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3 Non-Writing Courses from College That Can Improve Your Craft by Lauren Bailey

Writers are in many ways single minded individuals. Our minds are so focused on our writing that it can be challenging to even discuss anything else. Part of the writing process whether you are a novelist, journalist, blogger, or screenwriter is becoming completely immersed in your plot, characters, and craft. We are completely consumed by all things writing. Because of this, if you were to be asked what college courses most influence your writing, you’d likely spout off titles like English 101, Writing 101, Rhetoric, Shakespeare, Literature classes, or specific genre classes. These courses are no doubt the first ones that come to mind, but many of us overlook the important role our non-writing and non-English college courses played in developing our love for and ability to write. Consider brushing up on these three college subjects to better master your literary voice, style, and conviction.

The History classes I took in college were some of my favorite outside the realm of the English Department. I took a few courses in European History, American History, and Ancient History and really enjoyed them. What I didn’t realize at the time, is how useful those history courses would become to my writing. One of the most important elements of a piece of writing is the setting. Be it fiction or non-fiction, depicting a time and place that is both accurate and believable can make or break a piece of work. With a greater understanding of history and different regions of the world we are better able to create scenes and settings that are familiar to the real world. Developing the historical backdrop to a piece of writing can really bring it to life and is a great place to start when you are feeling stuck with your writing. Use the things you learned in history class to better engage your readers in a more believable and dynamic setting.

Sociology or Psychology
The setting of a piece plays an important role in the work’s overall success and so too do the characters. It is the characters you develop and examine within a piece of writing that can truly make or break a piece for your readers. It’s not difficult to admit that, as readers, we typically connect most strongly with the characters in body of writing. While setting and plot play an essential role, if we truly support a character we’ll follow them no matter how flawed the story becomes. It is with characterization that college classes in psychology or sociology can play a very helpful role. Gaining a general understanding of how the human mind works can be very useful when developing characters in fiction. College Sociology classes can help you to develop more realistic and dynamic interactions between all of your characters. When we write, there is always an element of realism. We want to create characters that are believable no matter how fantastic, wild, or unreal they really are.

Okay, now I realize this one isn’t likely to be a huge success among the average writer. But, science classes such as Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and so on can provide a really wonderful lesson in craft for a writer. While these classes for me were somewhat of a nightmare, I really enjoyed them in college and was able to gain something from them for my writing. Aside from just providing some truly inspiring ideas (take a Human Disease class for inspiration, trust me), science classes can be really helpful with our actual writing style. Science writing is something entirely different from the type of writing and reading we are used to. Science writing focuses on direct, exact, and concise prose. Things are presented as simply and straightforward as possible. This directness can be extremely useful and effective within fiction writing. Consider this style of writing when you are crafting sentences. Consider the strength in being concise. All too often, writers become overly verbose and too caught up in their sentences to be truly effective—reading some science textbooks might help.

BIO: Lauren Bailey is a freelance blogger who loves writing about education, new technology, lifestyle and health. As an education writer, she works to research and provide information and welcomes comments and questions via email at

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