I’m the new Dan Brown?

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MY attention was recently brought to the website ‘I Write Like’ that purports to analyze your writing and tell you which famous author your style resembles. Intrigued, I sent in an example from my earlier novel, The De Clerambault Code, planning to submit another from my about-to-be published Soulstealer.

Both are psychological, suspense thrillers: The De Clerambault Code about the destructive consequences of obsessive behaviour; Soulstealer, set in the aftermath of the 7th July 2005 London bombings, about identity theft.


The result for The De Clerambault Code astounded me. Now, I don’t fancy myself as the next Martin Amis. Well, OK! But I didn’t expect my style to resemble that of, wait for it … Dan Brown!

Brown is the master of short, very short sentences that appeal to readers more comfortable with texting and tweeting. Sentences like: “He ran. Along the street. Before. He. Stopped. Dead. Shot dead.” But without the punctuation and not necessarily in that order.

In a recent literary critique of bad writing, Dan Brown – and JK Rowling – topped the list. It concluded that many “techniques of a purely commercial writer” are highly visible in Brown’s work whilst Rowling’s ability to pitch big ideas in child-friendly language (or child-reading-age-friendly – many adults having a reading age of 11) is an example of a “misunderstanding” of those ideas.

While I wouldn’t mind swapping my bank balance with Dan Brown, I frankly don’t accept my writing style resembles his. Statistical analysis software is fine to identify examples of plagiarism in, say, A Level coursework but I doubt its ability to differentiate subtle shadings of tone in novels. The giveaway clue – picked up digitally – was simply in the title: The De Clerambault Code. And The Da Vinci … Code!

But the ‘Code’ in my novel has nothing to do with Brown’s crusader/holy grail stuff but rather the moral consequences of pathological behaviour. A distinction too far – for computer software to pick up…

Likewise a passing reference to ‘Banksy’ in a recent EWN article got me similarly picked up on a Banksy website plus a strange Wikipedia entry. Talk about identity theft!  Wonder where I’ll end up next …on Dan Brown’s website?

Nora Johnson’s novel, The De Clerambault Code (www.nora-johnson.com) available at Amazon not just in paperback but also as an e-book (at just 68p for UK readers – a steal!) and with a ‘Look Inside’ feature. Profits to Cudeca

EDITOR’S NOTE: I couldn’t help myself. According to the ‘I Write Like’ website mentioned in Nora’s column: Leapy Lee and Jim Collins write like Cory Doctorow (Canadian blogger, journalist, and science fiction author); Mike Walsh and Craig Ireland like H. P. Lovecraft; and I write like Leo Tolstoy…

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