See how stories look when you get rid of all the words but leave the punctuation

Over at Medium, Coders author Clive Thompson shared a new web app he created that renders beautiful visual images out of any inputted text — using only the punctuation. The project was inspired by a 2016 article by Adam J. Calhoun, which made beautiful posters out of the punctuation from books by different famous writers. As Calhoun observed at the time:

Inspired by a series of posters, I wondered what did my favorite books look like without words. Can you tell them apart or are they all a-mush? In fact, they can be quite distinct. Take my all-time favorite book, Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner. It is dense prose stuffed with parentheticals. When placed next to a novel with more simplified prose — Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy — it is a stark difference (see above).

Yes, the contrast is stark. But the wild mix of symbols can be beautiful, too. Look at the array of dots and dashes above! This morse code is both meaningless and yet so meaningful. We can look and say: brief sentence; description; shorter description; action; action; action.

I tried Thompson's app with the text from my unicornpunk short story No God, No Master, and here's what I got:

(I am frankly relieved that I didn't overuse the semi-colon, though you'll still have to pry the em-dash from cold — albeit still quite vigorous — dead fingers.)

On Thompson's blog post, he also shares some images he created from the works of some famous writers, including Mary Shelley, Zora Neale Hurston, Herman Melville, and Ernest Hemingway.

Just The Punctuation []

What I Learned About My Writing By Seeing Only The Punctuation [Clive Thompson / Medium]