Writing with an AI - Creative Example

The conversation about AI as a writing tool is exciting and a little terrifying. So, like a kid putting pennies on a railroad track, I decided to mess around with it to see what it could really do on a creative project.

To make this seem safe and playful, I decided to use the AI to write the synopsis of a Dungeons and Dragons adventure. For an upcoming session I want to write a short adventure around a trio of animated toys — somewhere between Pinnochio and Toy Story.

So, to start things off, I put the basic idea into the OpenAI Playground (beta.openai.com).

"A magical force of uncertain motive grants limited sentience to three toys. Each of the toys has magical powers, and the three together set out to try to stop..."

I intentionally stopped mid-sentence to see what the generator would produce. The AI continued from where I left off:

"...the force that granted them sentience in the first place.

The first toy is a ragdoll named Lucy. Lucy has the power to control the wind. The second toy is a wooden soldier named Jack. Jack has the power to control fire. The third toy is a porcelain doll named Mary. Mary has the power to control water.

Together, the three toys use their powers to try to stop the force that granted them sentience. They are successful in stopping the force, but they are also successful in destroying themselves in the process."

Now, that's interesting. I stated that each of the toys had magical powers, and the AI created powers for each of them. I decided to hit the "regenerate" button to see what other ideas it might have.

"...a war. The force which gave them their powers is also apparently controlling events in the war.

The three toys are a doll, a teddy bear, and a toy soldier. They have the power to fly, to turn invisible, and to shoot fire, respectively. They use these powers to try to stop the war, but they are not entirely sure why they are doing so. The force which gave them their powers is also apparently controlling events in the war, and the toys are not sure what its ultimate goal is."

I'm interested that the AI chose a different way of presenting the three toys and their powers — using a more complex list presentation rather than describing each in order, and this time they don't get names. One thing true in both is that the power that gives these toys life is not to be trusted — in the first example it's explicit, and in the second it's a suspicion, but in both cases that force that gave toys life is up to no good.

Sorry Geppetto. Apparently you're the bad guy.

Rather than keep spinning this prompt, I'm decided to stick with the second batch and try to write something more concrete and specific. I'll threw in a starter to see what the AI would produce, adding this to the bottom of the existing story:

"The toys sneak into the mansion of a wealthy tycoon during a dinner party."

And the AI ran with it:

"While the adults are distracted, the toys use their powers to sabotage the host's business deals. They also rescue a group of orphans who were being held captive in the mansion.

The toys then travel to the front lines of the war. They use their powers to help the soldiers there, and eventually they are able to bring about a ceasefire. The three toys then return to the tycoon's mansion and confront the force which granted them their powers. They demand to know why it did so, and what its ultimate goal is.

The force reveals that it is a group of beings from another world. They were observing the war, and they decided to intervene when they saw that the humans were about to destroy themselves. The force then teleports the three toys back to their own world.

The three toys have learned that they can make a difference in the world, even if they don't understand everything that is going on. They have also learned that they need to be careful about using their powers, lest they be used for evil instead of good."

Again, this is fascinating. The AI generated new story elements I didn't feed it — orphans, alien observers and meddlers (saviors), and a moral at the end — the idea that these gifts have to be used carefully. And while I can hear Peter Parker's Uncle Ben saying "With Great Power comes Great Responsibility" as I read those lines, the concept as presented by the AI is different enough to be more cliche than outright theft.

I decided to rewrite my second prompt a little, try to get the AI to get more into some concrete details. Here's the new version of my second prompt:

"The toys sneak into the mansion of a wealthy tycoon during a dinner party. The dining room is brightly lit, the kitchen is full of servants and cooks working hard, but the mansion's library is quiet and dark as the toys sneak in, looking for..."

And the AI produced:

"...the source of the tycoon's power.

The library is full of ancient tomes and dark magic. The toys find a magical book which is the source of the tycoon's power. They also find a spell which can stop the war. They recite the spell and the war immediately stops.

The force which gave the toys their powers is revealed to be a group of magical beings who want to stop the war. They explain that the tycoon was using dark magic to control the war and that the toys were the only ones who could stop him.

The toys are hailed as heroes and they return to the toy store where they came from. They are put back on the shelf, but they are now sentient and aware of the events of the world around them. They will wait until they are needed again to use their powers to stop another war."

Again — new details, taking the story in a new direction. The details are not strong enough — "ancient tomes and dark magic" needs to be fleshed out, given some originality and specificity. For a quick story synopsis to build from, though this will get the job done.

This AI isn't going to replace excellent, evocative writing soon. And, really, we have had randomized prompts and tools for generating story ideas for ages. Unlike something like Storycubes, this helps by stitching together the invented/randomized ideas into sentences and paragraphs — but it's not quite at the stage where that writing is going to pass for decent student work.

Check out the Non-Fiction Example