Creative Adventures: The Fiction Writer’s Apprenticeship

Creating Fiction 

 Thinking About fiction

Creative Adventures: The Fiction Writer’s Apprenticeship by Charles Johnson. 

 I finished reading the last section of Chapter 1, Thinking About Fiction in Creating Writing, -Creative Adventures: The Fiction Writer’s Apprenticeship by Charles Johnson.  As I mentioned before, I consider my reading slow in the sense that reading, for me, is not only a matter of going from one page to the other but a way of finding paragraphs, sentences, even words able to trigger thoughts. I have always appreciated a thought-provoking read and reading this section of the chapter activated many thoughts in different areas, from writing to Philosophy, from creativity to my own life’s perspective and goals and many other things. I was lured by this section from the very beginning when I learned that Charles Johnson started his writing career when the idea for a philosophical novel came to him when he was a philosophy student.

 Johnson’s first novel, Faith and the Good Thing, was published in 1974 when the author was studying for this Ph.D. in phenomenology and literary aesthetics at the State University of New York at Stonybrook.

That was enough to keep my attention. Then I read about his fascination by the dilemma of Descartes when reading a book by Bertrand Russel. I felt a connection with Charles Johnson that can be due to the fact that for some time now I have been trying to find out if it would be possible to combine my philosophy studies –in progress- with my writing and other knowledge about the countless subjects that interest me. I felt the answers to some of my questions were written in this section. Therefore, I felt motivated and even more determined to make this Short Story MFA program work for me. My latest interest for screenwriting also had an answer here. Intrigued by Charles Johnson’s works I Goggled him to find out that he wrote screenplays too. Now imagine the speed of my thoughts at that moment. 

 If you want to know more about Charles Johnson: 

Johnson says that if a writer is not writing fresh material or revising, he is reading  -literature, philosophy, mythology, the science- everything that employs the word or researching and if he is not doing any of the above he is relaxing over a meal or with a book or a film, but only truly with a portion of his mind – the rest of his thoughts are mindful of how the film or book is constructed, and even at the dinner table as he sips a glass of wine he is focusing on the particular taste, smell, and feel of things so he won’t draw a blank when writing.

And that cannot be truer, when I am watching a film I am thinking of the plot, the characters, the dialogue, I wonder about the script and the scriptwriter. Sometimes when recommending a film to a friend I say “You have to see this film, it’s a very good story or the characters are great.” The other day I was getting ready to watch “Don’t forget you’re going to die,” an independent French film, and when sipping a glass of French red wine I wondered how many adjectives could it be possible to use to describe ‘wine.’ I started some research after that in case one day one of my characters is drinking wine and I need to add a good description to the scene.  

One of my all times worries has been about what to write that has not been written before and here I could start and write pages and pages about what I think about the human thoughts and the collective conscious previously described by C. Jung.  Charles Johnson says that good writing teachers would tell you to research a literary form not used for a major work in the last hundred years – some dinosaur once popular, then pushed aside by the course of evolution- then have you plot a new story updating it for the current century’s audience.

That makes me think it is a good idea but in a second thought it reminds me what once I said about not finding anything new in this world in the past centuries. Everything has already been said, invented, discovered, you name it. That concept I have applies to literature, science, music, fashion, art, film, inventions, everything. Everything is a ‘remake’ of something that has existed before.

That is my main challenge when thinking of ideas for writing.


About Susan Fourtané

As a citizen of the world, Susan began her search for her place in the world back at the beginning of the year 2000. After many travels looking for her place in the world, her soul found that place in Finland in September 2006. She has been living in Helsinki ever since, where she combines fiction and non-fiction writing with Philosophy studies and teaching.
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1 Response to Creative Adventures: The Fiction Writer’s Apprenticeship

  1. Mohammed says:

    I do exactly what you describe in your opening about reading – takes it slow and get the thought process running. Because of this, you sometimes can’t get beyond a page. But what’s the point if you’ve read pages and pages of information but explored none of it? You have to make it your own.

    The more knowledge you have in general, the better your screenplay. I also have a huge interest in so many subjects. I was watching an interview with Marlon Brando and he was saying the same thing – just about everything interests him. Without forcing it into your writing, you’ll find that what you know will appear in your writing when it’s needed.



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