Saturday, 27 April 2013

I Write Like...Edgar Allan Poe!?

My friend Guy Duperrault, who apparently writes like Shakespeare, pointed me towards an odd site called "I Write Like." The point of it is that, if you paste in a sample of your writing, then mysterious cogitations take place and your writing is likened to that of some famous author.

This sounded like fun.

I pasted in the first chapter of my unpublished novel, The Worm in the Helix, to see what my fiction style of thirty years ago looked like. The result: "I write like Edgar Allan Poe."

I write like
Edgar Allan Poe
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Next, I tried a chapter of my recent non-fiction work, The Complete Poetry Guide and Workbook. The result caused another loud guffaw. I write like H.P. Lovecraft!

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Fascinating, since I have never really liked the prose styles of either Poe or Lovecraft. Is there truly something dark, eerie, and sinister about my prose. Does it hint at Knowledge that Man Should Never Know? Nothing remained but to try it on a sample of poetry. Please, if there is a God in Heaven, let it remind this heartless automaton of Dylan Thomas or Gerard Manley Hopkins! I'll use my poem "Sisyphus" as grist for the mill.

Now, apparently, I write like Chuck Palahniuk, of whom I had not heard.

I write like
Chuck Palahniuk
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

So, what does it mean to write like Chuck Palahniuk, anyway? Well, it doesn't preclude literary success (thank heaven!) because he wrote the famous novel The Fight Club, of which I've heard. Wikipedia tells me that he is an author of transgressional fiction, of which I have not heard. The definition of that is
A literary genre that graphically explores such topics as incest and other aberrant sexual practices, mutilation, the sprouting of sexual organs in various places on the human body, urban violence and violence against women, drug use, and highly dysfunctional family relationships, and that is based on the premise that knowledge is to be found at the edge of experience and that the body is the site for gaining knowledge.
None of which interests me. On the other hand, there is some hope for me held out by this tidbit:
There is also some overlap with literary minimalism, as many transgressive writers use short sentences and simplistic style.
Finally, I find that I like some of Mr. Palaniuk's short quotations, such as this:
Masochism is a valuable job skill.
So maybe in style, though not subject, I can live with the damnable automaton's judgement of my writing. Still, how I can be at once "like" two exemplars of overwriting and one of minimalism is a mystery.


As a bit of extra value to this blog, here is the first chapter of The Worm in the Helix, which has never before been published anywhere. The genre, it quickly becomes clear, is science fiction. The style, as mentioned, is apparently that of Edgar Allan Poe.


I can see it!”
At his cousin Wernher’s shout, Ernst reflexively raised his eyes from his instruments. Sure enough, there was a red-edged dot in the sky in the right direction. It grew quickly, though the ship’s skin was exchanging speed for heat as quickly as it could. Ernst checked the instruments: everything was fine. Then he looked out the shuttle’s forward window again. He could now make out the bulky curves of the colony ship.
I see it, too,” he said.
No chatter,” said Ulrike from behind him. Ernst grinned, but followed his wife’s directions.
As Behemoth approached land for the first and last time, Ernst recalled the lines from Job that were engraved in the control room: “Siehe da, den Behemoth, den ich neben dir gemacht habe”—“Behold now behemoth, which I have made with thee.” It came closer still, and the roaring filled the shuttle. “Seine Knochen sind wie eherne Röhren; seine Gebeine sind wie eiserne Stäbe”—“His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron.”
The ship’s belly glowed red from the effort of slowing its long fall into the atmosphere. It boomed low over the wasteland of salt-encrusted rock. It came closer, closer...touched.
Ernst missed what happened next. The massive wheels extended, touched the rock, then the rock itself seemed to buckle. The wheels on the closest side tore off. The belly lowered. Then the ship disappeared in a pillar of fire, followed by a cyclone of dust and broken rock.
Ernst caught glimpses of the flame at the centre of the opaque wind. It was now a pyre for his friends, brother officers, commander, and the farmers. Their dream of a simpler, Bible-centred life on a new promised land burned with them.
The radio was silent for a time he could not measure. Ulrike said nothing. Finally, a soft voice seemed to speak in his mind: “Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Gird up thy loins now like a man....” Ernst coughed softly then tried out his voice. “We have work to do.”


  1. I laughed at how my writing was assigned, too!

    This is a fun post. Like you I was linked to Palahniuk, whom I hadn't heard of, but who with research I found interesting.

    Thank you for citing the Shakespeare association, which is shocking, and will most certainly set anyone up for disappointment.

    I enjoyed your chapter. I have no feeling of it being written by Poe, whose writing I don't particularly like.

    Fun post!

    1. I'm quite self-conscious about the writing in that book now. As I said, I haven't shared it much nor shopped it about. On the other hand, it was legitimately the best I could do at the time. And I thought the passages from Job were quite appropriate.