Saturday, July 21, 2012

I write like...A schizophrenic amalgamation of every writer ever on Earth, apparently

The fabulous Feaky Snucker tweeted an interesting little website last night, and I've wasted more than enough time playing with it today. I'm going to put my thoughts on it in order here, so I can go back to doing what I'm supposed to be doing today. Since I still haven't set pen to paper on my new story idea, I really shouldn't be playing with silly websites until I put a measurable dent in the truly important things on my to do list.

The website in question is called I Write Like. You enter a few paragraphs from your work in progress, your blog, or anything you've written that's at least a few dozen sentences long. The site analyzes your writing and tells you which famous author the style most represents. I thought this sounded like an interesting experiment.

I picked a scene toward the end of Running Down the Dragon. It was the climax of the main storyline, and I figured it was as dramatic a scene as I could have picked. What writer would the work most resemble? Douglas Adams, apparently.

That was appropriately cool and impressive. But, lo, I was not satisfied. I went a page or so back in the manuscript, and picked out the four or five paragraphs before the Douglas Adams scene. Who did that most represent, writing-wise? None other than the Bard himself, Willie Shakespeare. Eyebrow raised. This website is crazy, right?

At that point, I was addicted. I went back several chapters, and found a wonderful scene that I completely changed around during the last edit. I rewrote the scene, and it went from a dispassionate description of a room to an emotional sequence of memories drawn from several objects in that room. I love how the scene works on several levels now, and I love that I Write Like thinks the new scene most resembles the work of Oscar Wilde. I absolutely adore his writing. Lady Windermere's Fan, anyone?

Before I went so far as to self-diagnose my writing with hopeless multiple personality disorder, I switched over to analyzing a series of my blog posts, instead. Since blog posts are by nature shorter than novels, and intended to be stand-alone vignettes rather than cohesive narrative throughout the entire history of the blog, I figured it was safer to play with them. I entered the last half dozen or so posts into the analyzer.

Some of my results:

David Foster Wallace, William Gibson, and H.P. Lovecraft. CTHULHU!!!

Strangely, the Lovecraftian blog entry was this one, about character shopping at the MVA. Maybe the MVA is the secret lair of The Thing That Should Not Be? It would explain a lot, actually...

Just for fun, I ran this very blog post you are reading RIGHT NOW through the analyzer. Can you guess what writer this post most represents? Scroll down to the bottom for the incredible result. At least take a few guesses before you spoil the surprise, though...

An incongruous photo of dry ice evaporating in the heat on Thursday. I thought it looked cool, and I needed a bumper photo to keep y'all from cheaty-looking down to the answer right away.

So what have I learned from this bizarre little trip through crazy-land? I write like a lot of people all smooshed together. And you know what? I think we ALL write like a lot of people all smooshed together. It's the nature of life. We're like sponges. We absorb everything we read, every nuance of every book, every blog, every tweet, even. Just as we are what we eat, our writing is a conglomerate of our life experiences. I'd like to think that rather than chunks of my work being seen through the filter of dozens of incredible authors, taken as a whole, my work is simply mine. It's a unique recipe of all the ingredients I've filled my imagination with over the years. Every writer has their own recipe, and it changes and evolves constantly as we throw new ingredients into the pot.

Is there a particular author that your work seems to favor, though? Give it a try. You never know. You might be the next Jane Austen, or Ray Bradbury, or Mark Twain. You might even be all three. If you play with this tool, let me know what IWL thinks of your writing.

So, what writer does this post most resemble, according to I Write Like?

Cory Doctorow.

I'll take it. Oddly enough, he's the only famous author the site has attributed my writing style to more than once. Hmmm...


  1. Using a chapter from my current WIP, I got Chuck Palahniuk. Not bad, but now I might have to obsess on that site and try some more...

  2. I also tried with a few excerpts and think I found a clue as to why you can be so many different writers. When I used an excerpt from my mystery WIP, I got Raymond Chandler. This made me wonder how much text is a factor rather than writing style. So I used a recent blog post and got James Joyce! Unfortunately since the post is about him I cannot get too excited. On my last try, I used a short writeup about my life in Alaska and got Jack London.

    I presumed the software analyzed writing style. I am no software guru but it seems that would be more complicated than simple text analysis.

    It is a fun distraction! (This comment is H.P. Lovecraft.)

    1. I knew it had to be something along those lines. It's still an interesting exercise, and rather addictive. :)


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