In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* AI: Um, Why?
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“A curious person … isn’t impressed by people who assume the very things that need to be proven.” Tom Woods (from http://tomwoods.com/newsletterthankyou/)
“You fall out of your mother’s womb, you crawl across open country under fire, and drop into your grave.” Quentin Crisp
“Gratification comes in the doing, not in the results.” James Dean
“Why do you have to be a nonconformist like everybody else?” James Thurber
“Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.” Fred Hoyle, English astrophysicist
“Never trust a pencil stub with a full eraser.” Wes Crowley
AI: Um, Why?
More and more writers are talking about using “generative AI” as part of their writing process. In today’s “Of Interest” there’s a link to a very informative article about it. It covers everything from AI writing prompts to AI story enhancement to AI cover design.
From the tone of the article, I thought maybe the writer was using the “generative AI” to “generate” things the writer would then apply (conscious, critical mind) while constructing the story.
So, for example, I thought the writer was using “generative AI” as a stand-in for her own conscious, critical mind to “generate” things she herself used to come up with by way of character sketches, place sketches, and maybe plot points in an outline.
Not that I would agree that even human-generated “pre-guessing” of a story that hasn’t happened yet is either necessary or preferable. But I needn’t have worried. That wasn’t what the article was about.
As horrible as predetermined characters and places and situations are to a writer like me who actually trusts in his own abilities (and have ever since I wrote my first short story into the dark), the reality described in the article was much worse.
From the article, “[O]nce I had a basic story, I used Sudowrite to expand some of the descriptions and to give me ideas for how the story might go.”
A little later, “I used Sudowrite to help me with ideas for what happened after the explosion.”
And get this: All of this construction (because it was construction, not creation) wasn’t even for a novella or novel. It was for a short story.
Yes, I understand AI is “one more tool,” but just because a tool is available doesn’t mean you should use it. The only tool you need to write fiction is your own creative subconscious.
If you’re among the crowd who believe you have to learn how to tell stories, here’s a reality check for you:
Even writers who have never taken a writing course or read a book about how to write fiction already know how to write fiction.
Like any artist in any artistic endeavor, they will learn new techniques and improve with Practice (in fiction writing, Practice means putting new words on the page).
They can also speed the process and enhance what they already know by learning from advanced writers various techniques they haven’t thought of on their own yet.
But Human 1.0, right out of the box, can create adequate, entertaining stories.
By simply reading fiction and watching sitcoms and movies and docudramas and even the wittier commercials on television, and films and plays in theaters, you have absorbed every kind of Story Structure. In fact, probably your creative subconscious has already decided which structure it prefers for which kind of story.
You’ve also absorbed Setting, Scene, and Character. You’ve absorbed Pacing and Rhythm and Tension. You’ve absorbed Sentence and Paragraph Structures and you know when to use them to create a particular effect in the reader. (No? Well, maybe that’s one of those more advanced skills that hasn’t occurred to you yet. But if you keep practicing, it will.)
You’ve learned all of those things just as surely as you’ve learned to automatically dot a lower-case I and cross a lower-case T when you’re writing by hand and capitalize the first word of a sentence and put a period at the end of most sentences.
You also know to put a question mark at the end of a question, an exclamation point (“sparingly,” you just heard in your mind) at the end of an exclamation. Oh, and you don’t have to stop and wonder what an exclamation is. And yes, you’ve even learned how to turn a phrase.
And you’ve absorbed—by which I mean you’ve learned without consciously trying to learn—much, much, much more than that.
The problem isn’t that you don’t know any of those things—you DO know them—the problem is that you don’t TRUST that you know them.
But most beginning and Stage 1 and 2 writers, as a result of that mistrust of the ability of their own “creative” subconscious to “create,”
1. Allow their own conscious, critical mind to second-guess the story that the characters, not the writers, are living. Then they
2. Actually invite other writers—outsiders who have wholly separate conscious, critical minds—to scrutinize and criticize and second-guess both the characters who actually experienced the story and the writer who experienced it with them.
(How insane is that? You, the writer, were actually there as the story unfolded around you and your characters, but you trust some outsider to tell you how you should convey that story?)
3. And now some writers are using AI. I suppose some will say that soon we will have “progressed” to the point where we won’t have to use our own minds at all. But is that really progress, or is that regress, a “return to a former, less-developed state”?
Well, you know my opinion.
If writers can so quickly and easily trust “generative AI” to “generate” content they can then apply (conscious, critical mind) to their fiction, then why can’t they trust their own “creative” subconscious to “create” the fiction in the first place?
Why do writers assume that of the billions of people on Earth, only they are unable to write a story without the help of total strangers, and now even machines?
Why do so many writers feel this overpowering need to demean their own work instead of, say, vehemently defending it?
Anyway, all of that said, in the spirit of fairness, you can find Sudowrite at https://www.sudowrite.com/.
You can also find something called Freewrite at https://getfreewrite.com/.
I hope you never use them. I hope you spend a lot of time trying to find “the right word” in your own mind before you consult so much as a thesaurus.
And if you don’t already, I hope for you that you eventually choose to defend your characters, your creative subconscious, and the stories they give you rather than bowing to the belief that you are wholly inadequate.
Because you aren’t.
Update: I hope to be back to writing in the next few days.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Five years ago, SpaceX launched a Roadster into space. Where is it now?” at https://interestingengineering.com/innovation/elon-musks-tesla-roadster-in-space. Incredible.
See “How I Used Generative AI Tools For My Short Story, With A Demon’s Eye” at https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2023/02/08/how-i-used-generative-ai-tools-for-my-short-story-with-a-demons-eye/.
The Journal…………………………………… 1180 words
Writing of “Hortencia Alvarez” (shrug—I dunno)
Day 1…… 1089 words. Total words to date…… 1089
Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)
Day 1…… 3231 words. Total words to date…… 3231
Day 2…… 2990 words. Total words to date…… 6221
Day 3…… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 8026
Day 4…… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 10051
Total fiction words for February……… 1089
Total fiction words for 2023………… 47962
Total nonfiction words for February… 7960
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 28310
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 76272
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer because of my zen-like non-process. If you want to learn it too, either hang around or download my Journal Archives at https://hestanbrough.com/the-daily-journal-archives/, read them, and try WITD for yourself.
6 thoughts on “AI: Um, Why?”
Excellent post. AI really alarms me. Maybe it is helpful in some fields, but certainly not creative ones. Why in the world would a person who likes to create, let AI create for them? Stories are all about the unique, the human–which AI is not.
Erin, because you’re one of my younger writers, I am so relieved to hear you say that. You’re absolutely right, but I’m afraid fewer and fewer people will recognize that in the future. I have to remind myself almost constantly that how others choose to practice this profession doesn’t affect my own bottom line. Even the best SF stories are not about the science. They’re about the human reaction to the science.
Cool post. In Hungary, a famous writer wrote the same thing: the most exciting part of reading is not about reading a perfectly calculated story, but about what the writer has to say. Their original voice is what counts, not the perfection.
For a while I felt I need some prompt to start writing. Anything just to start a story. I even used prompt generators. But now I feel this was because I was afraid of not having a good idea. I don’t do that anymore. Even though sometimes still use something that kicks my writing process, but not in the same way. I don’t search for ideas. When I see something – a picture, a sentence in a novel, or anything – and it cames me how good would it be to start a story with this, then I use it.
AI, as I feel, is not for help writers. Actually when someone relies on too much on other sources than his/her own self it can be destructing for his/her work. It takes out the originality of their ficion, I think.
Thanks, Balázs. I agree.
Andrew Yang, one of the democratic presidential candidates in the last go-around, had a lot to say about AI taking away human jobs. His book was revealing, and once I knew what to look for, I started to see the signs.
Every “process improvement,” every “streamlined” interaction seems to have AI behind it. Computer algorithm are our new gate keepers, and their sole purpose is to make someone more money.
Which is fine, I like making money too.
But when too many processes get delegated to some ambiguous entity, us as a species begin to atrophy. I feel threatened by that.
When it comes to job security, Andrew Yung wrote that the only fields clients will be willing to pay for are the ones where human imagination is necessary.
Now we have painting programs, writing programs.
We have faux imagination.
I hope this is just a fad. Also, I am going to mark all my works as “created by one human author, not written by AI.” Or somesuch. I’ll have to work out the phrasing, because I sure do love my spell check 😉
Hey Kate, Thanks for stopping by, and for the informative comment. With each passing day, I believe a little more strongly that the spoof film Idiocracy was prophetic. Great idea, identifying your stories and novels as created by a human author. I will do the same. I too use Word’s spell check feature (now that’s a tool) but that isn’t creation. I also use a human first reader. BTW, I also offer an email subscription (free) to the Journal through Substack. For that, visit https://harveystanbrough.substack.com/p/ai-um-why. The subscribe button is at the bottom.
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