Word Clouds, a way to quickly catch someone’s eye?

So, what is a word cloud?  A word cloud or word map is a type of weighted list where the more prominent something is, the larger it appears on the visual graphic.  In this case, we’re talking about words.  A site called Wordle makes it ridiculously easy to generate.  Simply paste your text into the box and hit generate.  Then it lets you play around with styles, fonts, colors, etc…  The application is JAVA based and unfortunately cannot generate a picture file that you can save.  It is pretty easy to take a screenshot however.   Here is the word cloud for my novel “Grave Shift”.  Clearly, Rhuna needs a bigger role.  Additionally, it’s easy to see that I’m using some words probably way too frequently.  A Word Cloud will now let me put some weaker words, in this case,’just’, ‘like’, ‘going’, ‘looked’, and a few others, firmly in the cross hairs of my word-processor’s Search function.  In some cases, the words might be fine, but I’m guessing that more often than not, those words (‘just’) could probably be eliminated or replaced to make my prose stronger.

I really like how a word cloud for a novel could work almost as a mini-teaser for the book.  You get to see the most frequently used words at a glance and those words, if they’re the right ones, might pique a reader’s interest.  It only takes a few seconds to look at and might actually be the hook we need to hook a reader.  I could even see a more tailored word cloud might be more useful where you can just put the “tags” that might describe your subject matter into a word cloud and then the title of the book on some promotional material or maybe a web ad.

Taking that idea and running with it, I decided to make a manipulated word map.  I typed a bunch of text, but instead of it being the actual text of my work.  I decided it was just going to consist of the character names, some keywords of some things I made up, some key words covering the main plot points of the book and some of the main settings, and some other keywords thrown in.  I made sure that the most frequent words would be “Grave” and “Shift”.  I did this by just cutting and pasting them about a dozen times.  Everything else, I did in less frequency and I didn’t really pay attention.  Just cut paste, over and over.  I wound up with some happy accidents like with the word “Blood” which turns out, shows up a lot more than I thought, as in “Blood Club” – a setting.  “Blood Dealer” – a character…etc…

But I could see how you might be able to use something like this on promotional materials for a book.  Almost like an instant book trailer.  Sure we still need the hook text on the back of the book.  But this could serve as a quick ‘keyword resume’ for your work.  You might want to throw in the genre in there as a couple of the words too and then play with the colors to draw the eye to certain words first.  I’m sure there are marketing studies and materials that have the research on what fonts/colors the eye is drawn to first. I’m just scratching the surface here.  It took me longer to write this post than it did to make both word clouds.  Keep that in mind.  If you really put some time into this, you could come up with something rather incredible.  Obviously, you have way more control if you’re using a graphic design program to build your word cloud.  But I did this in a matter of minutes and it is a pretty good start.

Definitely something to think about.  I know I’ll be messing with this a lot more.

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