UC Berkeley professor invents word processor to catch plot holes in writing

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Granthika/Courtesy

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A UC Berkeley professor has invented a new computer program that aims to prevent errors in the writing process.

Vikram Chandra, a campus English professor and novelist, created Granthika — an artificially intelligent word processor that allows authors to track and correct continuity errors in a story’s timeline, characters and events. According to the program’s website, the word “granthika” is Sanskrit for someone “who understands the joints or divisions of time.”

Chandra is the chief executive officer of Granthika, and started the company with program president Borislav Iordanov. Chandra said he came up with the idea after struggling with the long and complicated process that authors deal with when working on their novels.

“Writing and especially writing fiction is a very intimate act,” Chandra said. “If you interfere with the writer’s concentration, people will just throw out the program. … We try to have adaptability to the writer.”

Granthika, which is expected to launch in about a year, differs from programs such as Google Docs and Grammarly, in that it acts as an editor, a database and a timeline maker, testing a story’s factual soundness throughout, according to the Granthika website. As authors write out their stories, they create attributes such as names and times for their events and locations, which the software can track and fact check.

Chandra said Granthika has partnered with campus startup accelerator program Berkeley SkyDeck for the last two semesters. Granthika is composed of an eight-person team that develops the program, as well as several writers acting as advisors to the program.

“What we are doing is pretty unprecedented,” Chandra said. “We are inventing something that is completely new.”

Chandra stressed that he wants the program to be reflective of a writer’s needs. He added that he believes this program will help writers be more time-efficient by getting rid of bookkeeping.

The price of the program hasn’t been determined yet, according to Chandra. He said, however, that because he understands the economic difficulties of being a writer, he will ensure that the program will be affordable.

Some campus students expressed excitement for the program, adding that they hoped it would help them with their own writing.

Campus freshman Rowan Wells-Edwards said that although she is a STEM student, she too could potentially use the program. She added that she thought it was great that a campus professor invented the program.

“It has the potential to be amazing if it works as well in practice as it does in theory,” said campus sophomore Isabel Craig. “It’s nice to be in a place with professors that are coming up with important things that can change the world.”

Chandra said Granthika is aiming to include a collaborative function on the program, which could be applied to many fields, including journalism, legal writing and even fanfiction writing. Using Granthika’s tools in the world of fanfiction writing, the timeline, characters and events of story written by one fan could be compared to the facts of a story written by another, if in the same fictional universe.

“We want to be able to give multiple users the ability to collaborate on articles,” Chandra said. “When they create a new story the implications of that story are brought into the universe as a whole. … You don’t just take the characters, you take the universe.”

Contact Mary Kelly Ford at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MaryKellyFord1.