Tag Archives: food for thought

I Write Like WHO Now?

Okay, writerly types…maybe you’ve already run across “I Write Like” – an analyzer app that scans through some sample of writing and tells you which famous writer you write like (based on the words you use).  But if you haven’t, it’s an interesting exercise.  Go try it.  I’ll wait.

(I’ll just go grab some coffee, brb)

So, are you happy with your results?  Surprised?  Perhaps now a little fluffed up because you write like…Edgar Allan Poe, Eudora Welty, or F. Scott Fitzgerald? Hey–good for you!  It IS pretty cool to at gain a little insight regarding what kind of vocabulary you share with some of the greats (at least in part), right?

I’ll confess.  I was surprised.  And disbelieving. I didn’t recognize the first author, nor the second, but the third was James Joyce.  All three were men.  I was thinking…why are they so different?  Why are they all men?  Maybe because I specifically try to capture the unique “voice” of each character, this may be the reason for the array of authors “I write like.”  Maybe because I analyzed stories that I’ve written across several years?  Puzzling.

So, I expanded this experiment by entering big portions of seven different stories just to see if I got the same result twice. I did not.  Here are the authors this analyzer says I write like:

Harry Harrison, Cory Doctorow, James Joyce, William Gibson, Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, and Kurt Vonnegut

So.  I don’t really know what to do with this.

I want to call bullshit.  Because I was expecting Alice Munro, or Barbara Kingsolver, or I dunno…at least one woman of seven stories since I, too, am a woman, and I write about them (kindly), and in their voices.  I was wondering if this analyzer is just a misogynist that doesn’t even have females as a possible match for language.  So, of course, I did a little web research, and it seems over on HuffPo it has been reported that even Margaret Atwood writes like Stephen King and just entering the word “not” 20 times comes up with Jane Austen.  So, you *could* get Jane Austen, I guess if you are into using “not” a lot.

What does this mean?  Nothing, really–it’s just code deciphering code by some man-made algorithms. I hope it doesn’t mean that I am hopelessly impacted by the “male gaze” of this society.  Because that’s just gross and hurts my teeth.  Maybe the men above write like women?  Maybe I’m just edgy or used “mud” or “star” or “please” once too often.

But, you know…still go try the analyzer and see what happens.  See if it causes you to reconsider anything about your writing style, or maybe just your own opinion of your writing style.

Personally, I feel like the challenge has been thrown down to see if I *can* write like one of my favorites.  From Flannery to Papa, the gauntlet has been thrown down!

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I DO want what I haven’t got

In the wee hours of the morning, I find myself dreading the workday.  Most days, I wish I could just stay in bed and sleep.  I hit the snooze button too many times for my own good.

But this morning I wished for something else.


I wished for a life that makes me want to leap out of bed and chase after it.  Like a mad woman.  Like a dangerous girl.

And although I haven’t been able to embody a whole lot of the things I have learned in this life, I do know this:  If you want it, you have to go after it.  No fairy godmother is going to come around with pixie dust that will let me grow money on a tree in the backyard or grant me an infinity of wishes.

I can hedge my bets and pursue a new job, or find a way to telework, or move to a new house, or start taking a new class, or any number of things that change my current situation.  But I know that each one of those things will result in the same state of mind in less time than I’d like to admit to myself.  I can use these skills–this ability to write–in a multitude of ways that will afford me a reliable paycheck.  Reliable paychecks are good…they are the stuff of “making a living” and paying the bills and putting food on the table.  Part of me is ashamed to find fault with my fairly blessed life.

But another part of me is not ashamed.  I am not ashamed to dream.  I am not ashamed to want more, to want better, to want passion, to want success doing something I love.  I will hold on to this wish–this dream for a more authentic life–and I will hold on to this job in the meantime, but I promise myself to keep going after the dream.

It’s too easy to give up, anyway.  This life means too much to just sit back and let it slide by.

Don’t let your life slide by, people.  It’s too short and comes with no guarantees, but it does come with hope.  Gather up your wherewithal and go after what you really want.


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Food for Thought

If you have read “Like Water for Chocolate,” by Laura Esquivel, or “Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously,” by Julie Powell, or “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien, or…I could just keep going…you know how important food can be to a story.  We have it around us every day, we all have our partiuclar favorite dish, idiosyncratic flavor combinations, and favorite (or least favorite) family recipes.  If your house is anything like my house, the food I make is what makes it smell like “my” house.

Since taste and smell are two of the five senses, including a food description in a scene can help bring it alive and place your reader into your story.  This is a good way to “show, don’t tell” that will make most scenes more relatable.  You can also set mood and tone with cooking smells and flavors.  You can explain a whole culture by its food.  And you can use it in negative or positive ways.  Too much, too little, too rich, too salty, or…just perfect.

For an exercise, put food in a scene.  It can be prominent or mere background.  It can be the focus of a character’s emotion, or a way that two characters relate to one another.  It can be life or death.

  • If you have trouble finding your way into this one, try thinking about a favorite food from your childhood and how that food made the moment perfect–how do you react now when you have, or even just smell, that same food today?
  • Or, think about your favorite food now.  Do you go the distance to make it perfect for yourself?  Or do you make a special trip to that restaurant to get it once a week?  What would happen if you introduce this deliciousness to someone else?  Would they think you are crazy for liking it?  Would they share your enthusiasm and demand the recipe?  Would you share it?
  • Or, think about a trip you took and how the food made it an even exceptional experience, or how the food ruined everything for you.  What did it smell like?  Where where you?  Why was it so amazingly good or bad?  What did you find yourself “homesick” for?

Bon appetit!

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