We’re constantly exploring new approaches to understanding the structure of books, and most of the data we generate through this ongoing research doesn’t appear on the website. From an academic or book nerd perspective, though, we do enjoy talking about some of our work.
One of the areas that we’ve been playing with is how to visualize the thematic flow of a book. A book isn’t a flat, two-dimensional thing, so book summary statistics – such as that a book is 17% about Vampires – only partially represents what a book is about. Any reader will tell you that a book has ebbs and flows, like currents in a river. Like a Thematic Current. And visualizing it can be interesting.
One of our engineers took some time to give it a shot.
Below you can see the full infographic, put together by one of our engineers as a way to demonstrate a graphing technique he’s been playing with. The book used in the example below is called A Year and a Day by Virginia Henley. It just happened to be the book he was working with at the time, but we can produce these graphs from any book we’ve analyzed. The story takes place in same time – and with many of the same primary historical characters – as the movie Braveheart. As you can see, the thematic currents of this book deal heavily with ancient or medieval setting, strong romance, family (much of the story deals with having heirs), and warfare. More specifically, you can see where major battles occur, where major romantic engagements occur, and where pain and suffering occurs during and after combat.
The work that went into creating this graph was mostly driven out of personal curiosity on the part of our technical team. Scene-by-scene thematic and writing style data is something we collect during the typical analysis of a book, but putting that data to good use can be a bit more creative.
StoryDNA Referenced in this Article
Normally we’d give you a bullet list of links to any thematic or StoryDNA that we referenced. However, the StoryDNA used in this graph is based on a different branch of research than what’s currently driving the BookLamp.org site. They have parallels, but isn’t something built out for public consumption, yet. We’re expanding our categorization procedures and abilities all the time, so this isn’t surprising, and is part of what lays the groundwork for new features as they come out. Recently I actually spotted a StarCraft theme emerge from our dataset, which I’m personally a fan of. Still waiting on my Cthulhu DNA though.