I Write Like Everyone

Mandelbrot_Set-6-TAIL_ZOOM
Image of a mandelbrot set

This evening I’ve been messing around with ‘I Write Like’, an amusing tool that I discovered a year or two ago. At the top of the page it says:

Check which famous writer you write like with this statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers.

So I did. In the box provided by the site, I copied and pasted an angry rap that I’d written, clicked ‘Analyze’, and waited. The result came quickly. It said:

You write like Shakespeare.

william shakespeareWell! I did a little dance, patted myself on the head and waited for Instant Fame.

(Just a side note; he has a nice face, but he’s not exactly Robert Mitchum, the man who made even cigarettes sexy…)

I was in for a long wait, but I like to keep myself busy, so I maintained all those essential tasks that shake the top layer of dust off my body and keep me in tip-top physical condition – you know the jobs I’m talking about; making lists of all the lists I’ve made, checking down the back of the sofa after a guest vacates, in the hope that they’ve dropped some money, designing a shaky cushion for them to sit on the next time they come, doodling pictures of my favourite aardvark in a wedding dress, dropping water bombs on folks below my window, counting the empty milk cartons in my recycling to make sure none have been stolen, practicing my x-ray vision (still a long way to go with that), inventing a recognisable letter to replace the word ‘carapice’ – and not before time.

Oh, yes, I keep myself busy.

After a few months, fame hadn’t even made ot to my front gate, so I thought I’d better check to make sure I still wrote like Shakespeare. I posted another poem – or maybe it was a story. The analyser said:

You write like Stephen King.

So, not quite Shakespeare, but I figured Stephen King had a moderate amount of success for a writer, and I reckoned that any day a host of agents would find my blog and come Robert Mitchumknocking at my door, begging to represent me, offering me loads of money and sexual favours. Robert Mitchum – the only man for me, (although our timing was all wrong) so I’d turn down the sexual favours. I’m only in it for the dosh anyway. I’d probably go for the highest bidder.

I’m still waiting. I assume some kind of technical difficulty is keeping the agents from seeing my blog, but this evening I experienced a hint of uncertainty, and I went back to the analyzer to make sure that I still write like Stephen King.

Apparently I don’t. The next result told me:

You write like Charles Dickens.

I tried another poem and got this:

You write like Arthur Conan Doyle.

The next:

You write like Anne Rice.

I didn’t even know who she was, so I tried again, and again, and… you get the picture; I submitted 41 poems and short pieces.

What?

So, this is research, OK? I resent the suggestion that I’m obsessive. At least once a week for the past eight years I’ve done an online a test to see if I’m obsessive, and every time it tells me I’m not.

And stop trying to change the subject.

My research told me I write like:

Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Clarke, Agatha Christie, Jack London, Mario Puzo, Daniel Defoe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Chuck Palahniuk came up twice, Stephanie Meyer (x2), Vladimir Nobokov (x 4), David Foster Wallace (x 4), Margaret Atwood (x 5), James Joyce (x 5), Anne Rice (x 6),Charles Dickens (x 6).

The more poems I had analysed, the more confused I became. In many cases, I saw little correlation between my work and what I knew of the given authors’ writing.

You may also have noticed that the analyser doesn’t even mentionRobert Mitchum. I think the fact that he wasn’t a writer is a poor excuse, since he was so sexy.

I decided to conduct a few carefully monitored experiments:

1. I deliberately wrote a bad piece about a childhood experience. I included mis-spellings, poor grammar, a proliferation of ands and buts… it was terrible. The analyser told me I wrote like Raymond Chandler. Sorry about that, Ray.

2. I copied and pasted the poem that the site had originally stated was like Shakespeare, but it now says that it is like Stephanie Meyer’s work.

3. I copied one of Shakespeare’s most famous love sonnets (“From fairest creatures we desire increase…”) and discovered that the bard of Avon writes like H.P..Lovecraft.. Well done, Shakey.

4. I copied and pasted one of H.P. Lovecraft’s poems. It turns out that he writes like Mary Shelley.

My conclusions:

1. The analyser has it in for Raymond Chandler.

2. The writing which used to be like Shakespeare’s is now it’s like Stephanie Meyer’s. I haven’t read Twilight, but according to reviews her writing is dreadful. How can this be so? Both Shakey and I are rather good writers.

3. To complicate matters, Shakespeare has now taken to writing like HP Lovecraft, and HP Lovecraft writes like Mary Shelley.

4. Ideally, all of these authors should go back to writing like themselves.

5. My brain was less scrambled when I wrote like Stephen King.

6. In a perfect world, Robert Mitchum would have been born in the 1950s, grown up to be a literary agent, and lived next door to me.

If I take one thing from all this, it’s that I have finally achieved my dream – I choose to wave aside 37 of the analyser’s efforts with my work (not that I’m dissing the writing of those authors), and take heart from the remaining five, thus:

You write like Margaret Atwood.
You write like Margaret Atwood.
You write like Margaret Atwood.
You write like Margaret Atwood.
You write like Margaret Atwood.

Margaret Atwood writes as if she was born with the perfect words inside her, already in the right order. I find numbers beautiful; they ask questions which (although there may be several methods of calculation) can only be answered in one way. They have beautiful symmetry. To me, Margaret Atwood’s novels are like the mathematics that exists within nature; a complex range of words that are arranged perfectly. Not a single letter need be changed. They make a shape as lovely and exact as a mandelbrot set.

N.B. I hope my silly post will raise at least the hint of a giggle here and there, but I ask that you take the last paragraph seriously. It’s the only sincere passage in this piece. Margaret Atwood is a literary giant.

And Robert Mitchum was the sexiest thing on legs. It was a bit sneaky of him to barge into this post – Robert Redford would not have been so rude – but better late than never.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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46 thoughts on “I Write Like Everyone

      1. Jane, I think you do have a recognizable style – it just hasn’t been programmed into the analyzer. Oh, wait a minute, maybe no one’s has. They just spit out random names. Maybe your name is random enough.

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        1. Not even Shakespeare. The results of my final test, today, (yeah, I know, overkill…) were even more alarming than yesterday’s. I wrote my name 49 times, and was told that I write like Agatha Christie. I changed it slightly that is, I added my middle name and tweaked it a bit), and it said I write like Bram Stoker. It’s a slur on the reputation of those writers.

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          1. I can understand the temptation to go back and try over and over. This is just too good to let go of. I’m guessing the app consists of a list of famous names that it kicks out at random.

            Have you tried putting in something in another language? Or pure gibberish?

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            1. Get thee behind me, Satan.
              Dammit. I’m struggling with temptation… but no; I’m doing well. I’m in recovery. I don’t need the analyser… I don’t need… oh God… where’s my sponsor… I need… I need to find out what would happen… I need the analyser just one more time… It’ll be the last, I promise…

              Liked by 1 person

                1. Dost thou divine a slave before thine eyes? Therefore, so be it. By cocks crow the deed shall be done, and may God, in his infinite mercy, forgive both thee and I for our evil complicity, and deliver me safe from that bleedin’ algorithmic heap of steaming crap.
                  Oh, and if I post the results I’ll say you made me do it.

                  Liked by 1 person

  1. Hahaha… never trust robots – they are so dumb, they even can’t know when they’re caught lying – but then, they are also devoid of shame. Funny thing, though, that you had that crush on Mitchum – someone I thought too… dangerous, a naughty character. And you know, of course, what our crushes say about our character? That we only “mirror crush” – is it true? 😂👍

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    1. Oh no! Not only do I write like Stephanie Meyer – I also have the character flaws of Robert Mitchum. In future I’ll tell people I had a crush on Gandhi 🙂
      The love of my life (yawn) looked like Mitchum (with blonde hair). He used to practice his knife throwing around my prone, mini-skirted body. The first time he did it, I had no idea if he had any skill 🙂

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        1. The secret with character flaws is to broadcast them before they’ve been noticed. That way, folks think that you’re quirky and adorable, whereas if they discovered them by chance, they’d conclude you were fake and deceitful.
          Maybe I’ll copy and paste that into my editor, and post it as a personal quote.

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            1. I always feel sad when someone says “I’m so stupid”. What they’re really saying is that they may be stupid, but they’re not so stupid that they don’t know they’re stupid – often they’re not stupid at all, but they’re convinced others think they are…

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  2. Ah, this is lovely Jane – you really made me smile. I knew about your love of Robert Redford but had no idea this obsession had spread to other Roberts too. I confess to disliking the only Twilight book I ever read and to having no desire to read more, but then I don’t think they’re aimed at women in their forties. Hold on to that comparison to Attwood though – she is astonishingly good, isn’t she?

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    1. I watched one of the Twilight films, and experienced a combination of boredom and irritation. I disapprove of these new-fangled vampires. What right do they have to go out in daylight, and why must they be so bloody nice all the time? Bring back Dracula, I say.
      Astonishing – that’s the word I’ve been looking for to describe MA. I’d like to tell her how passionate I am about her writing.
      BTW, I think your dark side is contagious. Last week I wrote a story inspired by you. It was set on Bodmin Moor.

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      1. Your feelings on Twilight match my own precisely. You should try reading Bella Swann moaning on, page after page … But Meyer must be doing it right as far as her market is concerned – the numbers don’t lie.
        But Attwood, well she’s just in a different league. Popular, accesible but literary too – how does she do that? I’d like to write like her, Sarah Waters and Kate Atkinson please 🙂
        Nothing wrong with a darkside, Jane. Will we be seeing your Bodmin story on the blog? It’s an inspirational place

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  3. Thank you for this hilarious post! Your exploits of the app really made me laugh. Obviously, you can’t trust an algorithm. My own results amused me too, I inserted my blog post about being off my depression/anxiety/etc. medication for a week, and the result – I write like Arthur Clarke. That’s actually pretty fitting, for my crazy science-fiction-like post. Thanks again for the laughs!

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    1. I’m pleased you read and enjoyed – and tried out the app.
      You can’t trust an algorithm – that could make a good poem…
      I’m off to check out your Arthur Clarke-esque post 🙂

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  4. and I bet Robert Mitchum wrote like Judy Garland or some such fun, not that she wrote, perhaps he sang like her, maybe they should make a who do you sing like app, now that would be a hoot. Great post, and about the aardvark in the wedding dress, you must post a pic of that 🙂

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      1. But, but….it was such a fun vision. Fun little creatures in drag would be a hoot to see….although I bet it would be a dirty dress….I don’t think they see very well…but, I think I’m thinking of armadillos….whole different boat there😊 great post and I think I did that, and it was Mary someone or other….Oliver, yep, that was it….never tried again…too busy Googling Mary Oliver😃

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        1. I read your message and /googled Mary Oliver. Now I’m trying to resist the temptation to go back and find out if Aardvarks are short-sighted. Googling is contagious – which is a problem at 3.15 in the morning 🙂

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