Can science predict a successful novel?

Writing Wranglers and Warriors


This post by Craig Snider

I recently read an article from NPR about a recent study by Stony Brook University, who created an algorithm that identified stylistic markers of successful novels. This allowed researchers to accurately (up to 84%) predict the success of a novel, though it is important to note that “success” was commercial rather than critical.

While we all know that art cannot be quantified, and that the public often gobbles up works that seem to have been written by a twelve year old, it is interesting to note some the of the results of the study. The one that caught my eye was this: “The researchers found that books that used a lot of “thinking verbs,” such as “remember,” or “recognize,” were more successful than ones with plenty of “emotional or action verbs,” such as “jump” or “shout” or “cry.” And contrary to the accepted wisdom, books…

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