Thursday, July 24, 2008

Word Clouds.

Thanks very much to Jim Murdoch for putting me on to this site - a great procrastination tool. You feed a block of text into it and it creates a 'word cloud'. You can also play around with font, colour and layout, but I think it's quite nice to see what you get in a lucky dip. This is the cloud for the first chapter of my new novel. When I get home I'm going to feed the entire Sound of Butterflies manuscript into it to see what it comes up with. I think it's beautiful - it's a bit like a list but more poetic and artistic. These are going on the wall above my computer for inspiration. Not wasting time at all, oh no.


Anonymous said...

how super sexy is that - artwork for writers -will play later today...instant gratification I think - do blog how SOB looks like ( butterflies would be wierd but lovely)

Did you see that article on the Guardian a few days ago where writers had to define their work by one word - was thinking of posting mine, but cannot decide.....

Matt said...

Wow, how do you define genre, mode or trope in one word? Why would anyone do that? False challenge.

Rach - do you remember an English 301 tutorial about 20 years ago at UofA when we were gathered at Sebastian Black's feet, and we were arguing over Achebe or Naipaul or Soyinka, and I opined that I thought magic realism was similar to the basic themes of Lord of the Rings? Case being, one line of metaphorical base is no less than another line of metaphorical base.

From memory, Sebastian launched into an extraordinary defence of the African writers and suggested not only that I was profoundly confused and naive (disclosure: I was 19 at the time) but that parallels simply couldn't be drawn between writers in and of empires, and writers in and of post-colonial experience.

I chose Asian History for my Masters.

This raises for me issues of how a love of writing and its attendant study is progressed, esp in term of organisational sociology. If the content of courses is fabulous, and the delivery is less so, does the greater writing community and their potential beneficiaries (written, read, loved, provided challenge or fulfillment, or hated and provoked) then doesn't the wider community lose something?

Anyhow, one person's experience with a bombastic professor. No more, no less.


In broad terms, the way writing is put forward into the public domain and its allied industries and sociologies is less studied than I would like. Sound suggestions of studies Ive missed most welcome.

Vanda Symon said...

Gee, thanks Rachael for introducing me to another black hole of time!

Hmmm, what words to plug in first?

Rachael King said...

Vanda - it takes a whole novel. Put the whole Overkill manuscript in there and see what you come up with! It is so much fun.

Rachael King said...

Matt - I think I can almost decipher what you are talking about. I made mention of that Post-colonial paper and Sebastian Black in another post - did you see it? You might have got a mention also.

I think I even remember him shooting you down, but I still thought you were cool.

Anonymous said...

been playing word clouds but can't seem to upload image to my blog, oh well.

I think the distillation of a writers novel or body of work to a word is just a fun experiment - of course the writers I read announced their word and then wrote a few paragraphs of words explaining their original choice... I have based my whole novel on a word, so perhaps that is why it appeals to word can be a spark that makes a forest fire...

Rachael King said...

Here's how to do it: save the word cloud in the gallery, then click on it. It will come up with the cloud, then scroll down and it gives you some html to paste in. You can't make it very big unfortunately (unless you know more than I do about html).

Jim Murdoch said...

So you managed it. Good.

Matt said...

Rach - cool is as cool does. As is Forrest.

But this plays to the organisational sociology point; why would big gun prof have go at a student ? My sociolinguistics profs weren't like that. At the painful point when I left English, at least I had a history crowd who were modest, prudent, subtle; no charging around on desks etc.

I'll have look at your post-colonial post, as the mood, tenor and substance is still pretty raw where I am and how we experience it.

Hey, try a word cloud on me.

Best, love to you and anklebiter


Mary McCallum said...

Ok, Rachael, despite some cynicism I did it. See (grovelling) post and previous one about the novel as love affair.

Mary McCallum said...

One more thing -- I enlarged my word cloud in 'compose' not 'html' although it's not very clear.

Anonymous said...

I discovered this a while back, and it's actually quite salutary. For instance, the size that different names and words are tells you interesting things in a wonderfully right-brained, intuitive way, about how the novel works.

It might sound a bit mad, but it reminded me of some of the weird exercises we used to do on my drama degree to get at the dynamics of the relationships the play was dealing with. Sometimes you have to sneak round the back to circumvent our normal, logical, sequential, left-brained ways of seing things.

Rachael King said...

Matt - I think you might be over-thinking things a little. You had one lecturer who beahved perhaps inapprpriately. I don't know if it warrants a whole sociological theory.

Mary - welcome to the world of wordclouds! Quite pretty aren't thye? I fed TSOB into it but I didn't liek teh results as much as my current one, which emphasises 'collection' 'cabinet' 'tattoo' and 'taxidermy'. TSOB seemed to just be all about Thomas. Perhaps it works best on a first person narrative where a name is't the most frequently used word?

Anyway, I'm happy to say that I didn't start a new addiction. I haven't had another look at it since then. It was a nice distraction for a while.

Emma - nice way of looking at it.