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Using an Excel Worksheet to Write a Branching Story


Writing a Branching Story in an Excel Workbook

Give your students a writing assignment that lets them craft several different endings within the same story. Writing the story in Excel may not come to your mind at first, but an Excel workbook offers several advantages; all of the sheets will be in one document, hyperlinks are easy to create, and spell check on a worksheet is simple.

Open an Excel workbook. Excel will be in the Microsoft Office folder and can be found by going to the Start menu in the bottom left corner of your screen. Select All Programs and then slide over to Microsoft Office, then over to Excel. Click one time on the Excel icon.

An Excel workbook opens with three sheets. You will need many more for your branching story. A quick way to add sheets to the workbook is to hold down the Shift key while you tap F11 several times. Make at least 10 sheets; you can throw away the ones you don’t need, or add more if they are needed.

We are going to do two things to each sheet; remove the gridlines, and format the font size to 16. These things can be done to all sheets at the same time. First, select all ten sheets. Click on Sheet 10 (the first sheet), hold down the Shift key and click on Sheet 3 (the last sheet). This selects all sheets and we can change them all at once. 

First, let’s remove the grid lines. Go to the Tools menu, slide down to Options and click one time. On the View tab, in the bottom left corner there is a checkmark by the word Gridlines. Click in the box to remove the check mark and then click OK to return to a blank worksheet. Before changing font size, we must select all of the cells. Hold down the Ctrl key and tap the A key one time. Locate the font size box on the Formatting toolbar and use the down pointing arrow to select font size 16 . Right-click on any sheet tab and choose Ungroup Sheets . It’s time to write!

Double-click the Sheet 10 (first tab) tab and type Start , or Chapter One , or any other title that says ‘ this is the beginning of my story .’ Each time you compose a part of the story on a worksheet, rename the tab. This will be necessary before making a hyperlink. Hyperlinks are what make the branching story possible. They work just like hyperlinks on web pages.

Write the introduction to your story, keep it short. Remember, Excel is not Word, it does not automatically word wrap at the end of a line. You must click into a cell on the line below to continue text. Below the paragraph, type a question such as; ‘What was Billy Bob’s answer?’ For the example given, click in a cell on the left and type (for example) ‘Yes,’ and then click in a cell on the right and type (again, for example) ‘No.’

Before making the hyperlinks, rename the tabs where the consequence of the choice will be composed. Name one tab (for example) ‘ Yes ,’ and the other (again, for example) ‘ No .’

Click on the cell with the first choice and move your mouse pointer to the Insert menu at the top and select Hyperlink. In the Link to: area select Place in This Document . Next choose the tab name that matches the choice and Click on the OK button. The Hyperlink automatically reverts to size 10 . While your cursor is still in the cell with the hyperlink, go up to the Formatting toolbar and reselect size 16 to match the sheet. Do the same thing for the other choice at the bottom of this page. Continue this process as you compose your story.

To remove any sheets not used, right click on the sheet tab and select Delete . To add more sheets, hold down the Shift key and press the F11 key. To check spelling, click on a tab (this must be done one tab at a time) and press the F7 key.

When you are ready to Save , you save the workbook. By using Excel you don’t have to save each individual sheet as a separate document. They are all bundled together in one workbook.

Download "Town Witch" , an example of a branching story written in Excel
Download a shorter example named "Billy Bear"

Internet4classrooms is a collaborative effort by Susan Brooks and Bill Byles.




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