Looking for: Stories with a college setting

amherst college
Source: amherst.edu

Not only do I have a Secret Next Project that I’ll be working on once Meet the Lidwells is finished and released, but I have *another* story — set in the same universe as the SNP, but not related — that I’ve deemed Secret Future Project.

This SFP will be set in a Pioneer Valley-like setting.  [For those unfamiliar with the PV, that’s a corridor in midwestern Massachusetts known for containing five colleges (UMass, Amherst, Smith, Holyoke and Hampshire) and thus having quite a sleepy collegiate town feel to it.  I grew up thirty miles to the northeast of it, and it’s one of my favorite places in the world.  For those familiar with the PV, I can hear y’all from here yelling at me to stop talking about it so damn much.  Heh.]

ANYWAY.  I’ve been wanting to write a story set in this kind of place for decades, and I think I’ve found the one thing to write.

The only downside is that I think I’m a little behind the times in terms of my knowledge of stories set on college campuses.  When I think of college stories, unfortunately my mind either goes to John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, F Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, or JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.  I’ve read a lot of stories that are more recent, and numerous webcomics as well (a few like Agents of the Realm, Check Please!, and Questionable Content come to mind).  Movies?  Well, aside from the boomer stories like The Big Chill and The Return of the Secaucus 7, and Gen-X stories like St Elmo’s Fire and all those drunken-frat-bro movies, I’m still searching for more ideas.

SO!  I’m curious:  what are your favorite stories that revolve about college life?  It can be any style, format, or genre.  I’m definitely open to all kinds of stories, including LGBT/PoC-centric stories; I’m looking to come up with some unique characters, so everyone’s invited.  I’d like to get more of a recent feel of what college is all about nowadays, and I think I need to do more than just listen to the college radio stations that I already listen to.

Thanks ahead of time for your help! 🙂





fullmetal idea
Never a good sign when Edward gets an idea.

Coming up with ideas really isn’t all that hard.  It’s the latching onto one, getting it to germinate, that’s the hard part.  I’ve got to have some connection to it, otherwise it’s just a single scene that doesn’t belong anywhere.  And I’ve got an old trunk full of those already.

Sometimes those ideas take a hell of a long time to germinate, and that can either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.  Meet the Lidwells! came to me nearly two years ago, and I’m only working on it now.  That was primarily due to the trilogy project taking precedence, but I also wanted to give it a good planning-in-my-head before moving forward with it.

I’ve got a few backburner projects as well, ones that have been simmering for quite a few years.  Those are ideas with merit but I wasn’t ready to work on them just yet for one reason or another.  I’ve got a few new and fresh ideas as well, ones that I may play around with via 750 Words (like I did with Lidwells) until something concrete comes about.

Is it frustrating, having these stories in various points of stasis?  Well, yeah, of course it is!  But I’d like to think I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer feel like I MUST WRITE ALL THE BOOKS RIGHT NOW. Once I cleared the table of the Trilogy Project, I found it…actually pretty empty.  I’d trunked numerous story ideas over the past fifteen years; ideas that didn’t work, that I’d lost interest in, or just led nowhere.  Others I’d turned into blog series.  I had maybe three or four Possible Next Projects, tops.

Which also meant that I could afford to come up with a few new possible seeds of ideas that I could nurture down the road.  I could let myself play around with the tiniest inklings that passed by.  I have to relish when that happens now, because I haven’t had that feeling in a long time.  Writers love coming up with scraps and seeing where they go.

It feels great to be fully creating again after years of editing and revision work.  It feels even better to let my brain come up with these seeds of ideas and know that I won’t have to wait for ages to get to them.

wile e coyote idea
Granted, it’s never good when Wile E Coyote gets an idea, either.

On Writing: Dead Letter Office

I know I’m not the only writer who comes up with more ideas than they can possibly work with. Just today I’ve seen at least three Tweets from published writers opining on ideas they would love to work on, but alas time is short and other projects loom. These possible ideas may never come to light. And the thought of orphaned ideas kills us every time.

This popped into my mind the other day while I was doing some playing around with a possible future project. I use my daily practice words as a Word Playground just to give my brain a stretch (and to prime the pump, if need be). I had a peculiar waking dream the other morning that I was part of a musical family band — sort of like the Osmonds, only set in the 80s-90s — and thought I’d riff on that. The practice words turned into a ‘Where Are They Now?’ story, in which each member would tell the same part of their shared history, only their views were vastly different. The words came quick and easy, as did the separate character voices.

So, you’re asking. When the hell are you going to get around to writing that, when you’ve already got a bajillion other things going on? That is a very good question. I may get to it, I may not. I really don’t know. Does that bother me? It used to in the past, a bit. But since I’ve been writing for most of my adult life and have worked on a large number of projects over the years that have seen various states of completion, I’m not too worried about it.

It also got me thinking–what about the ideas I like, that I may not ever get around to working on? The ones that sing to me, but not enough for them to take precedence? Are they going to languish in my PC and Dropbox folders and on various scraps of paper, gathering dust until the end of time? I’m not talking about my trunked ideas and novels, the ones I know aren’t going anywhere anytime soon…I’m talking about the Word Playground ideas, the ideas that have merit and have been plotted out to some extent.

I had this crazy idea that, if I was going to sign off on an idea I knew I’d never get to, why let it die in my own imagination? Why not let someone borrow it? And then I started thinking about it more: what if I created these miniature worlds, laid the barest of rules and outlines, and shared them with other writers? It made sense in an odd way–there are countless fanfic writers out there who love coming up with their own stories based in someone else’s created world. Why not donate these orphaned ideas to someone who’ll give them more love than I could?

Of course reality always sneaks in on crazy ideas like this, bringing me back to earth. I wouldn’t be making a dime. I probably wouldn’t even be getting credit. I’d be building the framework, but the creator would change it into something not even remotely me. And so on.

Sure, it’s a wacky batshit idea that I probably should not entertain, especially at my point in my publishing career (read: yeah, yeah, I’ll get a book out eventually). Still…it’s a thought I’ll keep in the back of my mind anyway, just so I don’t feel too guilty about all those story ideas I have that’ll never get written.