While I’ve been using various AI art apps for several months now, I’ve shied away from apps and programs like ChatGPT. Part of the reason is much like why some artists are against Midjourney, etc. As a wordsmith, I have a knee-jerk reaction to something that claims to be able to do in a blink of an eye what I often agonize over. However, I’ve seen more and more authors talking about how they’ve been using ChatPGT and similar programs not to write their stories but to help frame out a scene or setting, etc. So I thought I’d take a look at it today and I have to admit it surprised me.
The first prompt I put in was a request to describe what a suspect would feel upon being taken into a police interrogation room. In less than two minutes, I had a 200 word description. It opened with a disclaimer that the AI “brains” couldn’t accurately give the suspect’s impressions because there are so many possible ways someone might feel, react, etc. Then it went into what it “could” do and this is what I got as a general description:
A suspect may feel intimidated or anxious upon entering an interrogation room at a police station. The room is typically designed to be sparsely furnished, with a plain table and chairs, and a one-way mirror. The lighting may be bright, and the temperature may be kept low to make the suspect uncomfortable. The room may also be small, which can create a sense of claustrophobia.
The atmosphere in the room can also contribute to the suspect’s impression. The interrogating officer may adopt an aggressive or confrontational tone, creating a tense and uncomfortable environment. This can make the suspect feel like they are being pressured or even threatened.
Overall, a suspect’s impression of an interrogation room at a police station is likely to be negative, as the room is designed to be an intimidating and uncomfortable space intended to make the suspect more likely to confess or provide information.
Now, this certainly isn’t in any shape to be included in a piece of fiction. However, it is a good starting point for inclusion. Not only does it give a physical description of what the interior of the room might look like, but also how the interrogating officer might appear, etc. From this, it would be fairly easy to slip in the “fiction” aspects and use this as the framework for the scene’s setting. Okay, so far, so good. It has potential.
The next prompt I put in was to ask it to develop a character description for a 37-year-old female police detective. I kept it purposefully vague to see how the AI responded. After giving the same basic disclaimer as it did for the interrogation room scenario, it gave this:
This detective is likely to have a strong and commanding presence, exuding confidence and authority in her work. She is experienced, having spent many years in the police force, and has worked her way up the ranks to become a detective. She is highly skilled at her job, possessing a sharp intellect, excellent analytical skills, and an eye for detail.
She is dedicated to her work, and often goes above and beyond the call of duty to solve cases and bring criminals to justice. She is passionate about her job and is driven by a desire to make a difference and serve the community.
Physically, she is likely to be in good shape, as her job requires her to be physically fit and capable of handling potentially dangerous situations. She may be tall and athletic, with a no-nonsense demeanor that demands respect from those around her.
While she is highly professional, she may also have a softer side that she reveals only to those closest to her. She may be fiercely loyal to her colleagues and friends, and is willing to do whatever it takes to protect them.
Overall, this 37-year-old female police detective is a highly skilled and dedicated professional, who is respected by her colleagues and feared by criminals. She is a force to be reckoned with, and is committed to using her skills and experience to uphold the law and protect the community.
Again, this is nowhere near ready for prime time inclusion in a novel or short story. But it is an excellent beginning for a character sketch. Add in physical features and some personal background, and you start to “know” who the woman is.
The last prompt I input was a bit more specific, more like what I’d do if I was brainstorming a scene. In this particular case, it was to describe the scene where the female detective is fighting a werewolf on the night of the full moon. This time, there was no disclaimer from the AI because I was asking for something specific. Here’s what it gave me:
Detective Sarah had faced many dangerous situations in her career as a police detective, but nothing could have prepared her for the horror she faced on the night of the full moon. She had been tracking a string of brutal murders that had occurred during the past few full moons, and all the evidence pointed to a werewolf being responsible.
As she made her way through the abandoned warehouse, her gun drawn and at the ready, she could hear the beast growling in the distance. Suddenly, it leaped out of the shadows, its massive form towering over her. Its fur was matted with blood, and its eyes glowed a sinister red.
Sarah did not hesitate, her instincts taking over as she fired her gun at the beast. But the bullets merely bounced off its thick hide, and the werewolf charged at her, claws extended. She managed to dodge the first blow, but the creature was fast and relentless, and she knew that she had to act quickly.
She drew her silver knife, a weapon she had specially crafted for this very moment, and engaged the werewolf in a ferocious hand-to-hand battle. Despite the beast’s size and strength, Sarah’s training as a police detective had honed her reflexes and combat skills, and she fought back with all her might.
The battle raged on for what felt like an eternity, the sound of snarls and growls echoing through the warehouse. But in the end, it was Sarah who emerged victorious. She plunged her silver knife into the werewolf’s heart, and with a final, pitiful howl, the creature crumpled to the ground, dead.
Sarah took a deep breath, her heart racing, as she surveyed the scene. She had survived the fight of her life, and had vanquished a monster that had terrorized the city for far too long. She knew that there would be more challenges to come, but in that moment, she felt an immense sense of pride and satisfaction, knowing that she had fulfilled her duty as a police detective and protected the people she had sworn to serve.
Again, not ready for prime time, but there are the bones of a scene here which can be fine tuned and expanded into a full scene. That’s especially true if you feed additional detail into the prompt and then into the final product. Let’s take that same prompt but add some setting prompting as well. In this case, I’ll add an abandoned warehouse in a bad part of town where there have been a series of unsolved crimes recently.
Here’s the prompt I used: describe a female police detective searching an abandoned warehouse in a part of town where there have been a number of unsolved murders who is then attacked by a werewolf on the night of the full moon
And this is what I got in return:
Detective Rachel was a seasoned police detective who had seen her fair share of gruesome crimes. But the string of unsolved murders in the downtown area had her on edge, especially with the full moon looming on the horizon.
As she entered the abandoned warehouse, her gun drawn and her senses on high alert, she could feel a prickling sensation on the back of her neck. It was quiet, too quiet, and she knew that she was walking into a trap.
Suddenly, she heard a low growling noise from the shadows, and her heart began to race. She had been trained for this, but nothing could have prepared her for what she was about to face.
As the werewolf leaped out of the darkness, Rachel fired her gun, but the bullets bounced off the creature’s thick fur. She had to act fast, dodging the beast’s razor-sharp claws as she tried to find a weak spot in its defenses.
Despite her training and experience, the werewolf was too strong, and Rachel found herself backed into a corner, with no escape in sight. She could feel the creature’s hot breath on her face as it snarled and bared its teeth.
But Rachel was not one to give up easily. She took a deep breath and lunged at the werewolf, driving her silver knife into its heart. As the creature howled in pain, Rachel knew that she had finally put an end to the string of murders that had plagued the city for far too long.
As she emerged from the warehouse, her clothes torn and her body bruised, Rachel knew that she had been lucky to survive. But she also knew that she had done her duty as a police detective, and that the people of the city could finally rest easy, knowing that the werewolf was no longer a threat.
As you can see, there are some there are commonalities between this second prompt and the original one. But with the additional information in the prompt, the AI gave more in the response. Again, not enough for it to be near publication ready, but something to work with as the basis of a scene.
Would I ever use ChatGPT or similar app to try to write a story? Nope. However, I a see using it to help brainstorm ideas or to jumpstart a scene when I get stuck. As with Midjourney or any other app we use as part of our creative process, the ChatGPT AI is a tool only. Tools are to be used, but not relied upon, especially not for the final product.
I can most definitely see using it to help with settings, especially since that is what I often find myself struggling with. For example, how would you describe an abandoned warehouse? This is how ChatGPT described it:
The abandoned warehouse loomed over the landscape like a giant, forgotten monument to a bygone era. Its brick walls were weathered and cracked, and its once gleaming windows were now shattered and boarded up. Weeds and grass grew through the cracks in the pavement that surrounded the building, and the only sounds were the rustling of leaves and the creaking of rusted metal.
As one approached the entrance of the warehouse, they would see a heavy metal door, its paint peeling and rusted from years of neglect. The windows on either side of the door were covered with metal grates, and the only light came from the occasional flicker of a streetlamp in the distance.
Inside the warehouse, it was a different story. The air was thick with the scent of mildew and decay, and the floor was littered with broken glass, old machinery, and debris from years of neglect. The walls were covered in graffiti, and the few remaining windows let in only a dim, murky light.
The warehouse was cavernous, with rows upon rows of tall shelves and stacked boxes, many of which had been knocked over and lay scattered across the floor. The air was still, save for the occasional flutter of a pigeon’s wings or the scurrying of a rat.
Despite its dilapidated appearance, the warehouse had a certain eerie beauty to it, with its soaring ceilings and vast, open spaces. But it was also a place of danger and unpredictability, with hidden corners and shadows that could conceal any number of secrets.
Overall, the abandoned warehouse was a place of decay and neglect, a forgotten relic of a bygone era that had once been a hub of activity and industry, but now lay silent and empty, waiting to be rediscovered or torn down.
Not a bad description and one that could be merged into the description of the fight with the werewolf.
So, perhaps ChatGPT can be of more use than I thought. What about it? What do you think? (And remember, I look at it as a tool to be used to jumpstart a scene or help remind me about how to describe something specific, not to “create” the book itself.)
Featured image is an image I created using Midjourney AI to help inspire me on an upcoming novel. There are other elements that will be added before the cover is created. This is just the base image.