S4. Writing with the help of AI

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Session 4 - Outline for Students

This session will look at how a typical AI Chat or Conversation tool can help with writing fiction. It will also examine using AI for typical business writing such as submitting a grant application or preparing a presentation.


Soon an AI will be able to produce endless numbers of top quality novels in a fraction of a second. Why then would any human write fiction beyond this point? There is a clear parallel with the game of chess however. The best human chessmasters can no longer match the best AI systems in any way. Millions of people continue to enjoy playing the game of chess every day however, undaunted by their relative lack of skill. So with fiction writing and other extended writing tasks.

Of course, some still debate whether AI will ever be the equal of the best human writers. A similar claim is made for the best artists. Time will tell, but what do you think?

Section A. AI to assist writing fiction

Here we ask one such tool, Chat GPT from OpenAI chat.openai.com a series of questions to show a little of what is possible.

Note that the interchanges shown here are with ChatGPT 4 which is the subscription version of the tool [at March 2024], and therefore a more recent and far stronger AI than the previous version ChatGPT 3.5. Often when you see or hear reports about AI not being not very good they are from people who did not wish to pay a subscription and who have access only to the older less able model. ChatGPT 5 is not yet released but will be significantly better still, according to industry rumours.

A1. AI for generating plot ideas

There will come a time before long when AI generates great long-form fiction without any human intervention at all. Indeed, it is already a very capable assistant to a human writer. Most of us have limited skills in this area but with the help of AI anybody can have a lot of fun.

ChatGPT fiction ideas

ChatGPT fiction ideas

ChatGPT fiction ideas

Remember that AI has infinite patience and can generate new ideas as many times as you want. It also has a vast knowledge of existing writers and their styles. You could refine the prompt many times until you get an outline plot that fits your own style.

A2. AI for developing characters

Once the outline plot has been chosen, a writer needs interesting and well developed characters. AI has an infinite number of suggestions to provide somewhere to begin.

ChatGPT fiction character ideas

ChatGPT fiction character ideas

ChatGPT fiction character ideas

ChatGPT fiction character ideas

A3. AI for evolving characters

The AI suggested characters will probably not suit the writer's needs at first, so many changes may be made before a final combination is arrived at. Beware that the AI doesn't slip in any other changes when you did not request them and are are not expecting them though. A general purpose AI will not understand your requirement for consistency so will continue to be endlessly inventive, often when you least expect it and not necessarily in a helpful way.

ChatGPT fiction character changes

ChatGPT fiction character changes

A4. AI, stereotyping and over adjustment

Above ChatGPT was simply asked to change the character of Jamie from male to female. It could have left most other aspects as before but it also made other subtle changes. Here is one simple one.

Our original male Jamie had a 'knowledge of technology and social media'.

ChatGPT fiction stereotypes

Our female Jamie instead has 'insight and creativity'.

ChatGPT fiction stereotypes

There are many reasons why AI systems act this way. Part of the reason is because they are trained on all existing literature which has inbuilt bias. A second reason is because they then go through a second type of training which involves human feedback, and that will tend to reflect the 'political' opinions of the trainers. This can be overcome by an author but it will always be a factor when AI systems are used.

Note that some AI companies also adjust the way their AI provides answers by adding hidden instructions to the prompt you send. They may, for example add the words 'ensuring proper diversity' which, as might be expected, can produce different results to the ones prompted for. The intent is noble but as a result many people prefer to use 'open source' AI tools which are less likely to do this than corporate productions.

A5. AI writing the opening scene

Wonderful though it would be the complete a whole short story here, we will content ourselves with asking ChatGPT to write the opening sequence to introduce our three characters.

ChatGPT fiction opening para

ChatGPT fiction opening para

ChatGPT fiction opening para

A6. AI as a writer's assistant, editor and critic

a. Ensuring consistency. In even a medium sized novel it can be very difficult to avoid trivial mistakes such as making a character red-haired at one point and blond several chapters later. Even now some of the AI tools can accept a document the length of a large novel and absorb its content instantly. A writer can therefore pass in the complete latest draft and then ask for comments on any aspect, or simply for a reminder of what happened for each character as the novel progressed.

b. Constructive criticism. Every budding writer has experienced the feeling of being demolished when they showed a cherished piece of writing to a friend or family member, only to get more direct advice that they were hoping for. AI on the other hand can, if asked correctly, provide the most positive of criticism.

c. Alternative and improved phrasing. Any good AI tool will happily take in a chunk and writing and provide a selection of rewrites for you to choose between. It will also spots typos and other problems.

A7. Specialist writing tools

There are several AI tools which are designed specifically for use by fiction writers, or indeed writers in general including creators of social media content. Please note that it is generally unwise to sign up to an annual plan with any specialist AI tool. New tools emerge each month which may be better or cheaper or both.

Note also that the more general AI conversation tools like ChatGPT and Gemini may be nearly as good, or even better, in due course. Sometimes tools like those below in any case turn out to be simply 'wrappers' on top of one of the major tools. Again, wherever possible avoid long term commitment wherever possible even if you like one of these. Without recommendation and in no particular order, below is a short list.

7.1 Sudowrite
7.2 Jasper
7.3 Writesonic
7.4 Anyword
7.5 Rytr
7.6 Aithor

Section B. AI to assist formal writing. Example 1: Grant Application

AI can assist with longform writing for many purposes. To illustrate this, here is how AI could assist an organisation seeking a grant. That is typically a time consuming process often requiring seemingly endless boxes to be completed with text.

The tool we used here was Gemini from Google gemini.google.com/. There is further information about this in the 'about Google Gemini' page on this site.

Here is the prompt given to Gemini. Note the instruction to be concise in order that the AI tool returns something we can put on this site below. AI tools are by their nature verbose! Generating words is what they do.

prompt to Gemini

Below is the first answer from Gemini. Pretty good if you yourself have to normally stare at a blank piece of paper for a long time before starting to write.

draft proposal

draft proposal

You could ask Gemini to expand sections, to change the emphasis, or any other aspect. Instead lets ask for help in actually identifying suitable grants.

second prompt to Gemini

This ability to switch seamlessly around between tasks is a very useful feature of AI tools. Here we can a useful response. Notice that the response has clickable links, for example to the UK government online "Find a grant" service.

response showing grant givers

The future. Before long, tools like Gemini, OpenAI and Claude will have a far deeper capacity to not only write parts of a proposal and identify grants, they will source the application form, draft a full application, and track the response of the grant giving organisation. Of course, in time it will simply be one AI system talking to another AI system.

Section B. AI to assist formal writing. Example 2: Preparing Presentations

Briefing ChatGPT. When a presentation is needed there are usually relevant source documents. These can usually be uploaded to ChatGPT or other AI Tool to provide a starting point. It is best to then instruct ChatGPT to proceed slowly, working in stages and starting with a concise version.

Here OpenAI's ChatGPT4 is provided with a pdf containing Session 3 from this course. It is immediately confident of its ability to deliver.

response to presentation prep

Iterating until a useful stage is reached. ChatGPT will not often get to a conclusion in a single step unless the challenge is very simple, so an iterative process begins. After a while ChatGPT4 provides a downloadable slide presentation and asks for comments.

another response to presentation prep

The limitations. This is where the difficulty begins. While ChatGPT4 can do various clever things like take images from the source document and put them into the presentation it really does not yet have the ability to match the image significance to the slide text. It can of course also create images itself.

Assuming that images are resolved, ChatGPT also does not yet do a good job of laying out the page. Which is to say, ChatGPT will surely soon be able to do all of these things perfectly - just not yet. For the experience alone it is worth trying to see how a particular challenge is handled.

Specialist tools. As with every other aspect of AI, there are numerous specialist tools which seek to provide an answer to the outstanding problems laid out above. Usually they are built on top of tools like ChatGPT4 but with extra 'training' so that they can do a more precise job. No names are given here because this is a fast moving field and the main AI tools will themselves soon largely solve this themselves.