Thursday, November 17, 2005

Algorithms and Author Gender

Hey, thanks, y’all, for the kind comments from yesterday. I continue to muddle along, and don’t you worry, I’ll get into the flow of things yet.

For today, check this out, in light of our recent conversations about my tendency to make up verbs and such. Remember how a few years ago Donald Foster pegged Joe Klein as “Anonymous,” the author of the book about Bill and Hillary Clinton, Primary Colors?

Which was made into a movie, starring John Travolta. Who also starred in Saturday Night Fever. Which featured the BeeGee’s “Stayin’ Alive.” Which is this blog’s theme song, thanks to y’all BGs.

Hah! “Six Steps from Kevin Bacon” proven again.

But I digress.

Anyway, this Foster guy proved Klein, who lied like a dog sayin’ he didn’t write the book, really did write it. Foster ended up writing his own book about this investigation and others he’s done, called Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous. Foster’s proven theory is that no two authors write alike. We each leave our “literary fingerprints” on our work. Foster paid particular attention to Klein’s overuse of adverbs, hyphens, and capitalization, among other things. After studying this writer’s idiosyncrasies, Foster insisted it was Klein, even when Klein continued in his denials. (For awhile, anyway, until the jig was up.)

Makes you realize there really is something to this author voice thing, huh.

Well, the above I knew about. This I did not. I’ve just been introduced to The Gender Genie. GG uses algorithms to determine which gender is speaking. You can copy a portion of your work (500 words minimum is best), submit it at the Web site—and presto! It’ll tell you if the speaker’s a guy or gal. What a cool little device for when you’re writing in the POV of a character of the opposite persuasion.

What’s most interesting is the typical things we might look for to show gender in a passage aren’t what GG looks for. If your eyes don’t cross (as mine do), you can scan through the abstract that explains how GG works.

I challenge you to try GG out. See if your male character really sounds male, and your females sound female. And remember, it’ll have nothing to do with the topic of conversation. It’s how the conversation is worded.

Fascinating stuff. Now if I could only find an algorithm that would write Coral Moon for me.


eileen said...

Oh terrific. So much for male POV. S i g h. Back to the drafting board!

Unknown said...

Yeah, that gender genie thing is neat. I keep meaning to share the link on my blog. How accurate is it you think? Maybe I'll have to put it to the test. Dare I ask about the 6 degrees to Kevin Bacon? Is getting Footloose with Kyra's man a young BC's dream? :)

Tina Helmuth said...

GG is a neat tool. I was excited when I tested my first male POV and it said the author was male. But then my other male POV came up as female. I guess I couldn't disguise my femininity for long.
By the way, Gina, the Kevin Bacon thing… There’s a theory that everyone can be connected to Kevin Bacon in no more than 6 steps. "My hairdresser knows the cousin of the guy who dated the girl who does Kevin’s wardrobe." That sort of thing. I think they may have even made a board game out of it.

Stuart said...

hmm... well my entire book is written from a male PoV, but I took some samples of dialgoue from two bit female characters & my main female.

The bits, two crusty old miners came across as authored by a male. But my main female, a dainty 2' tall engineer, came across female, so that was good. :)

C.J. Darlington said...

2' tall. Do I dare ask?

Pammer said...

Welll, I put in a passage from my male's POV, came back as male. Kewl. So then, just for fun, I put in something from my female's POV (I mean I am a female, I have this down pat, right?) NOT. It came back as male. And when I informed them they were wrong, they said "Man, that is one butch chick!" :0
So I write like a guy?
Oh well, lol.

(((((((((BC)))))))))) Someday your words will come. :0) And it will be soon. Then you will be typing so fast, smoke will be arising from that Coral Moon.

Praying for you.