Narrative sequence: which story do you want to tell?
• In fiction stories typically involve a protagonist who faces a problem or obstacle: what’s your problem?
• Map your story – are there different ways to structure? Flashback?
• Re-write a fairy story of your research in a single sentence.
Look who’s talking? Using ‘I’ and ‘you’
• Make your writing personal – give agency to yourself not your research, eschew the passive voice.
• Engage in direct conversation with your reader.
• Relinquish your authority - acknowledge that opinion is not fact.
Metamorphosis: transform your title to engage your reader
• Use the title formula ‘engaging: informative’, e.g. Snakes on a plane: Aggressive Serpentine Behaviour
in a Restrictive Aeronautical Environment.
• Set a scene; invoke a metaphor; create an unexpected juxtaposition, or make a grand statement.
Active verbs and concrete nouns: who’s kicking whom?
• Always be clear who is doing what to whom?
• Explain abstract concepts using concrete examples (metaphors can help).
• Change passive verb constructions to active ones, and replace ‘be’ verbs with active and unusual
Characters: sleeping beauties, handsome princes, and talking frogs
• Who are the potential characters in your research – suspend the law of nature and embrace the law
of enchantment. In an animist world objects and abstract concepts can spring to life.
• Who is the hero? Who is the villain? Who is the agent of transformation?
Setting: once upon a time in a land far far away
• Where does your research take place?
• Are there physical details that you can incorporate?
• Make your opening paragraph set a scene?
The story cube key
taken from Sword, H. (2012) Stylish Academic Writing, Cambridge
Mass. Harvard University Press.