16 August 2016

How Not to Write a Short Story

I have been digging up materials I have used for some of the experiments I have conducted as part of my dissertation lately. There were topics I touched on in the dissertation that I still wanted to continue pursuing, as the dissertation still left some open questions. So several years later, I have revisited old backup files and old data from experiments I have conducted, yet haven't published yet. And this reminded me of a very amusing yet not-so-useful participant in an experiment of mine.

See, one of these experiments was a story continuation experiment. I have given participants experimentally-manipulated sentences, and their task was to provide me another sentence as a continuation to this story. I was looking at how participants would construct relationships between these experimental prompts, looking at the resulting narrative structure.

Now the idea is that each item had to be treated independently of each other. There were 26 items in this paper-and-pencil task. However, I had one participant (Participant No. 32) who provided me a very coherent short story. This participant ignored my directions and tried linking every item with each other. As a result, I had to throw away this person's data, yet nevertheless it provided for a very amusing read.

The following is this person's data. For each of the 26 items, the first sentence was provided by me, and the second sentence was written by this participant. If you read all 52 sentences, then it does make a relatively coherent story.

  1. Fred killed a bug. It was a very large bug.
  2. The astronauts detached the satellite from the space station. After they detached they began looking for clues.
  3. The gangsters left various incriminating evidence. The astronauts were starting to piece together the story.
  4. The engineers turned on the nuclear reactors. This allowed the astronauts enough time to get the clues picked up.
  5. The volcanic eruptions sent tremors across the continent. The eruptions were after everyone had left the crime scene so no one was hurt.
  6. Annie sang "Happy Birthday". She sang it to Fred as they headed back to headquarters.
  7. The caravans crossed the Sahara Desert. They were right behind the gangsters they were looking for.
  8. Tristan checked the current time. He thought it would be better if they backed off the gangsters.
  9. The criminals emptied several high-profile bank accounts. This made everyone else on the team angry and people became suspicious of Tristan.
  10. The Soviet Union opened its international borders. This allowed for the team of astronauts to continue their pursuit.
  11. Noah deleted an email. The email contained the whereabouts of the gangster boss.
  12. Derek answered the phone. It was one of the gangsters, and claimed to have hostages from the bank.
  13. Ian heated a pot of water. The group was hungry and needed to eat, so Ian began cooking.
  14. Storm clouds covered the whole Northeastern USA. This was interfering with their satellite connection in Russia.
  15. The hikers climbed Mount McKinley. They noticed a lot of military planes flying overhead.
  16. Cassie wrote a note. The note was to her parents because she wasn't sure if she would make it.
  17. A team of veterinarians examined a herd of cattle. This is because the gangsters said they were going to contaminate Russia's livestock.
  18. The ethics committee stopped human cloning research. Apparently, the gangsters had been cloning themselves.
  19. Madeleine counted her coins. She was still hungry and was headed to the vending machine.
  20. Adele flushed the toilet. She quickly rushed back to her computer to continue hacking.
  21. Nadine called her mother. She did this because she thought it would be the last time they ever spoke.
  22. The maid polished the silver fork. The gangsters were about to eat in their secret hideout.
  23. The spies broke the enemy's military codes. Adele was being congratulated for her great effort.
  24. Paula entered the bathroom. She soon exited from the horrible stench that she smelled.
  25. The undercover agents took government secrets from China. They brought them to their headquarters in Russia and tracked down the gangsters.
  26. John erased his flash drive. The mission had been successfully completed.

Amazing, eh?

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