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!
With 29% of the vote in our recent community poll, this month’s addition to AutoCrit’s author comparison selection is none other than famous spinner of gothic tales, Anne Rice.
And to celebrate, we decided to go back to where Rice’s now-legendary vampires made their debut: Interview with the Vampire.
So let’s say hello to Lestat, Louis and “the boy,” as we delve into the content of another bestselling novel and once again ask that all-important question…
What’s the Score?
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
With AutoCrit’s comparison settings on “General Fiction,” Interview with the Vampire gives us an initial summary score of 71.43.
(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 fingerprint analysis, most of our directed editing indicators are in the Strong Writing category (a common initial result), followed up by Repetition and then Word Choice.
So let’s start digging deeper into each of these categories using our preferred order, starting with dialogue.
It’s recommended to avoid, as much as possible, using dialogue tags other than said and asked when writing fiction, and Rice mostly sticks to the rules.
To get a better idea of what could possibly be edited inside Interview with the Vampire, however, it’s best if we check things out directly on the word level.
Said is clearly the tag that’s used most often throughout this manuscript, appearing over six times more than the nearest competitor, asked.
You might notice that both of these are highlighted in red, and that means AutoCrit has figured out that – in comparison to the content of bestselling fiction across all genres – these words are overused.
That’s nothing to worry about, though, and the explanation is very simple: Interview with the Vampire is heavy on dialogue. It is, after all, presented as an ongoing conversation between the main characters. An interview.
So instead of paying much attention to uses of said and asked, we should direct our focus to the others. That’s where AutoCrit’s word-level sidebar comes in handy.
Tags like whispered, gasped and answered are much more worthy of attention, with larger numbers than other alternatives recommended for removal (a whopping 88 for whispered, especially).
As you can expect with a book that contains more dialogue than the average specimen, the amount of these tags you might wish to remove when editing could end up being lower than is recommended – but it’s definitely worth checking whether you might be overusing these alternate tags, especially if they appear multiple times on the same page.
After all, most of the time you can easily use no tags whatsoever and it won’t negatively affect the reading experience at all.
Also related to dialogue is the presence of adverbs – specifically, in the dialogue tags. Interview with the Vampire comes home with 8% of all its dialogue containing a modifying adverb in the tag.
Compared to the books we’ve studied so far, this result lies somewhere in the middle, comparatively.
But we’ll always get a better look at what’s going on when we go that extra step and check out AutoCrit’s word-level reporting…
Far and away the biggest candidate for a trim is the use of softly in dialogue, with 27 instances recommended for removal throughout the body of the manuscript.
A good sign that this might be a wise step (were this your own writing) is that softly also shows up inside AutoCrit’s repetition reports for this manuscript. Above, you can see an example where Lestat twice speaks softly within just a few lines of dialogue. The fact we also have “Soft… so soft…” spoken within the same dialogue adds to this sense of repetition, and can make the prose feel looser than necessary.
Speaking of repetition, the above example of softly isn’t to say that Interview with the Vampire actually has an overall problem with repetition. It doesn’t.
Throughout our time with the novel, we could pinpoint very few instances of words being repeated in close proximity to one another with such regularity that it was ever distracting.
Of course, some words and phrases show up more often than others, but as can be expected for most fiction manuscripts, these words are generally character names and terms central to the theme or story.
You’ll be seeing plenty of the vampire, for example, because that’s how the prose refers to Louis for much of its length. Trimming some use of that phrase would help bring down the number of repetition indicators in AutoCrit’s fingerprint for this novel, but that’s a task for the author to decide. Would doing so make the prose flow better? Or does it feel fine as it is?
Check out our word clouds of the most frequent words and phrases for a visual display. Those written in the largest font appear most often:
What's YOUR Score?
Strong Writing is the category where Interview with the Vampire flagged the most indicators – so what do we need to look at, here?
Let’s start with the overall number of adverbs inside the prose…
Falling between “good” and “great” on the gauge, Interview with the Vampire looks to be in good stead compared to the standards of bestselling fiction.
Getting down to the word level, though, we can still see a broad selection of overused words:
Our friend softly is near the top for recommended removals, here, looking for a cut as close to 55 instances as possible. Also sharing the limelight are suddenly and slowly.
We know that adverbs can be something of a blessing and a curse – but mostly a curse. Yes, they can be a simple (or even necessary) way to frame things like physical movement, but most of the time they’re not as good as better verbs.
It could be much more effective if a character darted rather than moved quickly, for example – it’s well worth the time spent to comb through your recommended adverbs and see what you can remove or substitute.
A great way to do that is to note your highlighted words and also check whether they appear in the repetition reports, as we found here with softly.
Moving on, we’re taking a look at the number of filler words in Interview with the Vampire – and we’re pushed right up to the top of the gauge.
If you’d like to make a guess at what the most common unnecessary filler words might be, make it now!
Quite possibly the most common filler word in any writing ever committed to paper, we discover that is what tops our chart for this manuscript. Backing it up are then, seemed, even and very.
Though it may seem like a small range of individual filler words to deal with, the reason AutoCrit’s gauge is so high is because of the sheer number of removals that are recommended.
In the sample above we can see quite a strong cluster of filler words spaced throughout only a few paragraphs – but it also shows us something else that can be quite important.
Since Interview with the Vampire is heavy on dialogue and something of a narrative within a narrative (sometimes within another narrative), it’s likely we’re going to see a lot more filler words used than you might expect in standard fiction prose.
That’s because people do naturally use a lot of filler in their speech. Pushing too hard to remove any and all filler words in dialogue could have the unwanted effect of making your characters sound fake and stunted, so it isn’t always necessarily the right move to make.
Since we’re comparing this manuscript on AutoCrit’s General Fiction setting right now, the recommendations don’t take this more nuanced element of extended dialogue use into account.
That said, lines such as, “I meant that I was wrong about myself…” could easily be edited to remove the single filler word, without suffering any ill effects.
Keep this concept in mind when writing your own stories and you’ll quickly learn to detect filler words yourself, and judge straight away whether you actually need them.
Moving to the next part of this section, let’s take a look at any showing vs. telling indicators in Rice’s manuscript…
Our gauge is in a good initial position for this one, but we can still see overuse across a wide range of words, such as see, know, saw, felt and knew.
Going back to the nature of the interview-style prose throughout Interview with a Vampire, though, it’s easy to see why much of this overuse might be the case. Since much of the story is relayed as memory by Louis himself, it’s to be expected that he’s going to be telling us (or the boy, specifically) directly how he felt, or about things he saw or knew – or even things Lestat saw or knew.
Getting around this isn’t necessarily easy, since there’s going to be much more telling going on here than the showing we’re more easily afforded through a more omniscient style of narration.
If you were writing a story in this same kind of style, the best place to look for potential edits would be within your own wider narration and scene-building, rather than risking your characters’ speech sounding too overblown or unrealistic by having them speak with a wholly literary feel.
When it comes to strong writing, consistency is also a key factor – so let’s take a look at consistency of tense in Interview with the Vampire.
At a glance, our report makes it easy to tell that this is a story written in past tense – as you would expect, based on its setup. You’ll naturally get quite a high number of present tense indicators coming through from character speech, so don’t worry about that if your chart looks much the one above.
Also key to consistency is Point of View. Overall, Interview with the Vampire is a third person narrative – something we can easily confirm within the first few minutes of reading.
In the case of this novel, however, we’re going to see higher than usual numbers of first person indicators given the abundance of dialogue (characters will almost exclusively speak in the first person, naturally).
Finally, let’s see where we stand with redundancies and clichés…
When it comes to redundancies, with just 0.89% of sentences across the entire novel sporting a redundant phrase, Rice proves she’s an author who knows how to keep her information varied and interesting.
A reading of 8.55% sentences containing a known cliché term or phrase, however, puts Interview with a Vampire above the other novels we’ve inspected in this regard. The key to explaining this likely rests once more in the book’s narrative approach, which feeds us its information primarily from the blood-stained lips of character Louis.
How Does Your Book Compare?
Flying our way over to the Word Choice category, we’ll begin with a look into any generic descriptors found within Interview with the Vampire.
Our initial gauge reading lands squarely on the average mark for bestselling fiction, and we have a relatively small but heavily-used range of generic descriptors to handle.
These include words like great, suddenly, low and looked.
If you remember, suddenly was also a word that appeared as a strong recommendation for attention in the adverbs report. Keeping an eye out for words that appear across multiple reports in that same kind of manner should give you an excellent idea of where you can focus your editing efforts in your own work.
As we’ve seen in previous investigations, it’s quite rare to find a book where more than 50% of sentences begin with a pronoun or character name. Interview with the Vampire doesn’t make any grand efforts to thwart this, coming in at 46.44% and avoiding any potential repetitiveness that such a choice might cause.
We have 19.8% of sentences beginning a conjunction (which we call “sentence starters”), the most common choice of which in this manuscript is the word and.
Sentence starters aren’t much of a problem unless you’re using them too close to one another too often. The example above shows multiple sentences beginning with and within a small window, but none really feel detrimental to the reading experience.
As a last touch for the Word Choice category, let’s see how the emotional map of Interview with the Vampire looks based on Rice’s use of power words:
Leading the way here are fear, lust, encouragement and anger – which sounds like a fair overview of tone-setting emotions for this vampiric lamentation!
Pacing & Momentum
Keeping the pace going isn’t any problem whatsoever for Rice, as Interview with the Vampire comes in with a tiny 0.67% of paragraphs detected as slower-paced.
Looking at the chart, we can see those paragraphs (the red lines on the bottom axis) are few and quite well spaced – so this is a tremendous result for pacing.
Checking Rice’s sentence and paragraph analyses, we can see she uses an average of 13 words in a sentence, yet her paragraphs are longer than we tend to see, with an average of 80 words per. General wisdom would say that such paragraph lengths would be a recipe for disaster with pacing – but the proof is in the pudding and the author knows how to pull the reader ever deeper while balancing the often extended nature of narrative exposition.
A Flesch Reading Ease score of 82 puts Interview with the Vampire at the “easy to read” end of the scale, meaning its use of language is conversational and accessible for the vast majority of the population.
This part of the scale claims suitability for a 6th grade reading level – but of course, that might not be a recommended reading age in terms of content in this case!
Genre Comparison Score
Last up, let’s see if there’s a difference when we put Interview with the Vampire up against our closest genre-based comparison, which in this case will be the Mystery & Suspense category…
A revised score of 72.87 takes us up a notch – adding an extra layer of acknowledged suitability for readers of that genre.
Would you like to write like Anne Rice? Find out where your score lands by comparing directly to her style of literature when you join AutoCrit Pro from today!
Thanks for checking out this edition of What’s the Score. Leave your feedback in the comments below and let us know any parts that surprised you, excited you, or gave you some hot tips to keep in mind during your own adventures in editing!
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