I’ve been playing around with ChatGPT. ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot (a computer program that simulates human conversation to solve user queries) used to get human-like answers to various questions.
Developers are using it to help write code. Marketers are using it to help write ad copy. Writers are using it to help develop stories and characters (and whatever else their imagination comes up with).
Since I’m a little stuck on my current WIP, I thought I’d experiment with ChatGPT and see if it could give me some ideas. And I’m so impressed with what it produced, I thought I’d share.
How ChatGPT Looks
First off, you have to set up an account. Both free and paid options are available. (From what I’ve read, the difference right now is about speed… queries from paid accounts have preference over the free requests.)
The ChatGPT link is https://chat.openai.com/auth/login. From there, you can either sign up or log in.
Once you’re signed in, the screen has one input field labeled “Send a message” and some general information about ChatGPT in the middle. On the left-hand side is a box marked “+ New Chat” and a list of any previous chats you’ve done. If this is your first time, it will be empty.
To be honest, it was quite intimidating the first time I logged in. I had no idea what to type or how to get started. However, a quick Internet search for “ChatGPT prompts for authors” returned several helpful articles to get me started.
How I Used ChatGPT
I started a new chat and asked a series of questions to help me flesh out my outline and give me more ideas about my characters’ personalities. The surprise was that the more questions I asked in this same chat, the more relevant to my story the answers became. Let me show you what I mean.
My first prompt was to get an outline for the type of novel I’m writing.
Please help me create an outline for my Enemies to Lovers, Workplace Romance Fiction Novel where the woman is a new employee and the man doesn’t trust her.
ChatGPT spit out a fairly generic outline with the headings:
- The Initial conflict
- The Tension Builds
- The Turning Point
- The Romance Develops
- The Obstacle
- The Resolution
Within each of these headings were bullet points listing general actions. A couple of examples for you:
- “Introduce the conflict: [Insert name] is determined to prove herself and gain [insert name]s trust, but things don’t go as planned.”
- “Something happens that threatens to derail their newfound romance.”
Okay, okay… not bad. (Not great, but not bad.) Now I need some character descriptions.
Write a female character who is a new software developer in a company who… (The rest of the sentence is my female protagonist’s backstory. This is me avoiding spoilers.)
ChatGPT returned a lot more than I was expecting. It made up a name for the character, then gave me a paragraph or two on the following topics:
Yes, ChatGPT made up a whole story line for this character and even added in a male character to the story! I was not expecting that. Wow!
On my next request, I got more specific and included my character’s name and a little more detail about his background and the conflict in the book.
Write a male character named Noah who is a production manager in a manufacturing company and a subject matter expert on a major project. He doesn’t trust the new software developer named Claire who has been added to the project.
ChatGPT returned the same topics as above, but now the story was much more complete with the correct names. The Storyline section suggested situations that were surprisingly close to what I had already thought up in my head. There was no romance in ChatGPT’s Storyline because I didn’t specify that in my prompt.
Revisit Original Prompt
Now that I understood I needed to give more detail in my prompt, I revisited the original question of the outline. THIS is where the magic happened.
Please create an outline for my Enemies to Lovers, Workplace Romance Fiction Novel where the female character named Claire is a new software developer and the male character named Noah is a subject matter expert who doesn’t trust her.
ChatGPT returned a title, descriptions of my characters, and an outline. The Outline section broke the story into Act I, Act II, Act III, Act IV, and an Epilogue, with bulleted lines describing what happens in each act.
Here’s the cool thing: This outline also included information from the previous questions where I’d asked for character descriptions.
The revelation occurred when I realized the more prompts I entered, the more relevant the answer became. Boy, this set off all kinds of ideas for me on making ad copy, figuring out how to get unstuck in my book, etc.
Better Character Descriptions
I’ve struggled a bit getting to know my female protagonist. A tool I’ve used in the past for character development is exploring personality types and profiles to find characteristics associated with those types. I decided to use ChatGPT to do this.
What is the most common MBTI for female software developers?
ChatGPT gave me a list of the most common Myers Briggs types among software developers and told me that the survey accessed did not differentiate between male or female.
What is the most common Enneagram type among female software developers?
Chat GPT told me there wasn’t a lot of research specifically on Enneagrams for female software developers, but gave me a list of the most common Enneagram types among software developers in general.
I then took those responses and formulated my new prompt.
Describe a female character named Claire whose MBTI is INTJ and is an Enneagram Type 5.
ChatGPT gave me three paragraphs describing how Claire thinks, acts, feels, and appears to others. This is pretty good information that I’ll be adding to Claire’s character sketch.
Better Ad Copy
After collecting all this information related to my current WIP, I asked ChatGPT for keywords related to this story.
Write a list of potential keywords that could be used to target a specific book genre: contemporary enemies to lovers romance in a workplace setting.
ChatGPT produced twenty-seven key word phrases related to the information produced with the prior prompts. Wow! Okay, I’m pretty excited about being able to produce ad copy like this.
After this small interaction with ChatGPT, I think it will definitely be a tool in my writing tool belt to help me move forward on my story ideas. And my philosophy regarding tools has always been a tool is only as good as its wielder.
I’m looking forward to using it to deepen my characters, especially those who aren’t like me. I mean, if the character is like me, I can guess how they will interpret the world around them and how they will react to situations that arise. But I don’t want all my characters to be like me. I want a variety. And I think ChatGPT will help me achieve that variety and depth of character.
Overall, I see ChatGPT as an efficient way to do general research faster—just like Internet search engines eliminated the card catalog. (If you never had to use a card catalog to find information, consider yourself lucky!)
Obviously, it’s only as good as the information it can access, so there will be times when it’s wrong. To illustrate this point, read this article on Amazon’s failed attempt to create an AI recruiting tool which ultimately showed bias toward male candidates and penalized female candidates.
You can’t go into it blind. You must be aware of the limitations that come with it. After all, it can’t return the most common Enneagram of a female software developer if that study hasn’t been done. And you don’t really know if the study ChatGPT quotes is actually bona fide. So, as with anything, take it with a grain of salt.
One More Thing…
There’s a bit of an ethical thing to consider here. The training of these AI chatbots (including ChatGPT) was done by taking data from blogs, books, academic papers, websites (including one notorious for pirated books), social media platforms and many others without the express consent of the owners of this content. Which means the data used likely was not obtained legally. (The law does not keep up with technology, so we’ll have to watch how the first lawsuit plays out when it comes.)
Additionally, anything you upload to the AI will go into its training database. This means that first chapter you just uploaded is now out in the wild for use in training AI chatbots.
Whether you choose to use the tool or not, make sure you are aware of the implications of using it.
Have you played with an AI tool? What was your experience? What are your concerns? Drop a comment below and let me know.
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