“I realized I had to be more specific. And you may notice you need to be very specific in your prompts to get the results you want.”
In “Use Chat GPT to Experiment with Fiction Style, Part 1,” host Beth Barany, creativity coach and science fiction and fantasy novelist, demonstrates how you can use Chat GPT to edit your fiction and shares examples using the styles of famous writers.
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The How To Write The Future podcast is for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to write positive futures and successfully bring those stories out into the marketplace. Hosted by Beth Barany, science fiction novelist and creativity coach for writers.
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Episode 41 - Use Chat GPT to Experiment with Fiction Style Part 1
Are you looking for a way to dig into your world building for your story?
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Hey everyone. Welcome back to How to Write the Future Podcast.
The focus of this podcast and the focus of my work is to support writers to create positive, optimistic stories because when we vision what is possible we help make it so. And part of that visioning is learning the tools of today that help us become better writers for tomorrow. I hope you enjoy this episode on ChatGPT and let's dig in.
This is my second in a series on ChatGPT. So if you don't already know what ChatGPT is then I'll see if I can give you a very short definition. It is a machine learning program that has been trained on hundreds and thousands of documents.
It is put out by a company called OpenAI and you access it by going to chat.openai.com.
So in my first episode, a few months ago, I demonstrated a few things with ChatGPT and I gave you my assessment, and you can go to that previous episode that will be linked in the show description or the show notes, and check it out.
Now, fast forward a few months from that and many things have improved technologically in the realm of how ChatGPT works. So it seems like it is more fluent.
In today's episode, I'm gonna share with you a demo, and how you can use chat GPT to improve your fiction and give you ideas for fiction.
Now, a huge caveat here. I do not recommend you take whatever it creates for you and just pass it off as your own. Many limitations to this tool, and I don't recommend it. Plus, it's not your words. It is this machine's words, and it is not a human being. It's just a tool. It's similar to having Microsoft Word edit your language. It makes suggestions and it's up to you to decide if they work for you. Now, when you use this tool to generate prose, be very careful about using this in your final product. It's probably not at all going to be exactly in your voice. Now, I wanted to talk about style and voice today.
I am not trained in talking about style and voice in any kind of literary capacity. I'm not an academic. I'm a fiction writer. I take what's useful and I let go of the rest.
All that said, I am an avid reader, and I can recognize the differences and styles between the different novelists I read, and I would imagine you can do the same.
In this instance today, I'm gonna take a sentence, a very plain sentence, and play with it in different writer's styles.
I'm gonna just walk you through what I did, and I can show you.
Chat GPT, it functions like you're having a dialogue with somebody. So you type in prompts and have it do something and give it parameters and tell it what to do and what not to do and it outputs information for you.
So the first thing I did was I asked it this. I said, “Turn this sentence into a fiction phrase in the style of Elizabeth Moon, setting a 22nd-century space station, and explain what you did to beginning fiction writers." And then here's the sentence I gave them. Put it in quote marks. "Janey ran down the corridor."
Then I hit return and it spit out two paragraphs for me. And this is what it gave me:
"With a hiss and a clang, Janey's boots hit the metal grading of the space station's corridor. She was running late again, her heart pounding with each step she. As she sprinted past the rows of sealed doors and flickering fluorescent lights, she could hear the distant hum of the station's engines thrumming through the walls."
And here's the second paragraph they offered:
To beginning fiction writers, turn a simple sentence like 'Janey ran down the corridor' into a piece of fiction. Try to think about the sensory details and setting of the scene.
What does the environment look, sound and feel like?
What emotions is the character experiencing?
By adding descriptive language and incorporating details about the character's surroundings, you can bring a scene to life and make it more engaging for your reader.
That was its first thing that it did.
Now, the cool thing about ChatGPT is you can stay within one thread and ask it to do new things.
The next thing I asked it to do was rewrite the new material in deep point of view. And here's what it came up with.
“With a hiss and a clang Janey's boots hit the metal grading of the space station's corridor. She was always running late, her heart pounding with each step she took. As she sprinted past the rows of sealed doors and flickering fluorescent lights. The distant hum of the station engines thrummed through the walls and reverberated in her chest. Janey's thoughts were consumed with the fear of being late again. Her eyes darted around scanning for any obstacles in people that might slow her down. She pushed herself harder, feeling her breaths come in short gasps and her muscles strain with the effort."
That's two paragraphs of prose, which part of it I would rewrite, but we'll talk about that in a moment. And then here's the third paragraph of the advice to fiction writers.
“To beginning fiction writers, deep point of view is a writing technique that immerses the reader in the character's thoughts, feelings, and experiences. To write in deep point of view, focus on sensory details and internal dialogue to convey the character's emotions and reactions to their surroundings. By doing so, you can create a more intimate and engaging reading experience for your audience."
While the second paragraph where they say, "Janey's thoughts were consumed with the fear of being late again"-- To me, that's not deep point of view. Deep point of view would be the specific thought she is having about being late again.
Also, "her eyes darted around" is not deep point of view. We cannot see our own eyes. Instead, it's the gaze that darts around. And then "she pushed herself harder, feeling her breaths come in short gasps."
This phrase: "feeling her breaths come in short gasps" is also a distancing phrase. You could better say,
"She pushed herself harder her breaths coming in short gasps her muscles, straining with the effort." Or just period. And then "her muscles strained with the effort."
And then even "her muscles" is, to me, too vague. I think it needs to be more specific, like her leg muscles, or her thighs. That's way more specific. Specific in my world is always better.
Then to the third paragraph where this machine is telling us what is deep point of view, it got it in my opinion, mostly right. I mean good for beginning writers. I'm just gonna leave it at that. All right.
But I didn't stop there. Now I wanted to explore, how can we write fiction in other kinds of styles.
How can we rewrite in other kinds of styles?
So the next command I gave it, or prompt I gave it, is write this prose paragraph in the style of Nora Roberts. And then here's a paragraph that it gave me.
"The sun was setting over the rolling hills, casting a golden light across the sprawling farm. The air was thick with the scent of fresh hay and blooming wildflowers, and a gentle breeze carried the sound of chirping crickets and rustling leaves. In the distance a lone tractor chugged along, leaving a trail of dust in its wake. It was a peaceful scene, one that seemed to stretch on forever, untouched by the chaos and noise of the outside world."
It's very pretty. It's very lovely. I've read stories of Nora Roberts where she is using setting like this. I thought it was gonna rewrite my paragraphs about Janey, but it did not.
I realized I had to be more specific. And you may notice you need to be very specific in your prompts to get the results you want.
Here's the new prompt: Rewrite "Janey ran down the corridor" in the style of Diane Duane." Another sci-fi fantasy writer.
And here's what it gave me.
"With a brisk leap, Janey propelled herself down the corridor, her life form a blur of motion. Her feet barely seemed to touch the deck as she sped past the rows of sealed portals, each one a promise of some new vista or hazard. The dim light of the station glimmered off the walls, casting eerie shadows that danced at the edge of her vision. Janey's eyes darted left and right, seeking out the slightest hint of danger or opportunity, her heart racing with the thrill of the chase."
So Diane Duane has written a great series called, So You Wanna Be A Wizard, which is a YA series, fabulous series. She's also written a ton of, I believe it's Star Wars stories, for the industry.
I like this paragraph a lot. I wanna say that this phrase, "Janey's eyes darted left and right" is to me bad writing. That's disembodied writing.
So what do I do with these different styles?
What I was exploring in using ChatGPT is to see what it could come up with, and two, to see if there was anything in these styles that could inspire me as a writer. Also, I just wanted to see what it could do. So let's continue cuz I have a few more that are really fun.
So we have "Rewrite in the style of Dickens."
"It was a dark and dreary passageway with Janey hastening along its length. The dampness of the walls seemed to seep into her bones as she dashed past the rows of tightly shut doors, shrouded in gloom. The flickering light from the lamps cast eerie shadows that danced in the corner of her eye like phantoms from the depths of the underworld. She breathed heavily, her heart racing with the fear of what lay ahead and the unknown perils that might assail her at any moment. Nevertheless, with a firm resolve, Janey pushed on, determined to reach her destination at all costs."
Now, reading this, we're not totally thrown back into the 19th-century writing of Dickens, but a little bit, right?
"It was a dark and dreary passageway." The direct spinoff of "it was a dark and stormy night", which I believe is the opening of Tale of Two Cities. And the overall effect of this passage is as if we're in a scary and dreary location. And that's very Dickens. He wrote a lot of things like that.
Now, my husband was sitting next to me while I was working on this, and he said, "rewrite in this style of Shel Silverstein.
Here's what ChatGPT came up with.
"Janey ran down the corridor with a skip and a hop, past doors and lights that seemed to never stop. The Space Station hummed and buzzed all around. As Janey raced along, barely touching the ground. She giggled with glee at the thrill of the chase, her heart pounding faster with each passing space.
The walls and the floors seem to swirl and spin as Janey's wild adventure was about to begin. So off she went with a bound and a leap down the corridor with nary a peep. And though the journey was fraught with danger and fear, Janey knew she had nothing to lose and everything to cheer."
I just love seeing this. Shel Silverstein's tone in general-- a lot of his work was very happy and peppy, and you can totally see that happiness, and the pep in this passage.
And I wanna call your attention to every writer has a tone and a voice and a style, whether you're conscious of it or not. So, this is a wonderful rendering of Shel Silverstein's work.
In the second half of this episode next week, I'll share with you some more changes in style in voice using the same passage. I will compare and contrast with some different authors and point out some of the things that make those authors' style unique so that you can think about your writing style and what are some of the things that make your writing style unique. I'll even share with you an analysis I had chat GPT do on some of my fiction.
So I'm curious to hear about your experiences ChatGPT. Are you playing with it?
How are you using it? I'm very curious too.
Wrap-Up + Thanks for listening! Please like and subscribe. Thanks!
Thank you so much, everyone for listening to my podcast. Your interest and feedback is so inspiring to me and helps me know that I'm helping you in some small way.
So write long and prosper.
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