Short Storyspreadsheet: Excel as a Trojan Horse for LiteratureWritten by David on March 31st, 2009
A few weeks ago, I had a nutty idea and decided to Tweet it:
Naturally, I assumed that would be it. Like one of Yoko Ono’s wacky concepts, the mere idea of such a thing would be entertaining enough. No point in going through the trouble of actually doing it.
That struck me as a beautiful new word. It acted as a kind of fuel for my inspiration. I decided that, for once, I really ought to put one of my nutty ideas to the test.
But the time required for a full-length novexcel would be more than I’d care to invest in an experiment. Instead, I thought, how about a short storyspreadsheet?
So I’ve done it. Here is the first draft of my short storyspreadsheet “Under the Table” (I hope I don’t need to point out the double entendre). Other formats are available at the end of the post. Read it. I swear it’s not horrible (how’s that for a blurb?).
The first worksheet of the Excel file has the “raw data,” the story itself (8 columns x 30 rows). The easiest way to read it is to click on the first cell and then use the arrow keys to move to the next cell you want to read. The second sheet has a line graph that gives graphical representation to the “Character Intensity of Thought Units” (CIT Units) for each “Action Segment” in the story.
The raw data is formatted to print nicely, if that’s your thing. However, I encourage everyone to read the story in its electronic format. I’ve turned on “Track Changes,” thereby cordially inviting you to collaborate with me on this short storyspreadsheet. Make any changes you feel are appropriate, and then send your version of the short storyspreadsheet back to me at david [at] theurbanelitist [dot] com. I’ll be able to highlight any changes you made. In particular, I’d like help with the language of each character’s thoughts. I was not sure how best to handle this (Joycean stream of consciousness or ???).
All suggestions/edits will be considered and greatly appreciated. However, I remain the master of this particular short storyspreadsheet. This is not literature as democracy. Whether or not a collaborator’s suggestions are used, all collaborators will be credited in the final version.
Of course, if you’d like to write your own short storyspreadsheet, please send it to me and I’ll add all submitted short storyspreadsheets to single Excel file (one story per worksheet). The short storyspreadsheet collection will then be distributed globally in an electronic format, free of charge. Those who download it will be encouraged to sneak a short storyspreadsheet or two into their dreary work-related Excel files.
Do I have any plans to turn “Under the Table” into a “normal” short story? No. This banal scenario, I think, would not work as a standard short story. It only has the potential to be effective in the short storyspreadsheet format. Besides, these characters are a rather despicable lot. They deserve to be trapped inside a spreadsheet. (Let that be your warning. These characters are cruel and often crude. Deal with it. Short storyspreadsheets by their very nature contain only cold facts, like them or not. Welcome to your world.)
Do I hope to have the final version of “Under the Table” published in the online version of a highly esteemed literary journal? Yes. I want to say something like, “Let’s see if any literary journal has the GUTS to publish a short storyspreadsheet!” But if I were to do that, a significant percentage of people would not realize that I was kidding. We can’t have that. If I’m happy with the final result, I would like to see this published in a highly esteemed literary journal, but I do not actually believe that publishing it will require any “guts.”
Options for reading “Under the Table”:
Update: Google Docs Spreadsheet (thanks, Ryan)
Screen shots after the jump…
Click thumbnails to enlarge: