THE WORD ON THE .NET

Writer T. James' Exploration of Words, on the Internet.

I Write Like: Stephen King, Douglas Adams, David Foster Wallace And, Rumour Has It, Vladimir Nabokov. What’s Your Writing Style—and what can it tell you?

This week I found a new toy—the I Write Like online writing analyser that apparently compares your writing style to those of famous authors. So I decided to experiment, to see what it could tell me about my style and maybe even a little about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. The results were quite interesting (at least for me).

I thought it would be fun to cut-and-paste in pieces I’d written from different genres. Before we start, I thought I’d include the necessary reality-check and disclaimers: I’ve no idea about the algorithms they use under the hood, so I can’t comment on how accurate or thorough the analysis is. Also, the analyser doesn’t profess to assess the quality of the writing it looks at, so however much I would like to be able to claim my writing is as good as these authors, the analyser gives me no basis for believing that claim, however much I would like it to.

The results of my experiments are below, along with a little commentary from yours truly:

 

MY MIRROR SELF, AND I:

My longest completed work to date, tells the story of a woman wrestling with depression, breast cancer, and the imminent break up of her marriage. I fed in the full text, and I got this result:

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

 

Thoughts: Awesome! I write like Stephen King—one of the writer’s whose name commonly comes up in those ‘how to write’ conversations. Well, okay, I know the analyser said I write like him, not as well as him, but still, it still feels irrationally cool that my first completed work mirrors* his in some way. So I grinned, a lot.

Then I thought, but the story’s genre isn’t horror, or suspense. Does that mean the analyser is telling me my style choices for the story are completely wrong? Feel free to debate it, but the piece is written from a severely depressed, tense, and scared character’s POV, so the tone of the work isn’t that dissimilar to some of King’s, at least in terms of the dark mood, and the fear and tension of the main character. As that was the feel I was aiming for, despite the genre difference, I think that’s a score of sorts.

 

THE ONES WHO DO NOT MOURN:

A sci-fi short about an unstoppable plague, and the end of civilisation as we know it.

I write like
Douglas Adams

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!


Thoughts: Douglas Adams. He wrote The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Well, at least it picked up that I was writing sci-fi. My short isn’t trying for the comic, so is it a fail? I can’t find out anything more without know the how the conclusion was reached. Maybe it was the mention of the mice that did it.

 

MEL: A SHORT HORROR PIECE:

A short horror, with a comedy twist.

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

 

Thoughts: David Foster Wallace writes comedy, so score! I know this is an over-generalisation, but you takes your ego-strokings where you can find them.

 

FAYE LING’S BLOG POST, from last week:

Faye is definitely a character: cynical, hard hitting and bitter—she is honest about what she thinks to the point of being rude.

I write like
Vladimir Nabokov

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

 

Thoughts: ‘Faye’ apparently writes like Vladimir Nabokov. So, the Analyser thinks Faye is like Lolita. Make of that what you will. Whether it has anything to do with Fay’s, erm, strength of character coming through in her word choices and use of language, you would have to ask her.

 

Have I learnt anything?

That the Analyser has limitations, poetry especially (which is why none is included), but it seems to show that I do have some ability to vary my writing style according to mood and genre. This is a good thing and makes me happy. Is the feedback precise enough to enable me to grow as a writer? Probably not. I still have a lot to learn, and I think I’ll have to rely on the more tried and tested methods of practice, and critique from real human beings … but when no one is looking I shall grin, and whisper to myself, “I write like Stephen King.”

So why not give it ago yourself, and share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below: just click here to give it a try. Your writing will never be the same again *cough*.

*I know this is a bad pun, not as exciting as bed fun, but slightly more appealing than a bed-pan. I shall stop now.

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21 Comments

  1. That was a really interesting post, so I thought I’d have a go at it too.

    Apparently I write like:

    Mario Puzo (who wrote the Godfather) – when I posted a short-story
    J.K Rowling – For CAM
    and
    Chuck Palahniuk or Agatha Christie – for when I posted the new book.

    Not a bad group.

    • There are some cool names there Steve. I guess I’m not completely surprised by J. K. Rowling for CAM – there is a lot of action in the Harry Potter books. What intrigued me was the style switch you made for the next book. Chuck Palahniuk or Agatha Christie? Do you have any idea what’s different?

      • Not really. I posted the prologue for book 2 and then chapter 1. The prologue has some action in it, certainly more than chapter 1. Maybe that was it.

        • Could be, or perhaps the moon and Saturn were out of alignment, and the tea leaves were auguring a blight in the sixth Year of the Dragon… Who knows how the mysteries of the universe really work?

  2. TJ,
    What an interesting mix you are! Very cool post! Now I must try it! Thanks for sharing :)

    • Hi Sandy, thanks for stopping by. You’ll have to let me know what results you get… :-)

      • Well, I held my breath and submitted hahaha. For the sample from ARGUS (The MMS I recently shelved) the software said I write like Ray Bradbury.

        For the sample I sent from Black Loon Lake, the software said I write like William Gibson.

        I’ll take that! Thanks for sharing this was interesting, and fun!

        • I also submitted a portion of a recent blog post and it came back writing like H.P. Lovecraft. I think I may be suffering from MPD hahaha.

        • Hmmm. If you write like Lovecraft, then I shall talk to you slowly and gently, and back carefully away making … no … sudden … moves. NowrunsawayreallyreallyFAST!

        • You’ve got yourself a couple of awesome writers there Sandy. :-) It does raise the question whether the Analyser thinks all the great writers are male?

  3. That is an interesting mix TJ. I know of others who have tried it, with mixed results. It made for a fun post. :D

    • They must have been doing it wrong. I’m sure that, when used correctly, it is a supremely accurate tool. In the wrong hands however? Let me just say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. ;-)

  4. This post was so fun! I just had to go try it myself.

    I used 3 scenes from my current WIP. Here’s what I got:

    Neil Gaiman – opening scene
    Stephenie Meyer – fighting scene
    Anne Rice – “hot and heavy” scene (if you catch my drift) :)

    I’ll take those three! Meyer wouldn’t be my first choice for my fighting scene, so I’ll definitely have to work on that. But the other two ain’t bad. :)

    • You write like Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman wrote Sandman. Sandman is cool, therefore Neil Gaiman is cool, therefore Darcie is cool. B-)

      You write like Stephanie Meyer. Stephanie Meyer wrote the Twilight series. The Twilight series is about teenage angst and sparkly vampires. Erm?

      You write like Anne Rice. Anne Rice wrote Interview With a Vampire. Interview With a Vampire is cool, therefore Anne Rice is cool, therefore Darcie is cool. It’s okay, you are cool. :-D

  5. Apparently I write like Anne Rice, Arthur Clark, Isaac Asimov, Leo Tolstoy, and a variety of others depending on what chapter or excerpt I use.

    I just entered the first two pages of Anne Rice’s “The Vampire Lestat” which really defines her style and the character.

    It says she writes like H.P. Lovecraft

    I entered excerpts from three Stephen King books. He writes like Mario Puzo (Dark Tower), George Orwell, and Cory Doctorow.

    • Hi Matthew, it’s probably fair to say you have tested the Analyser’s ability to destruction, either that or you write more like Anne Rice than Anne Rice does, and I write more like Stephen King than Stephen King does.

      I tried it with some Shakespeare and it got that right, so perhaps it prefers classical and literary fiction over more modern genre fiction – it has certainly name-dropped some huge literary names as well as several of the grand-daddies of sci-fi for you. I know you’ve said sci-fi isn’t your first choice of genre, but maybe the Analyser is trying to tell you something… ;-)

  6. Well, I put in my entire first short story ever, a new beginning and it says I write like Arthur Clarke…. who is he?

    • Authur C. Clarke is a sci-fi writer. He used to write those paper books way back when I was a boy – back in the old days. I remember huddling around a candle in our shoe box with the whole family while my Dad read them to us using sign language because he’d sold his larynx for some pills so my little brother didn’t die of typhoid, but that’s another story… ;-)

      A slightly more real account can be found here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_C._Clarke

  7. For some reason it said I write like HP Lovecraft. Now that is a little weird. I’ve no giant beasties and I certainly haven’t wibbled. LOL

    • I would have been first in the queue to vouch for your sanity – until you came on to Faye last week; now I can’t imagine you writing like anyone except Lovecraft. I think the Analyser may be more astute than I thought, and it’s picking up personality traits as well as writing style… ;-)

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