Who do you write like?

On 29 December I was reading fellow-blogger Ann Koplow‘s post and was introduced to the website I Write Like.

Well I wasted (?) enjoyed (?) an hour of baffling fun. I took groups of paragraphs from different parts of my recent novel Border Line and apparently I write like:

H P Lovecraft – supernatural, extra terrestrial                                                                  Arthur Clarke – science fiction                                                                        Margaret Atwood – ?!                                                                                       James Joyce – double?!                                                                                     Arthur Clarke – perhaps this algorithm is on a loop

I put in a few paragraphs from my second novel, Unseen Unsung and I write like:

Anne Rice – vampire, Gothic fiction, Christian Literature, erotica                         H.G. Wells – science fiction                                                                                    Kurt Vonnegut – satire, gallows humour and science fiction again

And my first novel, A Small Rain and I write like:

H.P. Lovecraft – supernatural, extra terrestrial                                                      P.G. Woodhouse – out of left field

My unpublished non-fiction manuscript, Writing to a Ghost: Letters to the River Kwai 1941 to 1945 and I write like:

Arthur C Clarke – …what?

A short, short story, Barbed Wire, that I wrote in December on a course attached to the Reality Exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre at the University of East Anglia. The story related to the painting by John Keane, The Inconveniences of History II and I write like:

Neil Gaiman – graphic novels, comic books

Let that be a lesson to me; narcissism just leads to confusion. Or possibly the statistical analysis tool needs some adjustment. I have read none of the works of these writers apart from Margaret Atwood and P.G. Woodhouse, but I am reasonably certain that neither my style, nor, for sure, my content, has any resemblance to theirs.

My 500 word story is on this page.Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 12.19.51

I did finally stop pfaffing about and started writing today.

34 thoughts on “Who do you write like?

  1. The question is, Hilary: who wrote the algorithm which compares your writing style with that of other authors? Speaking someone who taught programming for many years I suspect you’d be horrified if you could read the code behind the site …

    • Yes, and James Joyce. It is very addictive, you can’t help wondering who they will dream up next. It would be interesting to see if a slice of George Eliot or Hilary Mantel comes up with the right name. It is also faintly worrying to think that eleven pieces of your prose can be linked to 9 different (famous authors), i.e. that your style is so unformed as to vary that much!

  2. As a huge fan of P G Wodehouse and especially the Blandings stories, I would overjoyed to be compared to him. Somehow though I can’t imagine PGW writing in the vein of Border Line.

  3. I’ve gone through a number of authors: J. Michener, S. King, Koontz, on and on – but I kept falling back into writing the way I talk – so…I figured that was ‘my voice’ and left it at that.

  4. http://snag.gy/xWRRk.jpg Obviously, this algorithm looks at what it sees as the over-all ‘feel’.
    As for your writing like James Joyce … I think I’d have to kill myself if I thought for a moment that such an accusation were correct. [grin]

  5. I did that test… But I am still wondering how you can be so many different writers according to the texts you have introduced, particularly keeping in mind that “You: is always the same person.
    Great post 😀 I much enjoyed the reading. Best wishes, Aquileana 😀

    • It’s just a machine that counts frequency of rare and/or common words and matches this to a big, but limited, database of writers for whom they have word frequency numbers. They crunch this up and out comes very noisy data…

  6. Thanks for the reminder of this site and URL, Hilary. I did it a few years ago, I think, now. I believe I kept coming up with DFW, possibly Atwood, and Stephen King. Yours are quite interesting, but a bit all over the place, aren’t they? I don’t see a lot of Gaiman in the “Barbed Wire” story–BTW: a brilliant, uncompromising story you should read, to whomever might be reading this comment!–but I’m not a Gaiman expert either. BW’s style is quite straightforward and not terribly florid, so perhaps something like The Graveyard Book. I think I might re-enter some of my recent writing soon and see which algorithmic author I get this time. 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind comments about Barbed Wire. I’m almost sure the algorithm doesn’t use content or structure to make their choices, but relies almost entirely on word frequency. It would be interested to test this with a paragraph or two of low-frequency words, then one or two with very high-frequency… but I mustn’t start playing again.

  7. Great exercise! I would love nothing better than to write like Margaret Atwood (her brilliant sarcasm shines through once again in her latest, ‘Stones Mattress’), but with the intrigue of J. Le Carre. I tried to emulate him in my first novel, ‘Closing Time’, a Cold War story set in late 50’s Vienna (the emphasis is on ‘Tried’.)

    • None of the authors I would have liked to be compared to appeared, but then I don’t imagine they are in the (predominantly American) database. I’m sure it has nothing to do with style any everything to do with word-frequency.

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