A Formula for the Next Great Novel?

I love books. I don’t just love their stories- I love the books themselves. I love how they feel in your hands while you’re reading; I love the act of turning the pages until there are no more left to turn; I love the way they smell, whether they’ve been in a thrift store for years or are fresh off the press.

Despite being a bibliophile, I understand and am very aware of the inconveniences of paperback and hardcover books. They destroy trees, are heavy and clunky, and take up a lot of space. The biggest mistake- I am lucky to say- I made freshmen year was bringing a good portion of the books I own to school with me. I didn’t realize that I would have no time to read them of course, but they were also horribly difficult to bring to school and back, they took a whole drawer, and they were so heavy that whenever I opened the drawer, the books were so heavy they would tip the entire cabinet open.

Digital books solve all of the aforementioned problems of printed books. Even though I don’t like reading on my Kindle or iPhone as much as a book, it is extremely convenient. Digital novels, however, go above and beyond the problems of printed books; they offer the possibility of searching for keywords and phrases, instantly jumping from one point to another, and quickly and easily creating temporary/permanent highlights and notes. Digital media simply offers a much greater realm of interaction than its physical counterpart can.

When we were showed the book scanner in the digital humanities lab, my mind reeled with the possibilities. The idea that it would be possibly to turn a physical piece of literature into a compressed and interactive digital format was really awesome.

I’d eventually like to write young adult novels, so the idea that stuck with my most focused on this idea. I’d like to use to book scanner to scan successful books in a certain young adult genre- for example, the young adult dystopian fiction genre- to see if there are any patterns in creating a popular novel in this genre. To continue to example I chose: I would scan the first 3-5 chapters of The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner to find similarities between the three. I could search for themes, key words, or emotions.

In this way, the digital humanities could turn something that is an individualistic and creative process into something of a formulaic science for making a bestseller. I’m sure this concept would be controversial, but I think a project like this could have more benefits that simply showing me how to write popular YA book. Analyzing words in this way will allow me to reflect on our society and wonder why these themes and key phrases coincide with/are the cause of a novel reaching a high social status.

This, of course, could be applied to any genre- mystery novels, children’s’ books, or even “great American novels”.  We could examine the societal norms of each subculture and, through popular literature, allow us to learn more about ourselves than ever before.

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