And finally

OK, so I know I should leave it alone now -and I will – as soon as I’ve posted this.

Some of you will know that yesterday I wrote a post about an app that claims to be able to analyse your writing. This app. is called I Write Like, and I’ve had a hilarious time with it.

Today, inspired by a comment from my friend Pat, over at imissmetoo (you should check out her blog – it’s beautiful, intelligent and often thought provoking), I threw this at the analytical robot which lurks, waiting eagerly to chew up our words and spit out whatever it pleases:

Jane Basil
Jane Basil Jane Basil
Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil
Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil
Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil
Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil
Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil
Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil
Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil
Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil
Jane Basil Jane Basil Jane Basil
Jane Basil Jane Basil
Jane Basil

This is the result I got:

I write like Agatha Christie

Really?

Not being one to skimp on my scientific experiments, I changed my poem slightly, thus:

Jane
Jane Paterson
Jane Paterson Basil
Jane Paterson Basil Paterson
Jane Paterson Basil Jane Paterson Basil Paterson
Jane Paterson Basil Jane Basil Paterson Jane Paterson Basil Paterson
Jane Paterson Basil Jane Paterson Basil Jane Paterson Basil Jane Paterson Basil Paterson
Jane Paterson Basil Jane Paterson Basil Jane Paterson Basil Paterson
Jane Paterson Basil Jane Paterson Basil Paterson
Jane Paterson Basil Paterson
Jane Paterson Basil
Jane Paterson
Jane

Guess what?

I write like Bram Stoker

I rest my case. Forever.

Thank goodness that naughty Robert Mitchum has agreed

Robert-Mitchum.png

to stay out of this post.

Phwoarr…

©Jane Paterson Basil

 

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

If Only

climbing tree.jpg

It is too late to live out every dream;
I must prioritise.

I can’t blame the Seasons,
since each one carried its weight.

Once, honeyed hedgerows towered above my head,
while life stretched to eternity.
Brown limbed child’s play climbed and skipped
toward exhaustion’s sleepy contemplation,
and mother’s lap was always warm for love.

I recall the rumbling storm that hailed the wane of spring,
and now I know the lessons nature tried to teach me.

I was up a tree,
and I could say the leaves concealed the text,
but it would not be true;
it was I who tried to hide from view.

Summer brought a raging blaze of opportunities,
and though I knew that I should choose a highway,
in my greed for life I tried to run a mile down every lane.

Some were dark, some were bright,
and some shone with a dappled light,
so I absorbed a quarter of each shade;
a whirling dervish fighting time as if I were three people,
always working, skipping sleep,
rising tired to keep the furnace burning,
trying to learn each skill within the world,
for fear of dying incomplete.

But Autumn came with whipping winds and ticking clock
to warn me of approaching loss.

It froze my bones and slowed my pace,
and now I amble through the days wishing I were stronger.

A foolish thought runs through my brain:
“If only I’d retained my speed I’d live a great deal longer.”

The Daily Post #Amble

©Jane Paterson Basil

Wake Up.

images-9.jpg

— Wake up. Please don’t sleep. The danger isn’t over.

Helplessly, I hang above my prone body, trying to communicate an urgent message to my brain. I’ve come so far, endured storms that threw me from the boat to struggle and choke in chilling water, sun that seared and flayed my salty skin, thirst that forced me to drink my own urine. My food supply was washed away even before I lost count of the days. Sometimes my grip on sanity has drifted off on the monotonous waves that can turn so suddenly into evil monsters determined to drag me down to the bottom of the sea, to become a fishes’ feast.

Yes, I’ve come so far, and survived many perils, and now, unconscious of any danger, I sleep soundly on the beach, lulled by the slipping solidity of sand, as the waves sneak relentlessly closer to me.

— Please wake up. Don’t sleep. Please.

They’re intent on stealing me away. See how they swell, snapping at my flaccid ankles. A huge breaker approaches, building in size and strength as it comes closer. Like a giant claw, it curls above my body, crashes over the whole of me, drags me toward it, shifting the fine sand, before losing its grip. In an instant I’m back inside myself. I wake as my spirit returns to that hidden place within me.

Salt water stings my eyes and burns my throat, making me retch. An urgent scrabble, on hands and knees, conveys me up the beach.

From the safety of a sand dune. I watch the ocean carry away the broken remnants of my boat.

Written for Michelle’s Photo Fiction #98.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Symphony of Life

beach-boy.jpg

The sea whispers in the distance, its waves telling tales of where it has been, all it has seen; our history crowding its every note.

Listen as the waves hiss toward the shore, each one inching forward a little more before crashing with a shoosh, raising a subtle rustle as sand shifts and smashed specks of shell swoop and rollick in salt water, sinking to silence as stillness momentarily descends, ready for the next wave to skiffle them again.

Seagulls circle, searching for fish, their racket rising to a crescendo, then calming from screech to squawk when they spot a shoal.

Listen to the Beach balls bounce as mothers squirt and slather sunscreen. Small feet splash in little land-locked lakes, young throats vibrate with laughter and high-pitched screams until ice cream time arrives, accompanied yummy hums and dripping, slurpy licks.

Listen to the beach orchestra as it plays its holiday symphony.

Somewhere, in a far away forest, cheeky breezes tickle tunes from the leaves of trees; a startled stag crashes through bracken; small creatures scratch and creep; rain taps on all it can reach; branches creak; a distant storm rumbles and cracks, but this equally complex piece can be replayed some other day.

.

Written for The Daily Post #Symphony

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Fog

fog

“Hereabouts, fog can come suddenly, with little warning to those who don’t know the signs. It rises from the boggy moorland, wrapping the unwary traveller in a damp mist far deeper than that which exists between waking and sleeping, and a silence drops. This silence is eerie, but you should be glad of it, for it is far safer than the sweet songs of those devils who live within the fog, stealing their sense of direction and leading them astray. You may think yourself too familiar with the landscape to be fooled, but you are wrong. Many have made that mistake, to their cost. Dan, over at Bolden farm – his folks had lived hereabouts all their lives, worked the land, knew it like the back of his sinewous hand, never strayed further than Bodmin, and yet last October he drowned in the bog just ten minutes from his home. It was a horrible sight; some animal had found him and ripped out his heart, right through his rib-cage. I tell you, he knew his way blindfold.”

While vague pictures form in my mind of the last time I saw Dan alive – on a night rather like this, in this same bar room – old Albert pauses for another sup from the tankard which has been refilled and laid quietly on the table. A creeping unease causes the landlord of The Shrinking Fox to keep Albert’s tankard filled to the brim. There’s no charge, no comment from the landlord, and no thanks from Albert.

Although Albert is undoubtedly old, it’s hard to fix my mind on his likely age, since his features seem to change, his wrinkles blurring and travelling across his face, his nose growing bulbous and then shrinking in the dimming light. Whenever I try to focus, it feels as if the fog of which he speaks has entered my brain.

Seems like I’ve been hearing his stories ever since I was old enough to drink in the Shrinking Fox, and yet when I try to remember the last time I saw Albert, my thoughts slip away from me. He draws me back into this story and I’m unsure of whether I’ve heard it a hundred times before, or if this is the first telling.

Albert slowly puts down his drink, and glances at the eight men in the room. All eyes are on him, as his listeners wait. Satisfied that he has our attention, he continues:

“Even dogs get lost in the fog. Next day they’ll be found with their hearts ripped out – always the hearts, never any other part. It’s the work of the Devil, I tell you.”

I feel a chill, and glancing toward the window, I see the grey fog swallow the world outside. Even the stunted apple tree whose closest branch scratches at the flyblown glass is concealed, save for one immobile twig which touches the glass, pointing, like a warning finger, towards the listeners inside. I briefly focus on that word, ‘warning’, before turning back towards Albert, who’s gone silent. He’s looking at the fog, and the other watchers have followed his gaze. A dismayed “Oh,” comes from the youngest man in the room – he’s only a boy, really, and I fancy I see Albert eyes flash, hungrily, and the hint of a cruel smile… but no, it’s my imagination.

Again, I wonder why I know so little about this man who is so familiar to me. Where does he live? Does he have family, and have I really seen him before, or only dreamed of him? His voice brings my attention back to the present.

“They’ll be out tonight,” he says, gruffly. “It’s a good thing you all live in the village, where you’ll be safe. They never venture this close to human habitation.”

We must all have been holding our breath. The quiet room fills up with relieved sighs, then we look at young Cyril, catching his pale face, hearing a strangled sound issue from his throat. We look away quickly. None of us wants to offer to walk with him to his home. It’s almost two miles away, and Albert’s talk has us all on edge.

Albert is the one brave man among us. Putting us to shame, he turns a gnarled, but kindly face in Cyril’s direction, and says:

“Come on, lad, I’ll get you safely home. I’m the oldest person hereabouts. I’ve heard the devils that live in the fog. They’ve not harmed me, and I have no fear of them. They’ve given up on these old bones.”

Albert is right; we’ll come to no harm as long as we’re in the village, but all the same, to a man, we stand up and follow Albert and Cyril out through the door, and walk close behind him until we reach our homes. By the time I get to my place, there are only the three of us left. I say goodnight and go quickly indoors, before Albert and Cyril have had time to walk away.

The next day, Cyril’s mother finds his body in a boggy area near where she lives; a bloody hole where his heart should be. I keep running through the events of the previous evening, and every time, self-disgust washes over me. I don’t remember much, but I know that we all left the Shrinking Fox together, and I clearly recall everyone else going into their homes, until only he and I were left, then young Cyril walked all alone into the murderous fog. I should have gone with him. I could have steered him safely home – although, with his knowledge of the moors, I can’t understand how he got lost.

<> <> <>

Cyril’s been gone for over a year now. For a while people stayed indoors in the evenings, huddled safely away from their superstitions, but the landlord has whitewashed the bar-room in the Shrinking Fox and it looks more cheerful these days. Maybe that’s why he has more customers. It’s back to the way it used to be, with Albert sitting at the table, reeling out yarns, making us all uneasy. Seems like I’ve seen him here a hundred times before, but I can’t remember when. He takes a drink, surveys the room to make sure he still has everyone’s attention, and he continues:

“Even dogs get lost in the fog. Next day they’ll be found with their hearts ripped out – always the hearts, never any other part. It’s the work of the Devil, I tell you.”

The room dims. Looking through the window, all I can see is grey fog. All eyes follow mine.  One of the men, James – who lives way outside the village – gulps nervously. I fancy I see a hungry look in Albert eyes, and the hint of a cruel smile… but no, it’s my imagination.

<> <> <>

Written for The Daily Post #Foggy

©Jane Paterson Basil

A Different Poem

You aimed your insipid quill at my head,
scratching for glib metaphoric descriptions of shallow waters,

scribbling ill-conceived inaccuracies
while your bitter heart
flattered you with fairy tales of poetic skill,

piddling insults on exercise paper
with the optimistic aid of a gold-plated pen,

pretending Dylan depth
where only an inch of silt sprawled.

Have your short-shrift eyes ever stared into a clear sky,
while you pondered your dimensions,

Have you held a silvery moon in your hands,
and just for one instant, did its supreme beauty
sweep away the stench of snarling beasts,

have you reached for a penny to feed your soul,
felt it slither between your fingers,
seen it plummet to the chasm beneath your feet,
and felt yourself slide.

have you spooned tatters of fading glitter into your heart
just to keep it beating,
even as your head fought a call for six feet of crushing soil,

have you asked the question, and heard silence in reply,
and did you find your way to the next chapter
through a tangled network of collapsing tunnels.

Have you safely reached a clearing filled with spring fragrance,
and known that you were only a guest in this calm haven,
resting for the next leg of your journey.

Did you breathe deeply of the clean air,
and appreciate the fragrance of wild rose and meadowsweet,
fixing your mind on the vision of delight
while mud sucked at your feet.

Did you.

If, since your last effort,
you have travelled in my vicinity,
I give you permission to write a different poem
about me.

Written for The Daily Post #Shallow

©Jane Paterson Basil