Harness The Apocalyptic Power of AI for Your Fiction
If you’ve been hiding from the robot apocalypse and haven’t yet heard of ChatGPT, then I have some bad news for you. The robots are here.
But the good news is that this robot (for the time being) isn’t currently taking over the world and is actually quite helpful for writing fiction.
What is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is a powerful language model developed by OpenAI that can generate human-like text when provided with a prompt. It can be used for just about anything writing-related. Some artists, including writers, are worried about AI replacing human storytelling and creativity. Luckily, we aren’t there yet.
But today, we will talk about how fiction writers can harness this power for the good of storytelling.
How does it work?
The first step in using ChatGPT to sign up. You’ll need to sign up for an OpenAI account, but after you do, the service is free to use. Once you’re logged in you’ll find yourself on a page like this!
From there you can talk with our robot overlord-to-be about whatever you want. Just type in a prompt and hit send.
Using ChatGPT for Fiction
The real trick to using ChatGPT is in crafting your prompts effectively. The more detailed and specific you are with your request, the better the response you will get. So here we will cover how to write your prompts for different use cases, as well as showing examples of the responses we get from ChatGPT.
Create an outline
If you’re like me, you may struggle with outlining a story. It can be tough to get ideas of what should happen in your story when you haven’t written it yet. This is why I think I’ll be passing some of this work off to ChatGPT. Here is an example:
Prompt: Can you give me a 30 chapter outline of this story? It is set in the far future. Science has allowed humans to colonize the solar system but there is now a space race amongst Earth, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter to try to develop the best technology to reach other stars and galaxies. The protagonist is trying to develop wormhole technology as the speed of light is simply too slow for the required communication. Tensions are high in the solar system and something strange seems to be going on with the interstellar projects developed by the citizens of the gas giants.
I included a lot of details about the story here, so that way I am giving ChaptGPT the best chance at giving me a good outline.
I'm sorry, but it is not possible to give a 30 chapter outline of this story in such a short time. Creating a detailed plot and chapter breakdown for a novel takes a significant amount of planning and development. However, I can give you some general ideas that you can use to create your own outline:
Chapter 1: Introduction to the protagonist and their work on wormhole technology.
Chapter 2-10: The protagonist's struggles to develop the technology and the challenges they face, both personal and professional.
Chapter 11-20: The space race heats up as the other powers in the solar system begin to develop their own advanced technologies. Tensions between Earth, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter reach a boiling point.
Chapter 21-25: The protagonist discovers something strange and sinister going on with the interstellar projects developed by the citizens of the gas giants. They begin to suspect that the other powers are hiding something.
Chapter 26-30: The protagonist uncovers the truth behind the other powers' projects and races against time to stop them before it's too late. The story comes to a climax as the protagonist's technology is put to the test and the fate of the solar system hangs in the balance.
Well that was rude. ChatGPT sometimes does things like this. It is trying to be brief in its responses so it might not always fully comply with your request and give you a shortened version.
However, fret not! ChatGPT remembers what was just discussed, so if you ask it for more details, it will give them to you.
Prompt: can you give me a few chapter ideas for chapter 2-10 of this novel?
Response: Sure, here are a few chapter ideas for chapter 2-10 of your novel:
Chapter 2: The protagonist faces funding and political challenges in their work on wormhole technology. They begin to suspect that there is sabotage within the scientific community.
Chapter 3: The protagonist begins to face opposition from other scientists and researchers who believe that wormholes are impossible to create. They are forced to work alone.
Chapter 4: The protagonist makes a breakthrough in their research, but the discovery is met with skepticism and doubt from their peers.
Chapter 5: The protagonist is faced with a setback when their lab is destroyed in an accident. They are forced to start over from scratch.
Chapter 6: The protagonist faces personal struggles in their work, including a strained relationship with their family and loved ones.
Chapter 7: The protagonist is approached by a mysterious figure who offers to help them with their research, but at a cost. They must decide whether to accept the offer.
Chapter 8: The protagonist's work attracts the attention of the other powers in the solar system and they are offered a deal to work for one of them. They must decide whether to accept.
Chapter 9: The protagonist faces ethical dilemmas as they work on their technology, including the potential consequences it could have on the solar system.
Chapter 10: The protagonist's work is finally completed, but they must now face the challenge of getting it accepted and implemented by the scientific community and the governments of the solar system.
That is much better! Some of these chapter ideas aren’t quite what I’m looking for, but like I said, you can continue the conversation. So you can ask for it to try again on chapter 9 and it will. Or you can ask it to expand on the idea and give a full chapter summary and it will!
Pretty great for getting the ideas flowing!
Create a setting
Settings can be hard. Tolkien spent how much time just dreaming up Middle-earth? Like 40 years? That timeline doesn’t quite work for me. Sometimes you just need a throwaway place that Ryan Secondary Character came from.
Let’s see what ChatGPT can do for us:
Prompt: Can you give me an interesting city for a steampunk novel? Tell me about the place, what industry it is involved in, where it gets food from, and who is in charge of the city? Maybe it's built on a frozen lake.
Response: Sure, here's an interesting city for your steampunk novel:
Location: Built on a frozen lake in the northernmost reaches of a fictional country.
Industry: Lakehaven is a hub of industry and innovation, with a focus on advanced machinery and steam power. The city is home to numerous factories and workshops, where skilled engineers and inventors create everything from steam-powered trains and airships to intricate clockwork devices.
Food: The city relies on a combination of hunting, fishing and trade with the nearby cities to sustain its population. The lake is full of fish and hunting parties are sent to the nearby woods for game. The city also has greenhouses where they grow fruits and vegetables and have a few cattle farms.
In charge: The city is ruled by a powerful and wealthy industrialist known as the "Iron Duke." He controls the city's economy and its political system through a network of powerful and corrupt officials. He's a ruthless man who uses his wealth and power to maintain control over the city and its inhabitants, but also a visionary who is willing to invest in new technology and industry to make the city thrive.
Physical feature: The city is built on the frozen lake, so the buildings are mostly made of wood and ice. The streets are also made of ice, so during summer they have to be reinforced. The city has some airships and dirigible that are used for transportation and trade. The city is surrounded by a wall of ice to protect it from the cold and the wild.
Awesome. A bit cliche for a steampunk city, but it gave me everything I asked for in a list which is nice and organized. You can ask for more details on a specific part or simply list more things you want to know about the city, and ChatGPT will happily do so.
Create a character
Just like setting, let’s test characters. Here we go!
Prompt: I need to create a secondary character for my alternate history novel. I want a clever salesman who is trying to recruit Marie Curie to join a shady business. Can you give him a name, a motivation, tell me about his background and backstory, and give him an interesting physical feature?
Response: Sure, here's a secondary character for your alternate history novel:
Name: Henri Dubois
Motivation: Henri is a clever salesman who is trying to recruit Marie Curie to join a shady business. He sees her as the key to making his business successful and is willing to do whatever it takes to bring her on board.
Background: Henri is a self-made man who grew up in a working-class family. He learned the art of salesmanship at a young age by working in his father's market stall. He's been working as a salesman for a variety of businesses over the years, but has recently landed a job with a mysterious company that specializes in the production and sale of advanced scientific equipment. He sees an opportunity to climb the corporate ladder and become a powerful businessman by recruiting Marie Curie.
Backstory: Henri's father was a small-time businessman who struggled to make ends meet. Henri was raised in a poor neighborhood and was forced to work from a young age. He had always been good at talking to people and quickly learned the art of salesmanship. He used this skill to help his father's business, but soon realized that he had a talent for it. He started working for different businesses, and through hard work and determination, he managed to climb the corporate ladder. He's now working for a mysterious company that specializes in the production and sale of advanced scientific equipment, he is determined to make it big in this business.
Physical feature: Henri has a noticeable scar on his left cheek that runs from his ear to the corner of his mouth, it is said that he got it in a bar fight when he was young. He always tries to cover it with his hair, but when he's out of his comfort zone it becomes more visible.
Henri seems compelling and interesting. I like that it gave him a french name, and even a little insecurity about his scar. Definitely a good place to dive into building out his character more.
Create a conflict
If you have two characters that need to fight, give them a reason to fight.
Prompt: What are some interesting conflicts between main characters for a historical romance novel?
Response: Here are a few interesting conflicts between main characters for a historical romance novel:
A wealthy heiress and a poor commoner: The two main characters come from vastly different social classes and must navigate the societal expectations and prejudices of their time in order to be together.
A soldier and a pacifist: The two main characters have opposing views on war and violence, and must reconcile their beliefs in order to be together.
A nobleman and a servant: The two main characters come from different stations in life and must navigate the power dynamics of their relationship as they fall in love.
A scientist and a mystic: The two main characters have different beliefs and perspectives on the world, and must find a way to understand and accept each other's views in order to be together.
A married woman and a bachelor: The two main characters are both in committed relationships but fall in love with each other, and must navigate the moral and social conflicts that arise as a result.
A rich merchant and a poor sailor : The two main characters come from vastly different social classes and backgrounds, and must navigate their different cultures and expectations in order to be together.
Edit, revise, rewrite
If you don’t have some other spelling and grammar tool, then ChatGPT can certainly clean up your prose. But even more fun is you can change up your writing style with ChatGPT. Here is a silly example:
Prompt: Rewrite this passage in pirate speak: I stood up, the rough fabric of my dress scratched against my knees, and I walked down the steep path toward the landing pad. The soldiers had only just finished building it, and now the people from the sky, the people whose lights cover the moon and orbit the Earth, were coming. Just like daddy said they would. I walked carefully down the path, watching for sharp rocks, and glass just like Granna told me to. I saw that the others from our village, the women and kids like me that were left, were also moving towards the large ship as it began to hover down to the earth. Granna wouldn’t come though, because Granna is sick.
Response: I rose from me seat, me rough dress scratchin' against me knees, and set foot on the steep path towards the landin' pad. The soldiers had just finished buildin' it, and now the sky-people, the ones whose lights cover the moon and orbit the earth, were comin' just like me dad said they would. I treaded carefully down the path, keepin' me eye out for sharp rocks and glass, just like me Granna told me to. I saw that the other women and young'uns from our village, the ones left behind, were also makin' their way towards the grand ship as it began to hover down to the earth. But me Granna wouldn't be joinin' us, as she's sick.
While this was fun, ChatGPT can also change tenses, first person to third person and other cool things. But I don’t see this replacing editors in its current state. Editors bring more than just line edits, they bring a human voice and quality to your prose that can’t be replaced with AI.
Naming things can be one of the hardest parts of writing fiction. Luckily ChatGPT can give us a whole list of names to try out.
Prompt: Can you give me some cool original names for castles in a fantasy novel?
Response: Sure, here are some cool original names for castles in a fantasy novel:
While the names are a bit basic, they can certainly get the creative ideas flowing.
Ready to write your next big hit, but aren’t sure what it is yet? Let’s see what ChatGPT’s ideas are.
Prompt: Can you give me some story ideas for murder mystery novels?
Sure, here are a few story ideas for murder mystery novels:
A detective is called to investigate a murder at a remote luxury spa, but as they delve deeper into the case, they discover that the victim and the suspects all have dark pasts and secrets.
A woman is found dead in a small town, and the local police quickly arrest her husband. But a retired detective, now living in the town, is not convinced of his guilt and decides to investigate the case on his own.
A group of friends reunite for a weekend getaway, but one of them is murdered. The remaining friends must race against time to find the killer before they strike again.
A detective is called to investigate a murder in a high-security prison, only to find that the victim and the suspects are all inmates. As they dig deeper, they uncover a web of corruption and crime within the prison.
A detective is called to investigate a murder on a luxury cruise ship, but as the ship sails on, the list of suspects grows, and the detective must race against time to find the killer before they reach port.
A detective is tasked with solving a series of murders that all seem to be connected to an old unsolved case, as they dig deeper they find that the killer is someone they never suspected.
A detective is called to investigate a murder in a small town where everyone seems to have something to hide, as they dig deeper they find that the killer is someone they trusted.
A detective is called to investigate a murder in a big city, but as they dig deeper they find that the killer is a serial killer who has been active for years and no one noticed.
Get writing prompts
If you just need to sit and write something with a bit of a spark to get you started, then you can ask for writing prompts.
Prompt: Can you give me 5 creative writing prompts for a romance author?
Response: Sure, here are five creative writing prompts for a romance author:
A young woman moves to a small town for a new job and falls in love with the local handyman, who is haunted by a tragic past.
A famous actor and a struggling writer are forced to work together on a movie adaptation of her book. They start off hating each other but eventually fall in love.
A young woman discovers that the man she has been dating is actually a prince from a foreign country and must decide whether to pursue a relationship with him or stay in her own country.
A young woman who has been hurt in the past is skeptical of love until she meets a man who is willing to wait for her to trust him.
Two rival business owners, one a successful entrepreneur and the other a struggling artisan, are forced to work together on a project and begin to fall in love despite their differences.
Maybe you have two characters who need to have an important conversation and maybe you don’t want to write it. Ask our robot friend to do it for you by describing the characters and their situation.
Prompt: I need to workshop some dialogue for a novel I'm writing. The setting is a fantasy world city under siege. The conversation is between a compassionate queen in charge of the city, and a very logical captain of the guard. Can you write some tense dialogue between the two of them about the dwindling food supply? The captain is advocating for tougher rationing, the queen is arguing that rationing won't work if hungry people riot.
Queen: "Captain, I understand your concerns about the food supply, but if we implement stricter rationing, it could lead to widespread unrest among the people. We must find a balance between preserving our resources and maintaining the morale of our citizens."
Captain: "Your Majesty, with all due respect, the food supply is dwindling rapidly. We cannot afford to wait for a balance to be struck. We must act quickly and decisively, even if it means harsher rationing measures."
Queen: "But if we do that, the people will revolt. We need to find a way to provide for them while also conserving our resources."
Captain: "I understand your concerns, but the safety and survival of our city must come first. We cannot risk a rebellion when our resources are already stretched thin. We must be willing to make difficult decisions."
Queen: "I understand, Captain. But let's not forget that these are our people we're talking about. We cannot turn our backs on them in their time of need."
Captain: "I understand, Your Majesty. But we must also consider the long-term survival of our city. We must find a way to do both."
Queen: "Agreed. Let us work together to find a solution that will keep our city and our people safe."
While the botty boy lost track of who was arguing for what and is a big fan of “I understand,” it did a fairly good job of getting things started for the conversation.
Can it Write my Whole Book?
This is a tough question. Is ChatGPT theoretically capable of constructing a novel length work with an interesting plot, characters, and setting? Maybe. Will it do it for you? No.
As we discussed before, ChatGPT is built to be a conversation. So it won’t go write a novel if you tell it to.
But putting all of that aside, the robot overlords currently still depend on us mere mortals to bring heart and soul to a story. ChatGPT isn’t going to replace you because the stories in your head are yours alone.
Is it Wrong to use ChatGPT for my Story?
Some people out there feel like using AI tools is cheating. If you are one of those people, then that is a totally fair opinion to have (and I can’t believe you read all the way to the end of this article). There is a lot about Artificial Intelligence that we will be figuring out as a society in the coming years.
But just like spellcheck and grammar tools make the writing process easier, ChatGPT can do the same. If it is something you are interested in using then do! AI writing tools are best used to generate, curate, and build on ideas that came from your brain.
So use whatever tools will help you write that darn book and make it great.
There's no avoiding it: critical feedback is an essential for becoming a great writer. Here's how to navigate the process with grace, create excellent work as a result, and get through it all with your self-confidence intact.
While it's not for every story, tragic irony can be a great way to mess with both your characters and your readers... in a fun way, of course. Learn all about it in this article.
Sensitivity writers are more prevalent than ever before, and for many authors, they're an essential part of the editing process. But what do they do exactly? And how do you know if you need one? We've got those answers right here.