Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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October 5, 2022

Welcome to the Future, Part 2

By Lisa Norman, @deleyna

a robot and a writer collaborating while drinking coffee together
AI and Author collaboration via Dall-E

In case you missed it, part 1 is here.

Backstory

You may remember that my first computer teacher, Mr. Wilson, shared a magazine article with me about the future of teaching. In this series, I’m talking a bit about trends in technological developments and daydreaming about the future of storytelling.

Last time, we talked about AI-generated images.

In this article, I’d like to talk about AI-generated text.

Just like the debate around the visual arts, writers often fear that someday they will become obsolete, replaced by an AI generating stories faster than any human can imagine.

We already live in a world of rapid-release authors, authors pushing themselves to write faster and faster, trying not to sacrifice their quality and craft for quantity and a living wage.

What if the AI wasn’t a competitor, but was actually an assistant?

The Goal of AI-Generated Writing

Let’s pretend that you just want to generate a rough draft of a scene, but it is giving you fits. You write it out, erase, rewrite, rinse, and repeat. What if you had an AI that could spit out a dozen different drafts of a scene within minutes? Some would be terrible, but some might give you ideas that you could build on.

In theory, as the AI develops, you’d be able to train it to understand your style and your prompts. The AI wouldn’t be writing the story, but helping you write out your draft. Then you’d work through it, add in your voice, and interweave all the magic of your craft.

The State of AI-Generated Writing

As part of the research for this article, I tried several AI writing programs. To be clear: there’s no way I could try them all. I'm sure there are better ones. Please: share your favorites in the comments!

I focused on two: Rytr and WriteSonic. I just used the free, average levels of the programs. Both have more advanced versions available.

My first reaction to these tests was to realize that I’d seen content generated by these AIs before in articles I’ve stumbled on while searching the internet.

I’m now even more skeptical of many tech and news articles that I read on the internet.

What I wanted to know was: Could AI generate a decent story?

Let me give you two samples:

From Rytr

  • Story Idea: Two lovers (Fred and Betty) get in a spat and Fred leaves.
  • Tone: Funny
  • Language: English
  • Creativity: Optimal
  • Note that Rytr considers this a story “plot”

Betty is a woman who has had a difficult life. Her job as a nurse gives her meaning and purpose, but she lives with the guilt of not being closer to her family. Fred is Betty’s husband who loves Betty but has grown tired of the routine and compromises in their marriage.

While they were having dinner, Betty teasingly asks Fred what he would do without her. He replies that they should both take walks in the woods and not worry about getting lost because they would have each other to find their way back. Fred is joking with her, but Betty takes him seriously and starts to cry.

They are arguing when Fred abruptly gets up from the table and leaves the room without explanation. Betty gets angry and throws some of their dinner on the ground before carrying it back into the kitchen for leftovers later on.

Betty makes dinner for them again that night but it’s clear something is wrong because she didn’t speak to him at all during dinner. So at the end of the night he goes over to see if she’s okay.

“I made dinner again,” Betty said. “You’re welcome to stay.”

“No, I’m fine, I ate at work,” Steve said.

“Did you eat?” Steve asks with concern.

Betty nods and turns around trying not to look at him in his eyes because she knows that would be a definite trigger for her tears to start streaming down her face when he starts talking


Lisa’s comment: who is Steve??? Apparently the AI felt a third character was required.

From WriteSonic

  • Prompt: Two lovers (Fred and Betty) get in a spat and Fred leaves.
  • Tone: Romantic Suspense
  • Language: English
  • Quality: good

Fred left angrily, but Betty could not help but feel a little bit lonely. She spent the day wandering around the city, thinking of all the things they had planned to do together. As the sun set, she decided to take a walk down by the river. It was a beautiful night, and the stars were shining.

As she walked, Betty heard a voice in her head. It spoke softly but urgently: “Fred is missing you, Betty. Come find him.”

Betty didn’t know what to make of it, but she felt a sudden urgency to find her husband. She walked faster and faster, until she finally saw a light in the distance. It was Fred’s apartment! She went inside and found him sitting on the couch, crying.

“What happened?” asked Betty.

Fred explained that he and Betty had been fighting all day and he just couldn’t take it any more. When he left, he knew that he might never see her again, but he hoped that they could at least be civil to one another from now on.

Betty hugged Fred tightly and promised to never hurt him again. They spent the night talking and laughing until they both fell asleep in each other’s arms.


Lisa’s comment: my ProWritingAid assistant is having fits trying to fix those. My human editor wasn't any happier.

I don’t feel threatened by either of those offerings. There was a hint of an idea in them, though. I probably should have tried a scene I was legitimately struggling with!

If you took the time to learn to use these tools, I could see them generating some acceptable basic ideas.

Much Better Current-Use Cases

Meanwhile, I was checking my blog statistics on a website called Ubersuggest, owned by Neil Patel. Neil is a marketing guru who emphasizes the power of blogging to raise the rankings of websites.

This tool noticed that I’m close to ranking for a very important keyword and suggested that I should write a new article to generate traffic. Yep. I know that. It’s been on my to-do list for a long time.

Then it went a step further and offered to write the article for me.

Skeptically, I played a bit. I have to admit that it came up with some good ideas for titles and even a pretty good outline. The tool was interactive. Based on my idea topic, it gave me several titles to pick from. Then it took my chosen title and gave me a breakdown of suggested ideas as a checklist.

After I checked the ones I wanted, it generated the rough draft of an article for me.

Is it done? No.

Is it perfect? Hardly.

But am I closer to being done with that article than I was? Definitely.

Now don’t worry. My blogs won’t be replaced by AI-generated content. But I may let some of them help.

AIs can also help with:

  • social media posts
  • article ideas
  • ad copy

They can become your assistant, helping to keep you on track and helping you with mundane tasks, leaving you more of your valuable mental space for creative writing.

Remember: I’m not suggesting you let them write the final draft. I’m offering the concept that they may generate ideas and first drafts to get you past that blank page.

You’ve Seen AI-Assisted Work

Aside from the many articles on the internet that I firmly believe were written by artificial intelligence, something much closer to you has been influenced by an AI.

WITS.

Yes, this amazing website, Writers in the Storm uses an AI on a regular basis to help behind the scenes!

We don’t use it for writing, but we use it to make sure that our posts score well on search engines. The AI (or perhaps more correctly "advanced algorithm") isn’t dictating the content, but it is guiding us so that the brilliant articles submitted by the contributors score well. If you are a blogger, you can use the same tool on your website. It’s free! AIOSEO (All in One SEO) works beautifully with WordPress.

Can you imagine a future in which an AI is your writing buddy?

* * * * * *

About Lisa

head shot of smiling Lisa Norman

Lisa Norman's passion has been writing since she could hold a pencil. While that is a cliché, she is unique in that her first novel was written on gum wrappers. As a young woman, she learned to program and discovered she has a talent for helping people and computers learn to work together and play nice. When she's not playing with her daughter, writing, or designing for the web, she can be found wandering the local beaches.

Lisa writes as Deleyna Marr and is the owner of Deleyna's Dynamic Designs, a web development company focused on helping writers, and Heart Ally Books LLC, an indie publishing firm. She teaches for Lawson Writer's Academy.

Interested in learning more from Lisa? See her teaching schedule below.

Classes:

Top Image by Deleyna using Dall-E.

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12 comments on “Welcome to the Future, Part 2”

  1. Interesting! Especially the big reveal at the end, showing the usefulness of AI in this real-life situation.

    I am often an enthusiastic participant in the NYC Midnight Challenge contest, which offers each group of contestants a genre, a word, and a situation as constraints at the last minute and then imposes a submission deadline (the word length is available in advance). Winners in each group progress to the next round, and a first-place winner eventually emerges. The entrance fee is modest and includes a personal critique of each and every piece of writing.

    I love the challenge to my ingenuity. At first, on receiving the constraints, I have that dreadful sinking feeling: what on earth can I do with THAT? Then the energy of the challenge takes over, and a creditable piece of writing pours out, ready to be sanded and polished and whittled down to the word count.

    Now I wonder: are any contestants using these AI programs? There's no way to know. I am sad.

    1. I think that an AI could be very useful at generating a dozen ideas very quickly, and then a human author would take over, essentially cutting down that initial stress.

      From what I've seen, the quality of the writing still doesn't match a well-crafted human offering. Will it catch up?

      We'll see!

  2. Fascinating, Lisa. I'm all in for suggestions about blog posts and headlines. Stories? I'm not so sure I'd use it. It seems like it would be a lot of sifting through misshapen boulders to find a pebble.

    Question: Did you use the free version of Ubersuggest or the paid one?

    1. I've been using the free version, Lynette. The paid version is on my wish list for "someday" but I don't like subscriptions and while they do have a lifetime plan, it doesn't quite fit what I need... yet. During the lockdown, they offered the paid tools for free for a while, and that was great, but that was before this AI offering.

      I've seen both good and bad ideas come out of Ubersuggest.

      I keep dice on my desk. When I get stuck, I list out my options and roll the dice. I don't always go with the dice roll, but often something will come up and I'll say, "UGH! I don't want to do that..." and then I know that one is wrong. Then I'll roll again. LOL Helps my brain actually make choices.

      AI can be another form of that, getting a rough draft down so you can see if it is a concept worth pursuing. This is similar to the way some professional artists are using Midjourney - to generate prototype compositions quickly, and then the human takes over and does something even more amazing,

  3. I am absolutely a fan of using AI for text. When I am struggling with where to go on an article for a client, especially for the headlines or great structure, one of the tricks in my bag is Peppertype.ai.

    I never use their exact suggestions because I can do better, but I do often use their keywords or one of their research points. It saves me a ton of time - the AI knows what's trending better than I do and sometimes this human is TIRED.

    1. That's it exactly, Denise. AIs tend to go to the outrageous if they try to be creative. With humans, we have an intuitive balance of what is believable with what we can get away with.

  4. Fascinating, Lisa. Thanks for sharing about these. I have played around with AI generated images to help better visualize my fantasy settings. I can see this helping in some of ways as you mentioned as well.

  5. Hello Lisa, I'm late to this post. I am looking forward to AIs being available to write the first draft of scenes. I would be able to write more books. It will work when the AI can take in detailed requirements for a scene to be written, like the characters, the character psychology, and the emotions involved. The writer would also need to be able to define the scene elements, the orientation, the scene stimulus, progressive involvement, the stake flip, the introspection, the climactic action, and the conclusion. If you ever come across an AI that can do that, please give me a shout.

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