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Writing the Blockbuster Novel

  by Albert Zuckerman

(about 316 pages)
total words
of all the books in our library
of all the books in our library
passive voice
of all the books in our library
all adverbs
of all the books in our library
of all the books in our library
of all the books in our library

clippings from this book

We’ve analyzed hundreds of millions of words, from thousands of different authors, training our linguistic models to recognize the most vivid words in the English language… the words that create the most intense sensory experiences: colors, textures, sounds, flavors, and aromas.

Based on our analysis, we’ve scanned through the pages of this book to find the two pages at the extremes, both the most-passive and the most-vivid pages, so that you can compare them side-by-side and see the difference:

impoverished country priest, arguing that God was good. His father had loved the Russian people because God loved them. It had always been perfectly obvious to Feliks that God hated the people, for He treated them so cruelly. From realizing that God was not good it was a small step to realizing that he was not even there. Logically then Feliks should no longer have cared about the Russian people, but he found that he still did, and ultimately he realized that a human being was the only thing worth caring about. And still he went to church, for he had no other faith. That had changed, ironically, when he went to the school in St. Petersburg to be trained for the priesthood. He had befriended secular students from the University, and had been invited to their lodgings, and had listened to wild talk of republicanism, and democracy, and finally anarchism. Slogans like “All property is theft” had been at first incomprehensible and then revelatory. Anarchism had answered his questions. Why did the nobleman own the land? Answer: He did not own it, he had stolen it from the people. By what right did the Czar govern? Answer: He had no right to govern, he was a tyrant. These notions burst upon Feliks with the impact of truths which, once they have been formulated, are self-evident. It had taken him longer to shake off his father’s philosophy of nonviolence. Back in 1894 he had refused to have anything to do of Charlotte standing in her dress of white tulle embroidered with crystals before a large pier glass being fussed over by a dressmaker and coached in deportment by her mother bring us intimately into the texture of these characters’ daily lives. And these descriptive details don’t seem extraneous or boring, because Follett neatly integrates them into the action between Charlotte and Lydia. In chapter nine, Walden goes to his comfortable old club in Pall Mall (as opposed to his spic-and-span and female-dominated home) to meet Basil Thomson of the Special Branch, hoping to find that the police have caught the assassin. Over an elaborate lunch, Walden unhappily learns from Thomson most of what the reader already knows about Feliks’s vicious past, and then is badly shaken when told that he, Walden, may be the Russian’s next target. But Follett humorously intersperses and counterpoints Thomson’s shocking (to Walden) revelations with details of a gargantuan clubman’s meal representative of the period. The two start with sherry, Brown Windsor soup, poached salmon, and a bottle of hock to wash it down. Their main course, sliced from a joint before them, is mutton with red currant jelly, roast potatoes, and asparagus, which is then followed by a savory of foie gras. Both men refuse Black Forest gâteau, choosing ices instead, and Walden orders half a bottle of champagne. After this they have Stilton cheese and sweet biscuits with some of the club’s vintage port. To finish, Walden takes a peach, Thomson a Melba pear

emotional story arc

Click anywhere on the chart to see the most significant emotional words — both positive & negative — from the corresponding section of the text…
This chart visualizes the the shifting emotional balance for the arc of this story, based on the emotional strength of the words in the prose, using techniques pioneered by the UVM Computational Story Lab. To create this story arc, we divided the complete manuscript text into 50 equal-sized chunks, each with 1579.46 words, and then we scored each section by counting the number of strongly-emotional words, both positive and negative. The bars in the chart move downward whenever there’s conflict and sadness, and they move upward when conflicts are resolved, or when the characters are happy and content. The size of each bar represents the positive or negative word-count of that section.

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