Posted by: mlawrencekey | August 10, 2011

Apparently, I write like William Gibson and a few others (My writing style–analyzed by a computer)

Today, I ran four of my short stories through I Write Like’s online analyzer and came up with some interesting if varying results.

Apparently, one of my short stories was written in the style of William Gibson (of Neuromancer fame), two of them were written like Chuck Palahniuk (whom I’d never heard of before I got compared to him), one of my short stories was a bit like Harry Harrison’s work (the guy who wrote Make Room, Make Room), and finally, and most surprisingly, I got compared stylistically to Gertrude Stein.

Really?

Turns out there is something to all of this. After all, the story that got compared to William Gibson really was written in cyberpunk style. That was my short story “Soul Mule,” a favorite of mine that I hope to get published someday soon. Though I didn’t intend to do so when I wrote it, I can see some resemblance in it to some of Gibson’s work.

As for Chuck Palahnuiuk, I have no idea. I think “Woman is Cipher” and one other were both compared to his stuff, though since I’ve never read anything of his before, I couldn’t say. My story “Faery Lights,” a tale of two men stranded on a station on the ice moon of Enceladus, seems to compare favorably to the style of Harry Harrison, who wrote the novel (Make Room, Make Room) which became one of my all time favorite movies–Soylent Green (starring Charleston Heston). So I’m happy to be compared to him and to William Gibson.

It’s the Gertrude Stein one that gets me. That one feels really random and contrived. I’ll admit I haven’t read much of her work, though I did read a lot of what Hemingway felt about her in A Moveable Feast. Can’t say she came away with a favorable image in my mind.

Anyway, I did some digging and it turns out that even if you type random gibberish into the analyzer, it will give you an author that it compares you to. For example, one guy typed in nothing but a string of z’s and it told him that his writing was similar in style to Douglas Adams. Now if I weren’t a Douglas Adams fan, I guess I could see that, but there were other similar examples. Different people who tried out the analyzer by putting in nothing but random strings of letters produced results of different authors. One guy even put in a passage from Mein Kampf and it told him that his writing resembled Kurt Vonnegut’s (okay, maybe I can see that one).

I think that the analyzer works, to a degree. However, the programmers would have done well to create a program that was smart enough to recognize situations when someone wasn’t even typing in real words in a real language (maybe it could somehow have at least an English dictionary integrated into it?) I recognize that the program isn’t meant for serious writing analysis, but just a way to have some fun and to see how your writing style compares with others. Overall, I think it does that passably well, analyzing things such as word length and vocabulary to come up with reasonable results in many cases.

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