Saturday, 29 May 2010

Writing By Numbers


I remember reading an article (though I can't find the reference) about book titles. Some people had done a study of every book in the bestseller lists for the last fifty years in order to discover what titles made a book sell. They concluded that the most successful form was participle noun and that the most successful subjects to mention were death and flowers. They concluded that the perfect title for a bestseller would be Killing Roses. I disagreed and thought it should be Blooming Murder, or maybe Dead-Heading Begonias.

The world is awash with theories, formulas and recipes for writing. The BBC has an article today saying, with surprise, that in the lyrics of the winning entries of the Eurovision Song Contest one word in every fifty is Love.

This is nothing.

The BBC produces a word-cloud of the lyrics, which looks like this:

(Reproduced from the BBC website without the faintest whiff of permission)

This is also nothing.

Most Eurovision contestants are trying to launch a pop career. These are their first singles. But they're getting it all wrong. There was a band whose first single consisted of 109 words, of which 24 were love. That comes out at around 23%. There were also only eight words of more than one syllable. Their word-cloud looked like this:


The single only reached number sixteen in the charts, but the band did go on to become mildly successful.



N.B. When, a few years ago, Paul McCartney (who wrote Love Me Do) published a volume of poetry, he included all four verses of Why Don't We Do It In The Road?, which made me smile. (If you don't know the lyrics see this link).

4 comments:

  1. Slaughtering Sunflowers?

    The Execution of a Petunia?

    Bludgeoned blooms?

    Sound like moneymakers to me!

    What about Vampires? Does it say anything about Vampires, or the moon, being important in the title of a bestseller?

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  2. It's not just your ability to write that I'm envious of, but the ideas you come up with. There's no end to them, lucky for me.

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  3. "Some people had done a study of every book in the bestseller lists for the last fifty years in order to discover what titles made a book sell."

    If I remember rightly, that is why Alan Coren called one of his books 'Golfing for Cats' and put a swastika on the cover.

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  4. Re: Paul McCartney.

    Matthew Welton wrote 'Linus and Lucy' thirty-six times and was published by Carcanet.

    Mutter, mutter.

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