Creative Writing and Academic Writing

I’ve spent a sizable amount of time in the last year and half writing. This is
par for the course for any graduate student—if you want to share your
research with the world, you’ll need to write about it. Since ~May of 2017,
however, I’ve also gotten into creative writing by way of writing screenplays
and stage plays. This has doubled the amount of writing I find myself doing.
I’ve noticed that there’s a really interesting structural connection between
academic writing and creative writing, at least in the context of writing for
the screen.

One of the most important rules in storytelling is making it very clear what
each character’s intention is. In other words, what is it that the character
wants? You need to be very clear about this up front, or you’ll have a hard
time getting any viewer or reader excited about what the character does next.
In the same sense, with technical writing, you need to be very explicit about a
problem that exists, and how your research addresses that problem. I’ve read
tons of papers in the last year, and while you can write a good paper without
being incredibly explicit about the problem up front, you won’t write a great
paper this way. The best papers are the ones that give me a fantastic sense for
the problem up front, and are very clear about how the research will solve that
problem. The researchers will present the challenges associated with doing said
research (i.e., obstacles to the character as they try to achieve their goals),
and culminates with results of the research (a character experiences growth as
a result of their journey). I think this is an interesting way to approach
writing academic work, and conversely, a nice structural way to analyze
screenplays. It’s definitely started helping me in my work.