Friday, April 22, 2011

Who do YOU write like?

Well, I recently discovered the ultimate fun toy for writers. It’s on a website called, I Write Like.

On the site a writer pastes a sample of their writing into the window, clicks the ANALYZE button, then VOILA!---the writer is given the name of a famous author they write like! The writer is also given the code for a badge that can be posted on a website or blog to impress visitors.

I wondered, how in the world does this thing work?

So, of course, I tried it myself. I pasted narrative from my book South to Alaska, and the Analyzer spit out Margaret Mitchell. Really? Hmm. I then put in a couple of paragraphs from an article I had written about sled dog racing. For that article, I apparently wrote like Jack London. Hmm again.

I decided to test this gadget further, so I pasted some paragraphs from a newsletter I received from my bank. And guess what? My bank writes like Stephen King!

Well, I’m really having fun now. So, to carry this a bit further, I copied a random paragraph from a post made by each contributor on this blog, combined them, pasted them into the I Write Like window, and hit the Analyzer button. So, fellow bloggers, Writing North Idaho writes like:

H. P. Lovecraft

Fun stuff aside, the truth is, in most writing styles some general characteristic of a writer’s style could probably be identified and compared to that of a famous writer. After all, writers learn to write by studying and emulating famous and not-so-famous writers. And even though those similarities may exist, all writers eventually develop their own distinctive voice. In his book, On Writing Well, William Zinsser explains:

Never hesitate to imitate another writer. Imitation is part of the creative process for anyone learning an art or a craft. Bach and Picasso didn’t spring full-blown as Bach and Picasso; they needed models. This is especially true of writing. Find the best writers in the fields that interest you and read their work aloud. Get their voice and their taste into your ear---their attitude toward language. Don’t worry that by imitating them you’ll lose your own voice and your own identity. Soon enough you will shed those skins and become who you are supposed to become.

Makes sense to me. Although I didn’t read them aloud as Zinsser suggests, I read lots of Hemingway, Steinbeck, and others, trying to get the feel and flavor of what made their stories work.

What famous authors have you studied to work on your skills as a writer?

While you’re thinking, and when you’re done playing with I Write Like, check our Events page for writing-related book signings and other fun happenings this weekend and the rest of this month.


Jennifer Rova said...

Loved this post! I can hardly wait to visit the site. I think the stumbling block in matching my writing style with a famous author is that no authors become famous using my writing style!

We have driven 6,000 miles this month visiting family and took the opportunity to listen in the car to 25 hours of lectures on learning how to appreciate opera. Nancy, writing mimics opera in the imitation of style is flattery department. Everybody imitated Verdi for decades. Humorous operas are called opera buffa (e.g., "Don Giovanni", "Barber of Seville".) Should we start a new genre called "books buffa?" (I still think attending an opera performance is an expensive place to take a nap.)

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Thanks Jennifer. Books Buffa? Sounds good to me. Have fun on I Write Like. It's a hoot.

Norm de Ploom said...

I played with this site. Three times out of four the analysis said I wrote like H.P. Lovecraft who is known as possibly one of the best writers of horror stories. The fourth analysis said I wrote like Shakespeare. I'm going with the last one.

Mary Jane Honegger said...

Fun post! I haven't taken the test yet, but I already know I write like Erma Bombeck. I read her column for years, but after reading a couple of her books I quit reading them because I became unsure whether an idea I thought of came from her or from me. I didn't want to worry about plagiarism so I quit reading after her book "The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank." I still miss her! Note to Jennifer: I can't believe you and your husband listened to 25 hours of learning how to appreciate opera. The last time I traveled with my husband I listened to a CD our son made for him over, and over, and over again; until I completely memorized the words to several songs including "It's 5:00 Somewhere" and "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy." Maybe we've lived in North Idaho too long.

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

My writing style must be very eclectic. I submitted paragraphs (& poem) from four blogs I've written over the past several months and found I write like four different authors! Raymond Chandler(suspense,mystery),Jack London (outdoor adventure),Margaret Atwood (intense) & Lewis Carroll (whimsical). Terrific post, Nancy! Fun and informative.

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

Oh joy, oh rapture! I write like Agatha Christie!