I’m the new Dan Brown?

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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