For my word cloud project, I decided to use the Sherlock Holmes story The Man with the Twisted Lip.
I used the program Voyant to create my first word cloud, which I ultimately wasn’t happy with. While it was easy to use, the program isn’t very customizable – as far as I could tell, I couldn’t change the font, color, or shape of the cloud. The color scheme isn’t aesthetically pleasing, and the generic Impact font leaves quite a bit to be desired (in my very humble opinion). There isn’t a uniqueness to any of the clouds produced by this tool, which definitely does not make it my favorite.
For my second word cloud, I used Tagxedo, which I found far superior. The program features a number of varying color schemes and fonts and a large array of shapes to choose from (everything from a snowman to the United Kingdom). While a word cloud is still clearly an informative tool, it is one that draws interest for its aesthetic value.
The two processes yielded similar results; for example, three of the most prominent words were “Holmes,” “man,” and “St.” Many of the most popular words were predictable, as they carried the themes of the story. All three parts of Neville St. Clair’s name appear in the clouds, as he is the supposed victim in the mystery. “Window” is large in both, as the window of a bedroom factors largely into the story.
I find the fairly prominent “face” is most interesting: although the title of the story clearly indicates a part of the face (‘the Twisted Lip’), there isn’t much mention of it throughout the story. Of course, the face of a suspect in the crime proves to be a deciding factor in the case, but its importance is only revealed at the end of the short story.
Overall, I think word clouds (when created well) are an interesting, visually appealing means of presenting the themes of a body of text – and, to be honest, I would never have thought before to test one with a story.