My embarrassing writing style

I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I ran some of my writing through I Write Like, and got the startling result: I write like Dan Brown (you know, the author of The Da Vinci Code and other masterpieces). First I tried a blog post. Then I tried a direct mail letter. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. I’m thinking (hoping) there’s something terribly wrong with I Write Like.

My friends were being compared to authors like James Joyce, David Foster Wallace, and Vladimir Nabokov.

Me? I write like a guy whose bestseller starts out like this:

Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Saunière collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.

(You can find more zingers at Author Dan Brown’s 20 Worst Sentences)

After some self-recrimination, I settled down a bit. By putting both James Joyce and Dan Brown in the same database, they imply that the two authors are somehow alike. But they aren’t, beyond the fact that books are published from their writing. Joyce created art. Reading it can be a challenge — to put it mildly. The struggle of reading Ulysses or Finnegans Wake is part of their power; hard insights don’t come easy.

Brown’s books are not art. They are all about being read — by lots of people — people who have no intention of struggling to gain insight. They just want a story. Who am I to say there’s anything wrong with that?

If you’re a fundraising writer, you have a lot more in common with Dan Brown than with the Big Names in Literature. You want to be read. Not studied.

So I write like an author that a lot of people enjoy reading? There are worse things for a fundraising writer. (But darn it, why couldn’t it say I write like Richard Brautigan, whose style is utterly lucid and easy to read, yet full of deep stuff?)


Comments

14 responses to “My embarrassing writing style”

  1. Dan Brown’s writing consists in great measure of his characters explaining bizarre happenings to other characters, asking them to change the way they think about things. This strikes me as remarkably similar to what you do.

  2. Dan Brown’s writing consists in great measure of his characters explaining bizarre happenings to other characters, asking them to change the way they think about things. This strikes me as remarkably similar to what you do.

  3. Mary Cahalane Avatar
    Mary Cahalane

    That’s just way too much fun.
    Thanks!

  4. Mary Cahalane Avatar
    Mary Cahalane

    That’s just way too much fun.
    Thanks!

  5. It could be worse… your writing style could be like Stephenie Meyer!

  6. It could be worse… your writing style could be like Stephenie Meyer!

  7. I got Dan Brown too, but I got the same results when I used text from the New York Times and from an Italian-language page from the Vatican’s website, which is kind of ironic. And supposedly UN press releases and Ohio state assembly bills are written in the style of HP Lovecraft.

  8. I got Dan Brown too, but I got the same results when I used text from the New York Times and from an Italian-language page from the Vatican’s website, which is kind of ironic. And supposedly UN press releases and Ohio state assembly bills are written in the style of HP Lovecraft.

  9. I wouldn’t put too much stock in this site. I pasted in three different samples and got three different authors. Margaret Atwood herself tried it out, and it told her she writes like Stephen King! It’s a fun thing to do, but not indicative of anything bigger.
    That being said, I agree that appeal letters written in the style of Dan Brown (or Stephen King) aren’t a bad thing. It just means people will read them!

  10. I wouldn’t put too much stock in this site. I pasted in three different samples and got three different authors. Margaret Atwood herself tried it out, and it told her she writes like Stephen King! It’s a fun thing to do, but not indicative of anything bigger.
    That being said, I agree that appeal letters written in the style of Dan Brown (or Stephen King) aren’t a bad thing. It just means people will read them!

  11. Jeff,
    Great site! Thanks!
    And, as always, nice post.
    Like you, I got Dan Brown for my fundraising appeal copy.
    But I also got David Foster Wallace for a Fundraising Success magazine article.
    And Kurt Vonnegut for a short story.
    Tons of fun for the whole writing family!
    Thanks again.

  12. Jeff,
    Great site! Thanks!
    And, as always, nice post.
    Like you, I got Dan Brown for my fundraising appeal copy.
    But I also got David Foster Wallace for a Fundraising Success magazine article.
    And Kurt Vonnegut for a short story.
    Tons of fun for the whole writing family!
    Thanks again.

  13. I Write Like is a very interesting service. I wonder how it works…
    And I’ll disagree with you on one point. The fact that they put James Joyce and Dan Brown in the same database doesn’t actually mean they consider these authors to be alike. It rather means there’s just a lot of writers in their database.

  14. I Write Like is a very interesting service. I wonder how it works…
    And I’ll disagree with you on one point. The fact that they put James Joyce and Dan Brown in the same database doesn’t actually mean they consider these authors to be alike. It rather means there’s just a lot of writers in their database.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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