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  • Robert Sadler

Facing the Kobayashi Maru as a Writer


To be a creative writer, one must give in to the creator and creation. Writers are not the creator; it is the thoughts of the creator that transmute themselves from idea to letters and words that are expressed through our hands. In my opinion, writers are or should be the servants of the ideas given us to transmute.


Writers are not all-powerful Egyptian pharaohs, though some seem to think that is their roll, to proclaim: “So let be written, so let it be done!”*


There is an absolute difference between a story being told (by the writer) and a story being told by the characters and written down by the writer.


To my mind, those who outline, plot and plan their novels have the most difficulty when characters reveal something out of the blue (i.e., not in the outline or plot). The characters, [always in fealty to the imagination, even for plotters] often get creative, providing prophecies and miracles, making suggestions or even objecting to the way their story is ‘being told’—offering other paths, other solutions.


For the serious plotter, when this inevitably happens, they may feel blocked or constricted, as if held in a Gordian Knot, when faced with a character’s idea or action they had not plotted or planned for—it is their Kobayashi Maru, their no-win situation.


When the miracle of writing into the dark becomes prophetic, when the characters of the subconscious mind reveal an epiphany or demonstration of a future event—shy not away, write it down! It is not for you (the writer) to ‘ensure’ or ‘make it’ happen. Your part, when WITD, is to give the characters space to fulfill this prophesy. It is their story after all, and in the character’s world it may or may not come to pass before their ‘the end’ arrives.


To bring the Star Trek analogy full circle. When you are an outline/plan driven writer and you find yourself facing the plot of a training simulation known as Kobayashi Maru… you will lose—it’s a lesson in accepting a no-win situation.


But if you’re WITD and your character is James T. Kirk, he just reprograms the simulation so it’s possible to win—so he wins, the story wins!


To me the difference between outlining, plotting and planning, and writing into the dark, is the difference in forcing an outcome on your character and letting your character find his or her own outcome.


*A phrase spoken by pharaoh Ramses II in a scene from the 1956 movie: The Ten Commandments.

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