If you’ve been over on my “Links” page, you’ve seen the link for Wordle clouds. A post by D. Thomas Minton brought these to my attention, and I thought this was a cute, fun site, nothing more.
Then I read that Exploring Eliza used it as an editing device. What an ingenious idea, I thought. Let’s try it.
The idea is that you copy and paste the text of your short story (or novel, I suppose) into the text box, edit the various settings to your liking, then click ‘go.’ The app generates a word-cloud with the words used most often being the largest, the lesser used words appearing smaller and smaller. Words such as ‘the,’ ‘and,’ and ‘she’ seem to be excluded, which is perfect–who wants THE to be the apparent theme of his work?
I copied and pasted a story that I’d recently spiffed up and before I submitted it, I ran it through Wordle. My protagonist’s name was largest, equal in size to her partner’s name. Well, that made sense. Much smaller, yet clearly the next level of importance, came five words. Two made sense. Three were troubling: Voice, Eyes and Looked.
Yes, these common overused little crutches had inched their way into my story–and I hadn’t spotted them! But Wordle did. I did a search on my text and analyzed each usage. After changing these words and phrasings, I ran the story again. Viola! Clean story, with the themes showing largest (after the names). Off the story went, vastly improved. And I’ve added a new weapon in my arsenal of writerly tricks.
(I didn’t save my story’s Wordle cloud, but I did run one on my post about the wooly-worms. It’s at the top.)