AI: Your new writing buddy?

Artificial intelligence, whatever that means, has been much criticised of late. AI is a thief, a cheat, a hoax, a way of passing off another’s work as your own. Worst of all, it has even been said that it will one-day bring about the extinction of the human race. As if we didn’t already face enough Armageddon scenarios, from climate change to nuclear war, we now face another from AI, The Terminator.

Ever keen to learn for myself what AI can and can’t do, I have embarked on a journey of discovery to find out how useful artificial intelligence tools like Bing AI (based on Open AI’s GPT-4 technology) can be. I have also made another attempt at image generation. Previous attempts have been none too successful. How about the featured image above, which was generated from Bing’s new GPT chat window? To create it, I used the request (second attempt) “generate an image of a robot sitting at a table with a manual typewriter, viewed from behind.” I then selected one of the following four

AI: Your new writing buddy?

images and, copying it into the ‘Paint’ application, cropped and shaped the result as my featured image at the top of the page. Incidentally, I am also writing this article directly into Vocal Media’s story creator, without using Word or any other regular word processing software first.

So far we have looked mostly at image generation. The reason for this is that I find that pictures help to stimulate my creative juices. Whether the kind of art found in art museums (I volunteer at Tate Modern in London) or photos I have taken with my iPhone, having a picture in front of me related to the story I am writing helps me to create. What difference does it make if the image is AI generated? I am not an artist so can’t paint or draw something to base a story on, so I often use my own photography, or sometimes free-use images on the web. AI is just another tool.

You may notice that I have added a copyright notice to the featured image of the robot writer. Why not? I dreamt up the image, wrote the text string to use to generate from Dall-E, tried again when it didn’t work the first time, chose the picture I liked and then cropped it down for maximum impact. How to crop and frame a picture is one of the most important lessons to learn if you want your photos to have impact, particularly if they are taken on a smart phone. I don’t mind anyone copying the image I created but please credit it as shown and please let me know. I would be really flattered if you did, so do go ahead.

What about the writing? One of the reasons why I am experimenting with the GPT model is to try to understand how it can be used to help me as a writer. When I write fictional stories or non-fiction articles I use tools like Google and Wikipedia to research various aspects of my work. Whether it’s help to choose a character’s name, searching for historical information or time and place data, research is one of my friends and I have various approaches to doing this. Most are routed in web tools like the ones mentioned. I have therefore approached GPT as another tool that I can use to help me write my stories.

One of my other AI articles: Learning from an AI shows how GPT can help with AI searching.

A GPT-enabled search has the advantage of natural language input, producing multiple-source results that are compiled into concise and comprehendible results that cut out a lot of the legwork. And one of my most important discoveries is that this facility not only helps with research, it can also help to boost the imagination, by generating potential ideas.

For example, one of my current works in progress has a working title ‘The Artificial’ and is a story about an advanced AI detective working alongside humans, with all their imperfections. I have yet to decide the theme of the first detective story, mostly because I can’t seem to come up with many ideas as yet. So I thought I would give AI a go and see if it could come up with some good ideas for me. I asked the question and then twice asked for some more. Each time the ideas list was repeated but with a couple more story suggestions. This is what I ended up with as a list of story ideas for a classical detective fiction:

1. A wealthy family with a problem or a secret

2. A search for an apparently valuable, but really worthless item

3. Apparent crime that is revealed to be a repetition of an earlier crime

4. The cleaning up of a corrupt town or system

5. The seemingly perfect crime

6. A woman asks a writer to write the story of her life. Then she goes missing

7. Murder victims are found buried with some of their worldly goods, Viking style

8. Three people close to the murder victim have confessed. Each of them swears they acted alone

9. Notes and gifts from her “Secret Santa” at work take a strange turn

10. It’s going to be a beautiful wedding at a beautiful destination, but two people in the wedding party have been murdered

11. A detective is hired for a high price to find a thief who stole something that doesn’t appear to have any real value

12. Every unmarried lady at the ball wanted to dance with the duke, so it’s too bad he was found stabbed in the garden

Some might suggest the above ideas have been stolen. Why? This is no more than a regular search would have generated but a regular search would have taken longer and required more work to edit. What’s more, the sources are all credited: 1., 2., 3., 4., 5., 4., 5.

In addition to having generated some great ideas to choose from for my story, I have also learnt about a resource I have never come across before: . I now plan to take a proper look at Storyboardthat to see if I can add this resource to my toolbelt. If I decide to subscribe to this product, then not only has AI not stolen any ideas from the website, it will have generated a sale, with no commission payable and no advertising fee.

As a final comment, and on the subject of advertising, Bing AI has generated an advertisement for the first time in the few weeks I have been

AI: Your new writing buddy?

trying it out. The ad (above) was for Amazon UK and features two detective books. So not only does Bing AI provide search results using natural langague, it also provides closely targetted advertising. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your point of view. When it comes to writing stories, I fully intend to continue to work with my new writing buddy GPT.

Watch this space for my new short story “The Artificial” which is coming soon to my Vocal Media pages.

No part of this article has been generated by AI and all is the original work of the author, other than as indicated or credited.

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