Welcome back to What’s the Score?, the series in which we take novels from famous and bestselling authors, and put them to the test using the AutoCrit editing platform.
Report by report, we’ll give you an unparalleled look inside the workings of some of the most respected authors in every corner of the publishing industry.
Plus, you’ll get to see why the AutoCrit method is so powerful, and discover how to interpret report results for the maximum benefit of your manuscripts!
In this edition, we’re taking a trip to the furthest reaches of award-winning 1989 sci-fi novel Hyperion by Dan Simmons.
Please note this article contains short excerpts from the book, which you may want to avoid looking at too closely if you wish to avoid (minor) story spoilers.
DISCLAIMER: Note that this series is not designed to provide any kind of qualitative judgment nor a critique of the works dissected. As an exercise in exploration, What’s the Score? offers unique insight for us word nerds as to the linguistic makeup of specific novels, and evokes discussion of possible editing strategies in retrospect. All novels chosen for inspection have already proved immensely successful and stand as a testament to the author’s talents.
Summary Score and Fingerprint
Using AutoCrit’s “General Fiction” comparison setting, Constance arrives with an overall summary score of 73.88.
(You can compare all the scores we’ve uncovered so far by clicking here to see the rest of the series on this blog.)
Looking at the novel’s fingerprint, we can see the highest number of indicators appear in the Strong Writing category, followed by Word Choice and then Repetition. Indicators in the Pacing & Momentum category appear pleasantly low, which is a good sign.
FitzSimmons’ choice of dialogue tags throughout Constance definitely seems to abide by the rule of mostly using said and asked whenever possible, but alternatives do of course pop up from time to time.
Checking the most frequently used tags, we can see that said is the most common, followed by asked, replied, and demanded.
Both said and asked are indicated by AutoCrit as being overused, and therefore prime for some trimming – but that isn’t always necessarily the case. Seeing these two common tags as overused simply means this particular novel is likely heavier on dialogue than we would normally see in the commercial market.
Said, in fact, features 586 times throughout Constance, whereas the average fiction novel of this length would sport around 433 instances. Other alternate tags only require a little trim here and there.
Looking deeper into the novel, we find that dialogue tags do need to be used more often due to the context of the story, which involves clones. It’s an interesting factor to think about: since readers will be picturing scenes unfolding in their minds, leaving out dialogue tags too often as conversations bounce back and forth may cause natural confusion. Since the imagined faces of the cloned characters will look the same, a reader could find themselves accidentally losing track of who exactly has said what as they’re trying to visualize the progression of a scene.
Next up, we’re taking a look at adverbs attached to dialogue tags, and the result is a mere 57; just 5% of all dialogue in the book.
Considering we can already assume that Constance features plenty of dialogue, this is a very good result. In terms of recommended edits, AutoCrit detects only four: warily, rhetorically, genuinely, and defiantly.
In most cases, the way things are said by characters can be better inferred to the reader through the context of the scene, and the manner in which the character behaves when speaking. Sometimes, however, an adverb simply works as shorthand to get the message across. In any case, there are no serious issues obvious here when it comes to Constance.
General use of adverbs throughout Constance (not in dialogue) also comes in at a highly respectable level, slipping just past AutoCrit’s “good” benchmark and heading in the direction of “great.”
Leading the way in terms of overuse, we can see really, already, exactly, simply, and actually.
In many cases, these kinds of adverbs will be present inside dialogue – and if that’s the case, generally you will want to leave them there. People do often use adverbs and fluffy/non-specific words when talking, and trying to remove them entirely from every area of your manuscript can leave characters sounding robotic.
Another area where it may not be wholly beneficial to excise the entirety of detected words is when we reach the realm of “filler words.”
Here we can see Constance hitting right up into the red line of excess, with 2,321 detected filler words peppered throughout.
By a huge margin, the greatest offender here is the word “that,” which is indeed (from our research) the most common filler word writers tend to use.
With a huge total of 1,433 instances, AutoCrit recommends that 387 instances of that be removed to bring the manuscript into line with general expectations. That’s more than a quarter of all occurrences.
After some time digging into the manuscript, however, it seems the use of the word that by Matthew FitzSimmons often adds a particular literary cadence to his narration – especially in the book’s opening chapters.
Preservation of author voice is always a concern, and a prime goal for AutoCrit, which is why our platform won’t let you simply click a button to automatically remove all indicated words from your manuscript. While there are certainly more than a handful of instances of that which could be excised from Constance, it is quite obvious that the word factors strongly into FitzSimmons’ own voice, which is something that should be respected.
There are few surprises in store once we reach our Initial Pronouns & Names report, which sports a result we’ve come to expect from commercial fiction: 40.03% of sentences begin with either a pronoun or a character name.
At 9.58%, the number of sentences that begin with an -ing verb or a conjunction such as and or but lies somewhere in the middle of the total we tend to see within commercial fiction.
See More: View Our Full Exploration
Enjoyed this quick look behind the curtain of Constance by Matthew FitzSimmons? Check out the rest of our complete dive over on the AutoCrit YouTube channel!
Looking at additional aspects of this interesting novel, we tackle:
- The book’s pacing, which takes an interesting opening tactic.
- The authors use of showing and telling, which offers another element of surprise.
- Readability scoring.
- The story’s emotional map by way of Power Words.
- And more!