College Classes and Fiction Writing?
I’m currently a college student. I’m majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies — both Humanities and Social Sciences. This is mostly because I couldn’t make up my mind, but also because it was the “quickest way out.” Hey, if I could go back to when I first started college, I’d be a little more focused. But I’m dealing with the cards I handed myself when I took a bunch of random classes at community college. I’m also getting my Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate, which I am VERY excited for. I plan to teach overseas once I graduate — travel with my husband and see the world.
I was kind of thinking about studying Writing in some form or capacity, but I needed to take a lot of lower division literature classes. And I don’t know, Shakespeare and British and American Lit just didn’t appeal to me. I have a limited amount of money and time, plus an English degree didn’t appeal to me (maybe if all the literature classes studied contemporary, scifi/fantasy, and YA fiction. Sign me up for THAT degree!).
So, anyways, every now and then I just want to quit school and write full-time. I know, it’s not that responsible, but I can’t help it. I know it wouldn’t work out the way I think it would, though.
What I think would happen: I’d write 8 hours a day, put out dozens of high quality novels, novellas and short stories. Some would be self-published, others would find prestigious agents and I’d land awesome contracts with huge advances. And all my books would start selling in the MILLONS. Then I could just travel on my own, no need for a job to do it!
What would probably happen: I’d procrastinate a lot and get about as much work done as I would had I stayed in school. But I wouldn’t have a degree or a TEFL Certificate in a year.
So, I need to enjoy it. I like my classes so far, but how can I incorporate them into my fiction writing?
My Fall term classes this year:
Linguistics Course: Language & Society
This class is about Sociolinguistics — my teacher put it this way: “Sociolinguistics is who said to who, where and why.” We’re studying the social aspect of speech: dialects, idiolect, how culture affects language. We’ll be studying how age, religion, gender, and location all change how someone speaks.
How can this help me as a fiction writer? Uh, dialogue! I’ve always felt fairly confident in my dialogue, but I will take every opportunity to strengthen it. I need to think about my characters and ask myself why they speak the way they speak.
Linguistics Course: Theories of Foreign Language Acquisition
This course is pretty much what is sounds like: theories of how people acquire a foreign language. It’s specifically for young adult and adult learners and less geared towards children, though we will compare to children learners.
I struggle to find a general fiction writing application to this. But specifically, I have a WIP set in Paris. Because a lot of people can teleport in this world, I have characters from various countries coming into contact with each other. Some of them will speak common languages; others won’t. This class and my other linguistics course will help me think about how people interact when they don’t have a common language. Or when their common language is very limited (meaning one person only speaks a little bit of English or French or whatever). Or when they’re trying to learn a second language when their brain is past the ideal time to learn a language.
Anthropology Course: African Film & Society
We’re watching a lot of African films in this class and talking about how African society is represented and what kind of social issues are dealt with through the films.
This may be the hardest to apply to my fiction writing. It’s been an interesting course so far (well, we’ve had two classes), but what does this have to do with my writing? I’ve played around with the idea of writing a nonfiction account of my time in Africa. I’ve also played around with the idea of a novel set in Zambia. Maybe this course will push me to pursue one (or both!) of them.
Geography Course: Global Issues
In this geography class, we’ll be talking about a variety of global issues: women’s rights, Africa as a continent, the Arab Spring and its aftermath, and more.
That WIP set in Paris? Yep, this course will help me with that one, too. Characters from different walks of life and different cultures. While we’re talking about these issues, I can also think about how things may be shaped differently in my world because of certain magical abilities. If 40% of people can teleport, what does that mean for the concept of “borders”?
And of course, every class offers a variety of characters and experiences I can draw from. Minor characters drawn from the personalities and appearances of my classmates. Interactions I can draw characterization from (Why does he act like that? Why does she say stuff like that?). Lame jokes from my teachers that I can use. Here’s one: “exhaustipated.” What does it mean? That you’re too tired to give a shit.
These real life experiences are probably the richest thing I can gain from these classes. My stories tend to be these melting pots of things I’ve seen in real life, in movies or TV, read in books, dreamt about, or just pulled out of my butt. A lot of the butt-pulling, actually.