Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Do you write historical fiction? Probably not.

Scientists in New Hampshire, USA have carried out a study that shows the relationships between writing styles across the ages. They have analysed more than 7,000 works from the Project Gutenberg collection, dating from as early as 1550, and looked at how individual words have been used by authors in the past.

The team, from Dartmouth College in Hanover, have shown how the use of content-free 'joining' words, such as to and that, indicates style most closely.

Mathematician Daniel Rockmore says two different authors would probably use the same nouns to describe similar events, but they 'glue' them together in different ways.

The researchers have used their findings to show that writers are influenced by what they read, but they are most likely to write like their contemporaries.

In the earliest publications, writers contructed their works in very similar fashion. The team expected that, because the writers would have had access to only a small body of literature, which they probably had all read.

More recently, even though writers have works from many different eras to choose from and have probably read a number of classics, they are still most likely to write like their contemporaries. They tend not to write like past authors, even if they are writing historical fiction.


Sandra Davies said...

Apologies if I've said this to you before, but on re-reading 'Gone with the Wind' last summer, first time for 35+ years, I was astonished to the point of embarrassment how much the style of that had become mine, characters and plotlines too, albeit re-shuffled.

Stew said...

I try to write like I talk. I feel that it keeps it authentic to me. If I talk like others around me, well I guess I'm a product of my environment.

snafu said...

I would think it would also have a lot to do with how they were taught English at school, since language teaching and accepted grammer must vary over time.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Morning AJ .. I saw this .. and wondered about it - but it's interesting to read again. I imagine Shakespeare and the King James Bible would have influenced early writers ..

Project Gutenberg is an amazing site .. love it ..

Cheers Hilary