I Write Like Whom…?

Has it ever happened that you’ve been reading a book—a lot of it in a relatively short period of time—and you find yourself adopting, whether consciously or unconsciously, the author’s writing style in some of your thoughts?

I’ve found that a couple of times. Last summer when I raced my way through Death By Living, my internal monologue started sounding, sometimes, like N. D. Wilson. While spending this week gulping down Persuasion as part of an English course, I’ve noticed the occasional Austenesque fragment in my brain.

It makes sense really. It’s like visiting friends in another country and coming home with a tinge of their accent, or starting to use a word that a friend or family member often uses.

So since I have had Austen on the brain, I thought I’d try my hand at a little bit of imitation….

It was some moments before Mary had gathered her thoughts sufficiently to leave the house, but when she had, she wasted no time in beginning the short walk to call on Mrs R–, an elegant and sensible young woman with whom she was acquainted.

Her eyes scanned the surrounding fields as she walked, but her thoughts, it must be confessed, were elsewhere, and of a nature to absorb her attention so fully that it was a wonder she kept on the right course.

She was thinking of the hat that she had seen in the shop window, but which she had reluctantly refrained from purchasing. Now, however, she began to regret having submitted to her better judgment, for what, she asked herself, is money for, if not to be spent?—A question which has no doubt often arisen in the minds of those whose sense is even less plentiful than their money.  

After writing this, I had the brainwave of copying the above text into I Write Like for some computer somewhere to analyse it and I had the satisfaction of being told that I write like Jane Austen.

Which, by the by, isn’t what it tells me when I insert a paragraph of my more normal writing! After trying out my Austen paragraphs, I copied a section of what I would consider to be good writing from a previous blog post of mine and was told that I write like Cory Doctorow. That doesn’t mean anything to me.

Then I tried a paragraph I liked from another post and was told I write like Leo Tolstoy.

At least I know who he is.

I take both of the above with a large pinch of salt, as this website and its method of analysis certainly has limitations! But I am pleased to have got its stamp of approval on my Austen imitation.

Writing style is quite a fascinating thing…. An author’s own particular flavour. Bite, and it tastes like Lewis. Or Dickens. Or Austen. I’ve thought more than once about blogging about different writing styles and trying to figure out how various authors do what they do–what it is that makes Austen, for example, sound like Austen–but it would definitely take time and effort, so I’m loathe to make a commitment about doing so! We’ll see.

In the meantime, perhaps I should try to hone my write-like-Austen skills. Should all other sources of income fail, who knows what millions may await me in churning out all the novels Jane Austen would doubtless have written had she lived longer.

But perhaps I’m getting carried away….


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