A word cloud is a collage of words generated from a text file by software. It’s cute, it’s cool, and it’s easy—if you aren’t too demanding. I am. Here’s one for my short story Vickie Falls to Vegas.
Words that occur frequently in the text appear bigger and more often in the cloud. Often a concordance of the words with their frequency is also generated. This helps writers understand which words they overuse, but the cloud also gives insight into the story.
Always needing readers, I thought to take this one step further: make a cloud that will attract readers to the damned story! So I began my quest to make a cloud that encapsulates my short story, The Barfly.
I found this article that gives a summary of nine cloud generators,[Link >>>
Article] I settled on Tagxedo; it provides great design flexibility. You can select color patterns, font styles, and output forms, as well as tinker with other output parameters, none explained—just pretend you’re playing Myst. [Tagxedo]
After hours of messing around with the levers and buttons, I generated the following output.
It’s pretty but it doesn’t tell much about the story. Tagxedo already filters many common words but with the “Skip” function you can choose more words you want to toss out of the cloud. This can be exhausting, but we don’t learn anything about the story from proper names or words like: start, stop, right, left, high and low, so they all must go. Be warned, when you dump one word there’s another one standing there. Here’s the result:
That’s when I had satari: The last sentence of your story could be, “He shot the stranger in the back and left him to bleed.” You may only use “shot” and “bleed” once, but they are darned important to the story.
I generated a whole new file of 10-20 key words, some from the skip list I had been editing, others from my knowledge of the story. I weighed these with values 1-5. The most important words were repeated 5 times; the least, once. Although still not perfect, the following is my final image. It’s now clear to anyone that The Barfly is about flirtation and sex; alien seduction, not abduction.
Probable, Possible, and Ugh
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