There’s a web site called I Write Like that will analyze your writing, compare it to the styles of famous authors, and kick out the name of the author your sample most closely resembles. I have no idea if there is any science behind this analysis. The results should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s fun to have the site suggest who you write like.
As an experiment, I entered the first few paragraphs of every story in A Smile Through a Tear into the analyzer. Then I entered the last few paragraphs. Here is a table of my results:
|Story #||Style of the first paragraphs||Style of the last paragraphs|
|1||Cory Doctorow||Stephen King|
|2||Lewis Carroll||Cory Doctorow|
|3||H.P. Lovecraft||Chuck Palahniuk|
|4||Stephen King||Dan Brown|
|5||Margaret Mitchell||Chuck Palahniuk|
|6||Stephen King||Chuck Palahniuk|
|7||Margaret Atwood||Dan Brown|
|8||Dan Brown||Cory Doctorow|
|9||William Gibson||David Foster Wallace|
|10||David Foster Wallace||Dan Brown|
|11||Kurt Vonnegut||Cory Doctorow|
|12||James Joyce||Stephen King|
|13||Jack London||Arthur C. Clarke|
|14||David Foster Wallace||H.P. Lovecraft|
|15||H.G. Wells||Jack London|
|16||Ian Fleming||Stephen King|
|17||James Joyce||Bram Stoker|
According to the analyzer, I didn’t finish a single story in the style I began it. In some cases, this is not surprising. H.G. Wells’ style might not be all that different from Jack London’s. I can imagine some others on the list having similar styles.
But what’s with this Margaret Mitchell to Chuck Palahniuk transition? According to the analyzer, I’m going from Gone With the Wind to Fight Club in the space of about 6,000 words. I don’t remember writing any scenes where the dashing rake tells the heroine he doesn’t give a damn, and then they start pounding the hell out each other because it feels so good.
Then I have an H.P. Lovecraft that turns into a Chuck Palahniuk. This must be the one where the protagonist examines the grotto underneath his family mansion because of all the rat noises, only to find a barroom basement where a bunch of guys are pounding the hell out each other because it feels so good. (I’m basing these Fight Club references on the movie, since I haven’t read the book.)
There’s another curious story that begins like Jack London and ends like Arthur C. Clarke. That’s the one where a sled dog befriends a self-aware robot during the Alaska Gold Rush. It’s a touching story until they have to build a fire to stay alive, only to discover that neither has any matches. (Dogs don’t have pockets and robots don’t smoke.)
Another interesting thing about this little exercise: none of my literary idols appears on the list. No one who should have molded the way I write is there. I have not read a word of some of the writers on the list. The one I’ve read most would probably be Stephen King, and I haven’t read more than three of his books.
I’m happy with the list. There are some well-respected authors on it. Besides that, I always intended A Smile Through a Tear as a collection of stories of great variety. I would say there’s some variety in the gulf between James Joyce and Dan Brown. So maybe I accomplished that mission.
Go ahead, give the analyzer a try. If you get any interesting results, feel free to tell us about them in the comments.