Sunday, 13 December 2009

Conferences, journalism and voice-recognition

Attended a conference in Melbourne at the start of the week.  One of the highlights was listening to Sushi Das, senior writer with The Age.  Enjoyed hearing someone with so much journalistic integrity describe her approach to writing news stories and feature articles.  This seminar also had me taking note afresh of the similarities and dissimilarities with writing fiction - things which can be learned or borrowed from journalists to sharpen fiction.

Have been playing around with Dragon Naturally Speaking across the last fortnight.  Wanted to try this program for years, but finally got round to loading it recently.  Was a little sceptical after hearing of Mrs T's difficulties with this Voice-Recognition software over at her Witty Ways blog, but given that stories grow out of an oral tradition, it seemed a reasonable idea to try and take story-telling back to an oral approach, as long as the Dragon and I were compatible with one another.

Thought I'd try reciting Jack and Jill as one of my first exercises, before cracking into a lengthy short story I've been telling for years but have never written down.

First time I tried, it came up with:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To Japan across the water...

Hmm, not sure how it managed that.  Second and third time it did exactly the same. To Japan across the water.  Thought maybe I'd read too much Haruki Murakami of late or that it was having difficulties with my peculiar blend of accents, so did some retraining.  This involved reciting all of John F Kennedy's speeches to Congress, or some such, along with a couple of comedy sketches that the program obviously enjoyed hearing read aloud.  Anyway, a couple of hours later, I try Jack and Jill  once again.

This time it comes up with:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To bitch about the water...

It might not be 100% accurate, but at least it seems to be on a similar wavelength to me.  If I had to climb a hill every time I wanted to fetch a pail, I'd bitch about the water too. The program stays. It can shape the grittier, less-tolerant voice behind my next story. 


Jane Turley said...

Ha, ha, ha! I am delighted to find you are experiencing the same problems as me! I have temporarily shelved DNS until I can face having another attempt. (About 2020I think - when the rheumatism sets in.)

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that we are not the only victims - I've had a number of hits via google on my blog about DNS - I am not the only one who has difficulty with a certain four letter word that's for sure...it's obviously very popular with writers!!

Paul said...

I'm enjoying it, Mrs T. It's like the beginning of any relationship: a matter of discovering those quirks and idiosyncrasies, and then deciding whether the relationship is worth developing based upon how those idiosyncrasies redefine us - whether we like who we become or not. We may still split up and go our separate ways, but...

By the by, what was the four letter word? I forget. My program will have to get used to the whole range as they pepper my writing process even more than the actual writing.

Jane Turley said...

It's not fair- it sounds like you are having more success than I did!I want a refund!

Now that four letter word - it was the really naughty one:) The one which rhymes with "luck" and "muck" which polite girls like me don't actually say... I was merely testing DNS for scientific purposes only:) Glad to hear though that your writing process is very colourful -mine is obviously very austere and serious:)