Are from Jane Austen arrive James Patterson, each author has their own way of writing. And that text is often discussed in terms of “style”. Essentially, style refers to “the way” something is written – it’s more concerned with form than content. So, for example, when someone comments that they “liked the story” but “didn’t like the way it was written,” they are commenting on style.
If you want to see examples of different styles in action, just compare something like “The Hobbit” by JRR Tolkien arrive “Ulysses” by James Joyce. “The Hobbit” is written for a general audience, it’s a good classic story told in clear, accessible language. Ulysses is a more difficult book to read, full of confusing terms, complicated wording, and confusing references to other materials.
Obviously, Joyce still tells a story in Ulysses (and a great one at that), but he’s not just interested in telling his story. Joyce is also using the structure and language of the novel to test form and challenge established ideas about what literature should look like.
But while the style varies between authors, it doesn’t look like it will change too much between writers from the same family. In my recent research, I’ve looked at the authors’ literary styles in relation to each other to see how their writing compares. Most members of the same literary family that I have examined tend to write in similar ways.
It is increasingly common to check an author’s style based on their particular word choice with a process known as “stylographic comparison”. Stylometry uses a computer to statistically measure the most frequently encountered words in the text. Authors are consistent with how often they use certain words, so counting words can tell how a particular author or group of authors tends to write.
The stylistic measure most commonly used to attribute authorship, answers (often unfounded) questions around who actually wrote a particular novel, as is the case with “howling wind hill” and “Set a watchman. “
But the comparison is not only useful in cases where the authorship of a text is disputed, it can also be used to analyze stylistic similarities more generally. And literary families offer a unique opportunity to study why authors write in certain ways because kinship tends to develop in similar social settings.
in my search, I used the barometric measurement to examine the writing styles of the following literary families: Kingsley and Martin Amis (father-son), Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë (sisters), William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley (parent-daughter), AS Byatt and Margaret Drabble (sister), W. Somerset and Robin Maugham (uncle-grandson), John le Carré and Nick Harkaway (father-son).
The results showed that the relatives involved often wrote in a similar style. Without exception, each tested author was grouped with other members of their family. This means that computers can distinguish different families, based on their respective spellings, with 100% accuracy. The next stage will be to conduct a larger study with more families to see if this trend is more widespread.
This recent test was reminded by my former study on Brontës (perhaps one of the most famous literary families), which suggests that, compared with some of their peers, the Brontë siblings share a remarkably similar literary style. This is perhaps not surprising when you consider the extent to which Brontës are known to have cooperate, but this trend also appears to be consistent across other families.
The creative collaborations seen with families like the Brontës are common practice among all writing relatives. But it is still important to see that the influence of family is so strong that it can be detected using styled techniques. This may indicate that essential features of an author’s voice can be inherently connected to their formative environment and upbringing.
Nature v nurture
But such findings also revive the (perhaps weary) debate between nature and nurture. Mary Shelley, who is known for her writing skills”Frankenstein, “group with her parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft.
While stylistic similarities among the other literary families analyzed may have been due to collaboration, Mary Shelley never knew her mother when she died 10 days after Mary was born. And yet, they still share similar literary styles.
Her mother’s only novel was published before she began her relationship with Godwin, so it’s unlikely his influence was simply connecting female members of his family. Again, perhaps Mary Shelley had a similar upbringing to Mary Wollstonecraft.
Or perhaps there is something other than upbringing, something inherited simply passed from mother to daughter. Although such an explanation seems highly unlikely, it is undeniable that Mary Shelley, unbeknownst to her mother, grew up to resemble her literary style.
Maybe then, being an author was just in one’s blood.
https://www.salon.com/2022/01/01/the-bronts-shelleys-and-kingsley-and-martin-amis-research-suggests-relatives-share-writing-styles_partner/ Brontës, Shelleys & Kingsley and Martin Amis: Research shows relatives share a writing style