I came across an amusing new website today, well actually two. Claire Fogg on Writer’s & Artists Yearbook blogged about a website called ‘I Write Like’ which analyses text and compares it to the style and word choices of published authors. In the words of its creator Dmitry Chestnykh:
“The algorithm is not a rocket science, and you can find it on every computer today… Take for example the “Mark as spam” button in Gmail or Outlook. When you receive a message that you think is spam, you click this button, and the internal database gets trained to recognize future messages similar to this one as spam. This is basically how “I Write Like” works on my side: I feed it with ‘Frankenstein’ and tell it, ‘This is Mary Shelley. Recognize works similar to this as Mary Shelley.’”
So, challenged by Claire I entered a few extracts from Warlords of The Dreaming God, to find interestingly mixed results, most commonly that I write ‘like Anne Rice’. I was pretty pleased by this, I have read quite a bit of Anne Rice’s work and find her style beautiful, she envelopes a reader in a heady, sensual world unlike anything else I have ever read.
I tried again to see how the results changed with different extracts. I got Dan Brown, Stephen King. Then a couple of times an author I was unfamiliar with, James Fenimore Cooper (author of the Last of the Mohicans). I was picturing my massive future pay cheques at this point, when agents discovered my similarity to multi-million selling authors… But of course, the program behind ‘I Write Like’ is not perfect, the creator even admits he isn’t qualified to analyse literature. It’s all just a bit of fun.
So moving onto the second website Claire mentioned, I went for more of a comedy angle. ‘I Write Like’ has gained such a following that spoof sites are now springing up, including ‘I Actually Write Like’. Here the comparisons were less flattering, though much funnier. I actually wrote like ‘a scabby horse’, or the most heinous comparison I have ever heard, a Daily Mail journalist. Oohh, how very dare they. Everyone knows Daily Mail journalists have to look up words with more than six letters. I rather like the scabby horse comparison better, though picturing this was rather a challenge. Anyway, have a go, it’s a bit of fun to waste a few minutes.
This whole experience got me thinking though, about style and influences. ‘I Write Like’ suggested in a very rough and ready way that although my fantasy influences of Raymond Feist, Tad Williams, Gemmell etc have been a compass within my genre, the technical aspects of how I write could be more similar to other authors altogether. This blend of styles and influences makes each writer different, like our composite DNA. I guess that’s the point, and what makes it fun for readers… Not just that every fiction writer has a unique way of seeing the world, but a unique way of describing it.
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