Alan Smithee

The web is full of cool toys.
I happened upon this thing sometime yesterday afternoon while bopping around the web. It's a little widget that lets you paste in snippets of your work into a form, which it then "analyzes" in order to let you know which famous author your particular style most resembles.
Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall..
What followed was an interesting game of copy and paste from this blog, from other published works, and my own archives.
I write like
Kurt Vonnegut

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I write like
Chuck Palahniuk

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I write like
Margaret Atwood

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I write like
J. D. Salinger

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

It was fun, a nice little ego stroke, and some of the results were surprising -- but then something weird happened.
I kinda started to wonder where these results were coming from.
I think at first it was a case of wanting more information. Of wanting a more specific pat on my own back. Whatever the motivation, I began to find myself curious why some random computer program decided that my writing was like Vonnegut. What was it specifically that kicked that name back to me in the results?
But unless I was missing something on the website, there was nothing like that available at all.
Did you ever have the experience as a kid where you saw some toy on a TV commercial, or on the back of a comic book, or on the shelf at the toy store -- and everything about it seemed like the coolest thing ever created, which sent you into Jedi levels of begging and pleading until someone got it for you? Maybe it was that little whatsit on the back of your cereal box that you had to mail off for -- and every day of those 4-6 weeks waiting by the mailbox for it to arrive built the coolness of it up in your mind more and more and more until the day when it finally arrived --
Only to have it be the lamest toy ever?
Like it wouldn't even do half the things the commercial said it would, or it did -- but only if you had a backyard shaped like a miniature Grand Canyon that was already set up with all the associated bad guy toys, vehicles, and a gang of AAA batteries (not included)?

Part of me really wants to believe that an objective, computerized third party actually took the time to consider my words and style, fed them into some complicated algorithm, and came back with a detailed and confident comparison of my writing to those already in the canon.
But the rest of me is pretty sure this thing is just a random name generator, which kinda sucks.

[Listening to:  The Roots - "How I Got Over" ]


JerseySjov said…
it might be tallying up the amounts of verb tenses and types, pronouns, sentence length, etc and then comparing them to those author guys.
i read a pieces a while ago that mocked palahniuk for his use of present tense in his stories. wait, no, actually- it was making fun of the fact that all of the characters in Haunted wrote their short stories in the same style as palahniuk haha
Anonymous said…
I was wondering the same thing as you, so I did an experiment. I copied different sections of the same story to see if I got the same result: and I did.

Out of all the times I did it, I only got two answers. I put in two genres of stuff that I write (the Isabel story and some fantasy stuff). I got James Joyce and George Orwell.

Not saying this proves anything, but the consistency of results is nice. LOL.
Heff said…
I pasted my "Dill Whole" post in there, and guess what ?

Anonymous said…
I got Arthur C. Clarke and James Joyce for my post about hating on new age hippy mother fucker doctors.
Werdna said…
I did the bio for work and got David Foster Wallace.

And you do write a little like Vonnegut (less absurd) and Palahnuik (your closest writer)- but not so much Atwood and Salinger (although your early stuff is more Salinger - which may be a a product of the age).

If you needed to know, I would have told you.
Werdna said…
My last blog entry is also David Foster Wallace.
Anonymous said…
I don't think you write at all like Atwood. Never once have I seen you make reference to being treasonous to Canada.
Hex said…
Jersey -- It's certainly possible that it's just looking for key traits. The optimist in me really wants to believe that -- but it seems less likely than the "just spit out a different name every time" theory.

As much as I love Palahniuk, it's impossible to avoid noticing his stylistic flaws, especially in his weaker books -- which, despite some fun moments Haunted definitely is. He's like my favorite band who keeps doing awful ballads every few albums, you just get to a point where you get used to it, even if you secretly wish he'd grow out of it.

Versinox -- I put a whole bunch of different writing samples through it, and I will say that the process of doing that and thinking through it (what if I put in this piece, how about something different -- like that thing I wrote 3 years ago). But even with the consistency, it seems a little suspect.

Heff -- Nice. I wonder what it would think of your monthly reviews of Playboy?

WIGSF -- Arthur C. Clarke? I could kinda see that (although I'm pretty sure you watch more Futurama than he does at this point).

Werdna -- I'd actually trust your analysis a little more than this. I was taken aback by the Atwood as well. I like her stuff, but I'm not sure I see the parallel.

Werdna II -- Was it the blog entry with all the footnotes and the extended monologues about masterbation?

WIGSF II -- Are you sure about that, brother? Maybe you missed that entry I did a while back called "Actually Spoken During the Course of Being a Handmaiden"

ps -- did a recent post that probably closes the book on this -- they fed Mel Gibson's recent rants, Lindsey Lohan's courtroom comments, and LeBron James' speech when he screwed over Cleveland into the site, and came back with many of the same names all of us got: