Many authors are surprised to find out who they are emulating because they have never actually read another person's book or poem.
Just cut and paste a short nugget from your unfinished novel, an old term paper or the dirty limerick you wrote on a napkin, and before you can say Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the computer analyzes your word choices, sentence length, rhythm and structure. In seconds you know if you write more like Gore Vidal or Al Gore ...more like John Milton or Milton Berle.
The results are not based on any real science, sort of like the BP Web site.
I took three of my recent newspaper humor columns and entered a few of the funniest paragraphs. Was I as wry as Buchwald or Bombeck?
Apparently not. Instead, my style was likened to Charlotte and Emily Bronte, the Smothers Brothers of the 19th century.
I tried a few lines from the column where I debate my wife on whether condiments spoil when left unrefrigerated. I entered: "Certain topics like religion and politics should be always be avoided. But I had not anticipated the one thing that would cause dissent in our marriage: mayonnaise."
So who do I write like? Leo Tolstoy, they told me.
In the 14 novels Tolstoy wrote, I doubt there are more than half a dozen references to mayonnaise.
However, in one of his racier books, Leo does include a graphic description of a Russian dressing.
I tried another paragraph, this time from a column about a recent Wolfsie family vacation: Europeans winter in the Grand Canyon. Asians summer in the Grand Canyon. Americans usually fall there. About 600 feet.
That's just an average. Your actual plummet may vary.
In this case, I was compared to Margaret Atwood. I googled her and there was a great deal of chatter in the blogs about her "eagerly awaited new novel."
That was the only similarity between us I could see. The world is also waiting for my novel. Not eagerly, of course, and it will be a much longer wait.
Next I typed in my To Do list: "Pick up milk. Fix screen door. Wash car." This mini-masterpiece was correctly pegged as Hemingway-like.
Then I tried the first few lines of my resume, which were deemed similar to H. P. Lovecraft, an author I was not familiar with.
Ironically, this is exactly what people say when they pick up my books.
Then I entered: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
This is the first line from the classic novel "Pride and Prejudice."
According to iwritelike.com, this style is similar to that of (and I am not making this up) Chuck Norris.
Maybe in Chuck's autobiography, he says things like, "I'm in want of someone's leg to break."
I am a little surprised. I always thought his nimble technique leans more toward Emily Dickinson.
Once they inform you who your style is most reminiscent of, they provide links to Amazom.com where you can buy books written by the very people you've been inadvertently copying for years. That info then heads to the U.S. Department of Justice, which does not take lightly even the hint of plagiarism.
You could go to jail with others who have committed this same offense.
In fact, you'll get similar sentences.
For the past 16 years on WISH-TV's Daybreak, Dick Wolfsie has lent his unique brand of wit and humor to the screen. His video essays and personal stories are unique to Indiana television.
Many are syndicated nationally.
This former high school and college English teacher has logged over 10,000 hours of television. Wolfsie's work in the media has netted him over a dozen awards including a regional Emmy for best host, a national ACE award and a Casper Award for five years as host and producer of AM Indiana.
He has hosted talk shows in New York, Chicago, Boston and Columbus, Ohio. Dick served as a regular host for a series of multimedia cable talk shows originating in New York and broadcast throughout the US and Canada.
Dick has extensive radio experience, including his own talk show on WIBC. He has published articles for Indianapolis Monthly and several national publications. He has also written and produced stories for WFYI's Across Indiana.
Dick is a weekly humor columnist for 25 central Indiana newspapers. An audio version of his column can be heard on WFYI every weekend right after Car Talk.
He has written 12 books, including his bestseller Indiana Curiosities. Dick's newest book, Mornings with Barney, was just released as is now available.
He lives in Indianapolis with his wife Mary Ellen, an administrator at Butler University. They have one son, Brett who is a sophomore at the University of Indianapolis.