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Monday, November 28, 2011

Who Would You Like To Write Like?

WritingImage via Wikipedia

         By now many of you have run a writing sample through the website I Write Like.   My first sample that I put through of my writing was declared to be like the writing of Chuck Palahniuk.  I was impressed even though at the time I had no idea who he was and had to look him up.  The next sample I ran through said that I write like Dan Brown.   Cool!  Looked like I had the potential of writing a best selling novel.

          Then I started experimenting.  I put in a passage from Huckleberry Finn.  The writing program quickly spat out Mark Twain.  Too easy I thought, so I submitted a passage from a modern translation of the Book of Jonah out of the Bible.  The response was Daniel Defoe.  Hmmm--Well there is some similarity between the stories of Robinson Crusoe and Jonah--kind of, in a way.

           Curious, I tried a passage from the Book of Ezekiel.   The comparison was to Kurt Vonnegut.  Now, I suppose some of Vonnegut's fans think of him as a writing god, but this comparison was going a bit far.  Since I was on a roll I tried one more, this time another sample from the Bible came back as sounding like Anne Rice.  Okay, that did it.  The program was not always accurate.
             The I Write Like program was developed by Russian software developer Dmitry Chestnykh.  He fed about 50 famous writers into a data base and created a program that would analyze writing and compare the sample to one of those writers.  It's a fun little diversion that is more like a technological parlor trick than any reliable system of writing analysis.  Cool?  Yes.  Reliable?  It has its limits.   A lot of us seem to write like the same writers according to this website.

             Personally, I would like to have an amazingly distinctive style that is readily identifiable as me.  But I know I don't.  I have a voice, but it is a casual modern voice that is not unlike a lot of writers that I read.  That's okay with me because I prefer to write in the style that I enjoy reading.  

            If I were asked, "Who would you like to write like?", then I would probably mention someone like Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner, or even Stephen King.   They all have writing qualities that I find admirable.   But also they are all different.   Maybe a bit of each combined into a mishmash of me might be nice.

           Who would you like to write like?   Have you submitted any of your writing samples to I Write Like?  What did that program say about you?

           I think you will enjoy the Tossing It Out guest spot on Wednesday when Nicole from The Madlab Post makes a return visit with a blogging inspiration comparison to writers in the movies.  How about I tease you with "Johnny Depp" for starters?  Be sure to stop in this Wednesday to find out more.
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  1. I love that you tried out a passage from Huckleberry Finn! That's awesome. You make a good point. It seems a lot of us are labeled to write like the same writer. Hmmm...

  2. I actually love this post. Honestly I'm happy writing like myself, it's hard to mock other styles so there's no point in wishing for me. Great post as always regardless buddy.

  3. Well, I will have to go back and read the Book Of Ezekial again! LOL! I think I write casual and conversational as you do...sorta. Mine came out J.D. Salinger. Hmmm. Interesting site. Sandra

  4. I think we would all like to have our own style and I believe we do.

    The first three writers that came up when I entered portions of short stories (into I Write Like) were Vladimir Nabokov, Stephen King, James Joyce. The only one I've read is Stephen King. And IF only I wrote like Mr. King. Ha! However, I may think like him. :)

    Fun post.


  5. That was fun. I tried out "Have Patience" from last week and the system tells me I write like Cory Doctorow. Amusing, he's Canadian. Actually, I think he writes like me. lol.

  6. I always come out as writing like Stephen King which leaves me absolutely chuffed to bits.
    Other people I would like to add into the mix would be Clive Barker, Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood and Carol Ann Duffy (yes, I know she's a poet).
    As for having a distinct voice of your own, I think saying something distinct is more important than the accent you say it in.

  7. I posted a while back to "I Write Like" and the answer was Dan Brown. I took that as a compliment!

  8. of all the people, Lee, you should be the last one to complain about not having style :) You have, what not many writers have, a very natural narrative talent. Most writers bore us to death when they start narrating, but you have a gift of drawing us into the story even when the topic is not something that interest us. That more than precious. That's what makes you distinctive and unique.

  9. I got Margaret Atwood! Apart from the fact that we're both Canadian, I'd say that's where the similarity ends!

  10. If it were songs, I would like to write like Tom T Hall. If it were books I would like to write like Arthur W Pink. If it were Scripture I would like to write like Luke.

    No, I haven't never submitted a sample because this is the first time I have ever heard of it.

  11. My curiosity got me, I stuck a paragraph in and it came back I write like Dan Brown. Now I have to google him and find out who he is. Tell me he isn't that nut that tried to hijack the bible by saying it had some hidden code in it?

  12. I've gotten different answers. Vladimir Nabakov and Stephen King neither of whom I've ever read so I don't know how I feel about that. Some others I've forgotten. But most of the time I get Dan Brown. I can't really manage to take it as a compliment (despite that I would LOVE to sell as many books as him) because I strongly disliked his books. Ah well. I was putting in first draft stuff anyway.

    If I could have my way I'd like to write like Robert E. Howard (I've been positively sucked into his Conan stories lately) with some Frank Herbert on the side with a dash of Tolkien. Or maybe I'd just like to write like Roger Zelazny.

  13. I would love to write like Beryl Markham (West with the Night) but I doubt she's in the fifty author sampling.

    I work with a writer's critique group in which we each get about ten minutes to read. I notice that I am now writing in ten-minute segments so I don't have to stop in the middle of the action. It gives a TV show rhythm to the work as a whole. Not sure I like that.

  14. I haven't tried that. But I think I just want to write like me but be successful like other writers - I can't really choose one.

  15. I'd like to write like Stephen King. Only without the vampires, ghosts, ghouls, and Republicans. He has a folksy way of writing which I'm sure causes his high school English teachers to cringe. Plus, it doesn't hurt that he's a millionaire.

  16. I can't remember who I write like - I think I put my YA in and got JK Rowling.
    I don't want to write like anyone but myself but I wouldn't mind it if future book reviews mentioned that I was as good as Diana Gabaldon or Joanna Bourne or Tolkien or... Yea, I think I'm reaching...

  17. Whoa! A sudden onslaught of comments since I went to have breakfast and do some house straightening. Thank you for all these wonderful comments.

    SA--Huckleberry Finn has such a distinct style that it would have been suspicious for it to come out as anyone but Twain.

    Matthew -- It's good to be oneself.

    Sandra -- It's a fun site to play with, especially your put a few different samples of your own writing. Mine always came up as different authors.

    Teresa -- Influence might be expected, but personal style is something we should aspire for. A best selling record like King is not a bad aspiration either.

    Delores -- I guess you both have a "Canadian" style.

    Angeline-- Content is probably more important than style, but one's voice can determine audience and marketability. If what you are saying isn't clearly said then readers won't know what you're saying. Do you know what I'm saying?

    Stephen T--Having Dan Brown's sales figures would definitely be something to be pleased about.

    Dezmond -- Wow! I am immensely flattered, especially considering the source of this comment. All I can say is "Thank You!".


  18. Talli -- I've only read Handmaid's Tale by Atwood and I don't see any comparison. That book was so depressing and unlike your writing that I've read.

    Gregg -- Well, I don't guess you'll be happy to know who Dan Brown is, but you can take consolation in his sales figures maybe. You can write a bestseller!

    Sarah -- Dan Brown did sell some books. I'd be happy to sell a tenth of what his books have sold. You've picked some real class acts to want to emulate.

    Roxie -- Considering the attention span of the average person I'd say you are gearing up to write a best-seller. Maybe you're on the right track.

    Karen -- Your sentiments are mine. I want to be accepted for the writer I am and have decent sales.

    Al-- To be a millionaire I'll settle for folksy. That's the kind of writing I like anyway.

    Deniz -- It's nice to be compared to another great writer if the comparison is intended to be a compliment.

  19. For a long time I wanted to write like John Steinbeck or Kathi Appelt. But eventually I realized I can only write like me.

    For what it's worth, it's the best I can do.

  20. I've used that before, and it's fun, but I get a new writer for every sample I put...everything from Cory Doctorow to Ursula K. Le Guin. It's fun though :) I love so many things about so many different writers. I love stories like Jane Austen's and the Bronte sisters, but I love the grittiness of Stephen King and Orson Scott Card and the elegence and pure poetry of Norman Maclean and Wallace Stegner. I just love how varied our literary options are :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  21. I love JK Rowling and Stephen King. I tried my YA in there and was told I write like Cory Doctorow. Um...who's that? LOL

  22. I put in three random samples from my novel Guardian. Twice it came back as JK Rowling and once as Dan Brown.

    Looks like I am set for my books to be made into movies!

  23. I think I cam up with Dan Brown, which was mortifying! Obviously Timothy Zahn's work was not fed into the computer.

  24. Now I have to go to I Write Like and see what it says.

  25. Wish I had the chops to write like Faulkner. Hadn't heard of the I Write Like Program. Interesting. Might have to investigate, but if it turns out I write like Danielle Steel, what will I do?

  26. Bish -- And the best is a good place to be since we already had those other writers.

    Sarah -- Just as we have reading options, we have the option to experiment with our own writing.

    Ciara-- I know about E.L. Doctorow but I'll have to admit that I had to look up Cory.

    SB -- And even better than having books made into movies is that you might have the potential of making beaucoups bucks with your writing.

    Alex -- The programmer apparently went with a limited number of high profile authors that most people would recognize.

    Carol -- The site kept me entertained for quite a while and I've visited it more than a few times. It's fun to play with.


  27. C. Lee-- Let's see...Danielle Steel has sold a goodly number of books. What the heck--Take it and run with it.


  28. I found different passages from teh same story gave me different authors, which probably means I'm very talented (right?).

    Moody Writing
    The Funnily Enough

  29. Unfortunately Lee I write like me. whatever happens in my life always ends up in a poem.

    Have a great day.

  30. If I could write like anyone, I suppose I'd choose Martin Amis or Joan Didion --someone whose every sentence is masterful.

    Pretty happy, though, to sound like me. I've had editors remark on my voice, so I know I have a distinct one. I really wouldn't trade it, though I'd love to have an extra serving of skill.

  31. I tried that site with my fiction (apparently like Stephen King) & my blog posts (like Margaret Atwood) -- both good choices! :)

  32. I am not sure who I would want to write like...need to think on that one. I am going to check out the site for fun. Great tease with JD...I will back on Wednesday!

  33. I wrote about this post in my blog this evening. Just so you'll know. Thanks! Sandra

  34. Mood -- Talented or multi-personality?

    Yvonne -- That's your style and what you're known for and that's a good thing.

    Kelly -- Sometimes too much technical skill in writing can come across as dry or sterile sounding. I think you have a good writing voice that is entertaining to read.

    Jemi -- Can't complain to be compared to either of them.

    Tracy -- Please do come back on Wednesday and tell us your response to what Nicole has to say.

    Sandra -- A big thank you. I'll come and check it out..


  35. ARLEE BOID ~
    Yeah, I fooled around with that program about a year ago and finally decided it was more full of s#!t than even I am.

    Depending upon which of my writing samples I entered, I got responses of Vladimir Nabokov (twice), Stephen King, and some other dude I’d never even heard of.

    In fact, my friend Mr. Sheboyganboy Six (who sometimes leaves comments on my blog bits) and I developed a kind of running joke about me supposedly writing like Nabokov.

    Who would I LIKE to write like? Well, Mark Twain is the god of letters, so I guess I’d say him.

    But in truth, I’m content to have the writing voice I already have, which is a kind of combination of influences ranging from Twain, Bob Dylan, John Steinbeck, Roger Miller, and Goldenshadow. All of which equates to a poor man’s version of Robert Benchley drunk on Bob & Ray with a dose of black comedy thrown in and mixed with occasional slices of Joel S. Goldsmith which culminates in “The Best Of Stephen T. McCarthy”.

    Was that clear?

    ~ D-FensDogg
    ‘Loyal American Underground’

  36. StMc-- Clear as Nabokov. It's definitely a pretty limited program and the developer admits it in an interview I read about it. I suppose if they added a few hundred other writers into the database it would get closer to being kind of accurate.

    I like your writing and if you wrote like someone else I just might read the original instead of some old copy cat writer. But you'll do just fine.


  37. If there are only 50 writers in that database and some are probably from different genres, it makes sense that the same names would keep coming up. I've tried that program for each manuscript, and got a different name each time. Does that mean I'm inconsistent or each one has a unique 'voice'?

    I confess, I'm jealous when I see someone gets JK Rowling.

  38. Good question. Patrick Ness or Lori Lansens or Andrea Levy I guess

  39. In July of 2010, I wrote a post about this site and thought it great fun!

    I remember that at the time Lee you were cross checking the validity, but your own writing reflected Dan Brown and David Foster, which was/is very cool!

    My various articles and writing samples ran the gamut - James Fenimore Cooper/ James Joyce/ Margaret Atwood / Chuck Palahniuk/ Kurt Vonnegut and H.P. Lovecraft.

    Twas' fun! :)

  40. I put in many different blog entries and got 5 different answers- Gertrude Stein, Cory Doctorow, David Foster Wallace, Isaac Asimov and P.G. Wodehouse. It seems that I go through phases- the writing 'sounds like' one author for a period of time and then another for another time frame.
    Maybe I'm more like my crazy and yet psychotic family than I care to admit. My writing must be a bit schizophrenic. After all, it is the 'voice' I hear inside my head and then put to paper or blog.
    Funny that I came up with so many men and much sci-fi. I don't think of myself as fitting that mold, but interesting nonetheless. What fun, Arlee! Thanks.

  41. What a fun site! I have to check it out. Thanks.

  42. Me, myself and I is my answer to who I would like to write like but for the sake of this post and having to choose someone else, I would say that I would like to write like my Grandmother. Her handwriting is so neat and fancy, while mine is, well, not. As far as structure goes, I do not exactly have a favorite writer so there is no one famous or non-famous author who I want to write like.

    No, I have not submitted any writing samples to that "I Write Like" website. I never even heard of it until reading your post today, lol. However, I may consider doing it, just so I can answer your third question!

    Actually, let me do it right now so I won't have to come back to it......


    After putting in one of my recent blog posts, the website said I write like David Foster Wallace. I then put in most of the text from one of my favorite blog posts from earlier this year, for this site to analyze again and...AGAIN, the results were that I write like David Foster Wallace.

    Now, I'm going to have to look him up and check out some of his work, and it's all your fault! LOL. As if I don't have enough reading on my plate.

    The Madlab Post

  43. I've gotten various responses back about who I write like. It depends on what I send. I guess I write like me.

  44. I loved Sue Monk Kidd's writing in The Secret Life of Bees. Having her talent would be awesome. Buttt...realistically, I'm just happy to be able to put thoughts from my head to words on paper/computers.

    I may try the software you mentioned. Sounds like fun.

  45. Theresa -- I'd like to see what would happen if they added another thousand or so writers. Chaos perhaps.

    Madeleine -- I'm not familiar with any of those writers.

    Paula -- It is fun, but I never found enough consistency to feel like I was getting any accurate responses.

    Jasmine -- Actually I don't think the programmer put many women in the database. And I think he may have a propensity for sci fi.

    Kirsten -- I think you enjoy it.

    Nicole --Like we really need more stuff to do right? At least you got consistency in your responses.

    Carol -- Who better to write like than you?

    Anita -- It's a interesting way to pass several minutes, especially if you start experiment like I did.


  46. Lee, this is really cool. I'll check it out. Who would I LIKE to write like? Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Kirkpatrick, Mauve Benchey, Anne Tyler and Stephen King. I only wish!

    Take care,

    Kathy M.

  47. I tried it in my early days of blogging in 2010 but it came up with such weird comparisons like Stephen King for my romantic short story among other gems that I made a mock post on it. Just one of those fun pieces of programming that has no practical utility.

  48. kathy-- To write as well and be as commercially accepted would be good.

    Rek-- It's not much more than a plaything for writers. Not too practical, but a silly diversion.


  49. I've seen this in the past and tried it, but don't remember what I came up with.

    I just now submitted a small bit of my 2011 NaNoWriMo writing and it said I write like Margaret Atwood. Now I'll have to find out who she is and what genre(s) she writes in to check out her style. Just a bit curious.
    ; )

  50. Oh vanity and that bit of horoscope style fun has prevailed and I just tried it and got 2 James Joyce, 1 Cory Doctorow and 1 Dan Brown. Can I stick with James Joyce please!??? What a laugh!

  51. I guess I'll have to try it. I'd like to write like YOU! :)


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