Dmitry Chestnykh, a 27-year-old Russian software programmer had no idea the box of worms he was opening up when he launched this writing analysis site. I WRITE LIKE
Everyone has opinions. See this article to get the analysis from Roger Ebert, Margaret Atwood and more.
When posting these paragraphs from my current novel in progress: 3 women walk into a bar, a scene told from the protagonists POV, I was told by the analysts at I WRITE LIKE, that I write like David Foster Wallace. What do you think? Here are the paragraphs I submitted:
The cozy bar on the corner. There’s one in every city, a hole in the wall that does more business than the big hotel bars. It will have more character, hide more stories, and even though most nights the biggest tip will only be a crumpled ten spot tucked into the waitress’s cleavage, the place will cash out stronger than the big guys, and with an honest owner, it could be around for years— like Cheers, minus the high paid actors and a cheesy laugh track.
I felt it as soon as I walked in. That I-wish-it-was raining-so-I-could-have-an-excuse-to-hunker-down-in-the-corner- booth-with-a-smoky-scotch-and-a-beer-chaser feeling. The idea hit me that some people would do exactly that even if the sun was shining and the boss was waiting and then another feeling began to sink in¾ kind of sick and wormy¾ that some people, even if they couldn’t afford the scotch part of the fantasy, would spend their days in that corner booth drinking away their future, trading their life for temporary liquid happiness.
It was this feeling that kept me away from drinking booze in quantity. I have been known to drink the occasional cold one at the ballpark, but I didn’t drink and drive, I never drank alone, and no, bartenders don’t count. I’d learned over the years that me plus alcohol add up to asshole. Anytime I thought I wanted to imbibe all I had to do was come to a place like this and take note of the loner at the bar, the one trying to look like he had it under control, though you could smell the loser on him, or the guys slamming shots at a back booth, killing brain cells, getting louder and more idiotic by the minute. I’d be reminded of the jackass nature of the drunken male and could order my soda, then leave.
Then, I submitted another section from the same novel, one told from a main character’s POV, her backstory. It looked like this:
She went into work the first day, wearing kabuki makeup with her hair knotted over her head and a light-up Star Wars saber tucked in her sparkly belt.
She pulled over a chair, hopped up on it and addressed her first table, “I’m the Queen of Siam, Motherfuckers, who are you?” The bartender applauded and the table ended up tipping thirty-five percent.
One day she wound battery-operated Christmas lights around her waist and had them trail behind her like a tail. She recited dirty limericks in foreign accents, took every guy’s phone number that was slipped to her in the check folder and pasted them to the ladies room wall, next to an arrow and the words: Rich and Hung like a horse.
Roxie sat around the bar with the other servers after work.
“What did you clear?”
“Ah, the usual bullshit, you know,” she said, shrugging.
But they didn’t. The other girls on the floor were pulling a buck fifty maybe two hundred on a Saturday, and that was if they hustled. The quicker you turned a table, the better chance you had to clear a nice bit of coin. But you still had to tip the kitchen and the bar, and sure as shit those bartenders knew what your tickets were. Most of the time the waitress could blame it on the customer, calling them cheap, or saying somebody walked, but if you said that too often it came out of your pocket. Like Janice. She fucked up more than once.
“You aren’t pulling a Janice, are you?” The girls asked Roxie.
“Who me? Shit, I sold a thousand bucks and turned in two hundred in tips, okay?” Roxie was getting pissed. She climbed onto the bar.
“Look, fuckers!” she yelled, waving a twenty. “This is for you Rusty.” Roxie crumbled the bill and threw it at the bartender. “And you, and you and you,” she said as she went down the line, liking how they looked scrambling on their hands and knees for the money. She didn’t care. She had really cleared over four hundred and stashed most of it her bra. “All right then? Are we okay? Now, can I have a fucking beer? Please.”
I WRITE LIKE said that paragraph was similar to the writing of Cory Doctorow
I tried a flash fiction piece that had recently appeared in DOGPLOTZ.
She wants to keep him around longer than a night. She wants to be more than his fuck buddy, the one he calls when he wants a piece of ass without buying it dinner. She knows she’s not pretty enough for him, not skinny enough or nice enough and her crooked teeth, she figures they might have something to do with it, although he never minds feeling them skim across his cock.
She wants him to shut off his phone when he walks in her door because the chime and ding of all those pretty girls calling him gets annoying after a while and she has to try even harder to please him, even harder to get him to understand she is so much more than this naked girl standing in front of him willing to do anything he asks any time he asks.
Again, I got Cory Doctorow.
Now, for the piece de resistance.
I inserted a few paragraphs from the novel my agent is shopping in NY, We’re Not Waving, We’re Drowning. Hello HOTSHOT MARKET SAVVY EDITORS????
I went for the opening:
A phone that rings after midnight never brings good news. Maggie Morris rolled over and reached for the receiver, glad they hadn’t yet cancelled the house landline. She never would have heard the polite chirp of her cell phone or even found the tiny thing she’d tossed in her bag the night before.
She put the phone to her ear. “Hello?”
“Mrs. Morris? Mrs. David Morris?
It never was a good sign when they called you Missus.
By the time Maggie hung up the phone, two local Philly cops were on her porch, as if she needed further confirmation that her husband was dead.
That wasn’t what they said, of course. No one was allowed to draw conclusions. After all, mistakes had been made before, wrong doors had been knocked on, boats had returned, people had swum to shore, but Maggie felt the void of David, a fissure in her wall.
They said missing. They said there were some indications. They said she would need to go to Savannah. They pushed papers at her and phone numbers and offered assurances they didn’t have, while Maggie nodded then closed the door behind them. She wiped her eyes and began collecting the things she’d need, until she found herself standing in her office sobbing and she realized she had no idea what she needed.
She stuffed the papers in her bag then pawed through the junk drawer in the kitchen for a working pen while she called a cab. When the drawer stuck halfway, Maggie reached in and pushed stuff around until she found the culprit, a ratty old book. She tossed that in her travel bag too, rolled her suitcase to the door and stepped outside, closing the door to her predictable life.
In the back of the cab, Maggie repeated her mantra. Rely on yourself. Rely on yourself. It was her mother’s voice in her ear, a voice that whispered to her on the first day of kindergarten, on the day of the fifth grade spelling bee, each time the love of young Maggie’s life dumped her. Rely. On. Yourself.
It was from a poem her mother used to recite. The next line came to Maggie.
Oh, but I find this pill so bitter said the poor man. As he took it from the shelf.
Something about the phrase fortified her.
I WRITE LIKE came back with David Foster Wallace. Odd, yes? Appears DFW is the default writer. Sorry, dude.
And from another section of the novel:
A story like that didn’t go away. It was a tragedy, a retold lesson of the boy from Tarrabelle who drowned, about his missing sister and their dead parents, the couple who had clung to each other until the bitter end, jumping from the branch of the oak in the meadow, the noose on her neck doubled around the branch, ending in a loop of rope around his neck. The mother who had needed sixteen stones in her pocket, a counter weight to her husband’s limp body.
Someone had taken a photograph and sold it to the city papers, a distant image of two darkly clothed bodies hanging beneath a tall tree. People supposed they had jumped at the same time, stepping off into the air together holding hands.
If you squinted hard enough at the blurry photograph you could see them walking down a foggy path and imagine the distant clouds under their feet were a soft road that led somewhere wonderful.
I’m almost embarrassed that that section pegged me as Dan Brown.
Third try with same novel: ( benefit of having 3 povs??)
I am an old woman, given to rants and daydreams. I earned the right in my troubled youth to act this way. People give me leave, allowing me space to act out my foolishness. In all truth, they encourage me, thinking I should be a foolish old woman, a demented old bitty, a sad, lonely and deplorable creature, so sometimes to assuage them, I am. And it disappoints me when I take joy in their discomfort.
What would George think of me today, in this funeral home, crying over his dead body? What would he tell me to do? I’d spent weeks hovering over him, asking how I could help. He’d been the one to send me out with the dogs, told me to take them down to the water and watch the sunset, take my time coming back. I suppose I knew what he’d planned. Maybe that made me feel guilty, feel like I needed his forgiveness.
Why can’t someone say those words for him now and fill up my emptiness, unclutter my heart?
A young girl—but they are all young now—touches my arm. She hands me a tissue.
“Is there anything I can get for you?”
I want to say, Yes, I’d like another forty years with that man. You can turn back the clock and make me a young girl running barefoot on the beach. You can give me back my life.
And wow. That submission earned me: Neil Gaiman. I think I should stop while I am ahead. WAY WAY ahead. I idolize Gaiman.
So, here the thing. Have you noticed, they are all male authors? What am I supposed to think of that? I know I have cajones, but still?
Ok. Here’s a challenge for the analysts. Let’s throw that algorithm a loop.
I will submit a sentimental passage, from a female POV. Let’s see what they think.
The door opens. She turns and watches him walk into the room. He takes off his sunglasses and as his eyes adjust to the darkness he sees her in her yellow dress sitting in the same place where they sat almost a year ago. She stands, wiping her palms on her dress, raising her brow, inviting him to come to her.
He crosses the room in three long strides, reaching for her, pulling her into his arms, pressing her against his chest. He’s sweaty from the ride over, hot and thumping with the blood and the adrenaline and she is sure that he can feel her heart through his shirt, that he reads her Morse code message sent out in beating dots and dashes. It’s. You. Finally.
He smells too good, and fits against her perfectly, as she remembered. She feels his muscular back, his broad shoulders and feels the strength in his hands as he runs them down her back to her ass. The silky fabric of her dress rides up when she raises her arms to encircle his neck. She thinks for a minute it will be like a sappy commercial, that he will spin her around in the center of this bar, that she will pull the clip from her hair and let it free, while kicking up her heels. But the second has passed and they are still standing there in front of the other customers—she hears them now, scraping back their chairs, resuming their conversations as if to say, show’s over—but still Jimbo holds Angel.
He presses his cheek against hers then tucks his head into her neck. His breath is warm and cool at the same time, as if he has just brushed her teeth, as if he ate a mint in hopes of kissing her. He reaches for her chin and tips it up toward his. They are almost the same height, she in her high heels, he in his cowboy boots. She opens her eyes and slowly blinks. A tear runs from the corner of each eye. She doesn’t try to wipe them away.
He smiles then, as if that was what he’d been waiting for, as if that tear told him everything. He looks at her so intensely, his gaze moving from eye to eye. It’s a test, a confirmation, the solution to the puzzle. She rolls her chin in his hand and when he meets her eyes again, his lips part and the angle is perfect. When his lips touch hers there is nothing else in the world, but them.
She doesn’t want to break the kiss first, end the embrace, pull away, but also what she wants to do she can’t. She wants to climb up his body and wrap herself around him like a python, she wants to slither down the front of him then lay at his feet sucking on his toes. She wants to stick her tongue in his ear and reach her hand down his pants and ride him barebacked through town with hair as her only clothing. She thinks all these things in one foolish moment and then, allows herself a small giggle, and that is how they part.
AND boom. I’m back to David Foster Wallace.
In further testing, various Blog posts came back as Cory Doctorow, ( three times) Chuck Palahniuk, ( thanks! I think) William Gibson, ( who?) Raymond Chandler ( I wish!!) and the most funny to me? I got “you write like Charles Dickens,” with my Neil Diamond concert blog post from 12/08. HAHAHA.
So, the answer to all this…. is that I am now ordering some books by Doctorow, Gibson, and Wallace. And yep, totally rewriting my Dan Brown-esque paragraph.