Sunday, February 21, 2016

Five Strange College Classes to Help Your Writing

Many people think you have to be an English or Creative Writing Major in college to learn about writing. Well, I am not going to argue with those of you are are English and Creative Writing Majors, but I am a Liberal Arts Major, and I am learning way more about writing than I expected. And I am learning it from some unexpected classes!

Last week I talked about the three notebooks every writer needs. In that post, I also talked about how I kept these notebooks on hand at all times so I could write. Even during classes! But what I've discovered is that I am not just writing down stray thoughts. I am writing down ideas from my college classes that I can use in my writing.

Imagine it. Classes besides writing classes that can make you a better writer!

Before I get into some of those classes, allow me to promote my Major here really quick.

The Liberal Arts

If you ask around you might hear that this major is kind of like the "jack-of-all-trades" sort of thing. Or you might hear that it gives you a broad overview of every subject. While all that is true, I've discovered that this major is SO much more.

Just to keep it short, studying the liberal arts equips you to apply what you've learned in almost any practical arena you could imagine. A liberal arts education is the oldest major in the world if you think about it. The Greeks came up with it first as a way to produce fully-rounded citizens. It trains your mind to think and equips you to understand and use words well. I've got to do a separate post on this sometime. But trust me! This major is worth it if you want to expand your horizons as a writer.

Because I am a Liberal Arts Major, I have a lot of freedom with the sorts of classes I take. Yes, I am minoring in Creative Writing. But it has not been my Creative Writing classes that have prompted real growth in my writing lately. Here are the classes that have changed how I write.

1. Psychology Class

Useful For: Character Development

Those tutorials you read on Pinterest are helpful. But do you want to write a character that has real depth? You want to write a character with psychological disorders and do it justice? Take a Psychology course. You will learn more about human nature than you ever wanted to.

The Gen Psych class at my college was fantastic. I learned about social disorders, anxiety issues, and the whole range of things that can go wrong in the human brain. The subject matter from class sparked tons of character traits to store for a future story. If you ever have a Psych class, take advantage of it! Keep that writing notebook handy to capture all the cool bits for your characters later on.

My college offers a Psychology of Personality class next semester, and I cannot wait to sit in on it! I bet that will generate even more character ideas. 

2. Communication Class

Useful For: Character Development, Setting, and Worldbuilding

As writers, we are communicators. Don't make the mistake of thinking Communication classes always mean journalism. The theories of communication are essential to us writers. Think about it, our characters are in constant communication. Either with each other or with their surroundings. So understanding communication becomes a big deal.

I've taken two Communication classes here so far.

The first was Interpersonal Communication. We basically looked at how and why people communicate. I learned two essential things in that class...

  • Nonverbal communication - We all know how important this is in good writing. 
  • Dialogue - Seriously, when you take a class about talking, you learn how to craft good dialogue. 

The second class was Intercultural Communication. Guys! I am not kidding! This class has done more for my worldbuilding skills than anything I have ever read on the internet.  I learned about...

  • Taboos - what does your setting/world accept or not accept? 
  • Stereotypes - do you have any and how did they form? 
  • Stories - every culture has them! 
  • Traditions - what are they and how did they come about?
  • Racism - is it present and how does it affect your story?
  • Language - every culture has good words and bad words

The list could go on and on. My notes on worldbuilding grow with every class. I cannot recommend this enough to writers. Take a Communications Class! 

3. Politics Class

Useful For: Worldbuilding and Plot Development

At first, I thought this topic was the furthest possible thing from my Creative Writing Goals. How would reading about our political process help me write? As it turns out, it's extremely useful. I'm only taking a general politics course right now. It covers how our government works and the history behind it.

Instead of falling asleep in class, I began to see the story of the United States unfolding as I learned about the government. We are a product of our government. If America were part of a fictional story, then our government would be part of the worldbuilding and even a possible contributor to plot development!

If you want to have some political facet to your stories, or you just want a believable world, you have to take a politics class. You'll be better off for it I promise.

4. Art History Class

Useful For: Worldbuilding

Guys, you do realize that art does not exist in a vacuum right? It is directly influenced by culture and even predicts culture change in the future. Consider it a dialogue in physical form or the world around you. How can this be used to better your writing?

Worldbuilding. I know, you don't often talk about art in your stories. But take a look at art history and see how the art of the day highlighted the movements of culture. Especially if you're writing a historical fiction, this is the sort of class I would highly recommend you taking.

5. General History Survey Class

Useful For: Worldbuilding and Setting

History is the story of the world. Writers should pay close attention in any history class they take. Nothing could be a better example of setting, backstory, rising action, and plot climaxes!

If you're a writer of historical fiction, then you should be in several of these classes. Historical fiction comes alive when the setting feels lived-in. Even if you're not a writer of historical fiction, a history class has a lot to offer you. 


I've got nothing against people who major in English or Creative Writing. I just want to encourage fellow writers to expand their horizons and explore! Take a class you never would have thought of taking before. Take classes that deal with the humanities, the arts, history, and the sciences. Getting involved in these subjects will prime your mind to create real fictional worlds with believable characters.

What classes have you taken that have really impacted your writing? College students, what have been some of your favorite classes this semester?  If you've got questions or comments feel free to post them below! 


  1. Hello! I just recently found your blog and have really enjoyed it! It's so neat to find a fellow Christian young woman who shares my interest in writing, ancient history, and name. :)
    This was a really neat post! It is neat to see that we can learn about writing from all kinds of different subjects.
    I look forward to keeping up on your new posts, and getting to dig back into your archives too. :)

    1. I love meeting other Bethanys! So glad you stopped by. I popped over to your blog earlier and it looks fabulous. I see me and you both identify with Elinor Dashwood ;) Ooh, you like ancient history too? Yay! I look forward to exploring your blog as well!


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