Writers read, as the old axiom goes. This is a series of posts I’m doing about my reading and what it shows about me.
I’m in a bit of a stuck place at the moment — I’ve got the basics of what I want to write about written down, but figuring out what I want to read about and writing that niche market got me thinking about what I actually like to read. Maybe the book I’m writing isn’t something I’d be interested in reading and that’s where the problem is.
So I went back to my 5 star YA books, and started poking around. You can’t get much from the title of books, nor the author, and while I could note down what each of the books was about, why would I put in that effort when I could throw their blurbs into my stats machine?
I grabbed the blurbs for 23 fantasy ya books with 5 star ratings (the list from last week’s post, but without Tamora Pierce or Diane Duane, as I felt those books were more about what things shaped me, rather than what I love to read). From there I went to goodreads and grabbed their blurbs and then started messing around with the words contained within.
This isn’t as simple as it sounds on the outset — when you throw a bunch of text into a word frequency counter, words like “don’t” get split into two words “don” and “t”. Additionally, words with “–” in them end up getting mashed together. So there was a need for a bit of clean up. But beyond that, there were plenty of words that essentially were the same word, but maybe had a plural to it, or were a different tense, and these words get counted separately.
I ended up going through the list to divide them out (a very manual process) to end up at the word cloud above.
From there, let me draw a few conclusions.
Top used word: “but”
Keep in mind these are words that come from blurbs and I got rid of all the “the”s and “a”s to keep the list clean. But is an interesting word only in that it shows that there’s some sort of misinformation the characters have. With the word ‘but’ appearing 31 times, it appeared 1.34 times per blurb.
Unsurprisingly, given these are fantasy novels, the next four words feel very fantasy. World definitely feels like a word that would indicate that I love the book as world building is a huge part of my love of books. As is magic. The other two words, “one” and “all” indicate a certain amount of sweeping epic, which, again sounds rather like something I would love to write.
[Math note: since this is just for fun and I’m talking about myself, I’m not being particularly rigorous about proving my point — if this were a study, or I was doing actual stats, these conclusions would be very iffy. I’m clearly cherry picking and it’s not good math form.]
Most surprising word: dragon
I love dragons as much as the next person, but in the top 23 ya fantasy books, I didn’t expect to see dragon show up so much. Clearly this is something to keep in mind.
Less surprising but I wasn’t aware of it as strongly: “father”, “family”, “friend”.
Found family is a big thing for me. I love stories that tell you it’s okay to chose who you spend your time with and collecting people around you to make up the family that you have picked out as yours.