This was a new idea to me when a friend suggested I try it, but I’m already a huge fan. Essentially you take the text of anything and paste it into one of the many websites that offer free word cloud generation. The programme will assess the number of appearances each word makes in the text, and make the more popular ones bigger – but the really cool part is that it then displays this as a beautiful image.
I put the text of my first novel ‘If It Wasn’t For Sophie’ into http://www.wordle.net and it created this, in which I was relieved to observe that the names of my characters emerge as the largest words. I don’t think it can possibly feature every word of the 70,000 word text but I was intrigued to pick out ‘street’ and ‘window’ nestling in the large ‘e’ at the end of Sophie.
Naturally, I then had to try my second, nearly-completed novel and that created this. You’ll notice that the colour scheme and font are different: apparently it is possible to change these yourself but I found it much more fascinating to keep re-pasting the text and pressing ‘go’ to see what would be generated next. And then just for fun I tried – well, see if you can guess….
Wordle.net needs Java, but there’s a list here of other word cloud generators which don’t: http://www.edudemic.com/9-word-cloud-generators-that-arent-wordle/. If you’ve never tried creating a word cloud before, head over to one of the sites and do it now. At the very least, you could print out some fab posters for your study!