come up with more things later. Anything I forgot? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to “like”!
Post script: Also, if you’re the cashier from the book store, I respect your opinion and I am thankful that I talked to you. Please don’t be offended!
Post Post script: This is the book I’m talking about, if anyone wants to know. It’s really good, actually.