AI and Writing

Image of lorem ipsum placeholder text on a word processor screen.
Lorem Ipsum text—a garbled passage from Cicero that has been used as placeholder text for decades, and possibly hundreds of years.

There are numerous web sites that promise easy story writing using AI, and no shortage of people submitting stories from these services. For now, the AI-generated stories are flawed and easy to spot, but they will likely improve.

As a reader, I’m not concerned. A lot of new fiction I purchase is from people I know, friends of friends, or people with sufficient public, online, or social media presence that I am confident of their existence as writers. A moment of caution and perhaps a check of reviews before hitting the “Buy Now with 1-click” button avoids not just AI-generated fiction, but material that is plagiarized, poorly written, or simply not for me.

With AI, I could request a story of my choosing. Interactive stories have existed for some time—everything from Choose Your Own Adventure YA books to video games—but those limit your options. We want that—we want someone else to tell us a story. AI story-telling offers unlimited options, but that can be a problem.

I asked a novel-generator AI site to start a romance novel, giving it the prompt of an employee discovering their new boss is a former high school crush. Four dull paragraphs in, the couple were having dull sex on a desk. Apart from anything else, this leaves me wondering about the men creating the algorithms. Sure, you can get the story you want by providing more details, but that starts to take a lot of effort, and spoils any suspense. If I want to read a story about an impoverished governess marrying a Duke in a Regency Romance, I don’t want to figure out all the details in order to frame the proper request to an AI. I’ll just buy a romance from a writer I trust. All the expected elements will be there, along with a surprise or two that I would not have thought to request but which fits with the story.

As a writer, I’m also not concerned about AI. I like writing, and the challenges of creating characters and narratives. The notion that I would get a computer to write for me is about as absurd as asking someone else to eat my lunch for me. I confess to using software to read my work and suggest alternate sentence structures, and perhaps eventually the same software will suggest alternate character arcs, but the choices will remain mine.

I take pride in my work, and cannot imagine submitting an AI-generated story as my own any more than I can imagine submitting a plagiarized story. I understand other people may not feel the same way, but anyone who thinks they can get rich quick by selling second-rate fiction is in for a rude awakening about the realities of publishing.

AI-generated stories could be competition for my stories, but, as I write this, Ocean’s Lure is ranked #152,385 in the Amazon Canada Kindle store. That’s a reality of publishing (and I like to think my novel is not second-rate fiction, even if it’s not top-grade literature). With or without AI, there are a lot of books out there, and it’s hard to get attention. If AI fiction becomes prevalent, I’ll add a “hand-crafted” label and call my books artisanal products.

Maybe I’m not taking the threat of AI seriously enough, but I don’t think my head is in the sand as I write and read the old-fashioned way. Even if it is, that’s not necessarily bad. Ostriches don’t actually hide their heads in the sand. They are nurturing and protecting their eggs.

By trc

Freelance writer, freelance editor, web consultant, and film studies scholar.

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