26 March 2023

A I on Short Story

robot reading

Artificial Intelligence once was a concept of science fiction, a thing of the future. Now, it's a creature of the present and we are still learning how to use it.

With the right AI software, anyone can type in "write an article on the elements needed to write a great short story" and then hit ENTER. The software will proceed to write an article on what the software considers to be the elements necessary to write a great short story. If the submitter doesn't like the article for some reason, then he or she can enter the same information and hit ENTER again. The A I software will turn out a different article, ad infinitum.

Okay, so let's see what the software wrote for the first inquiry.

Writing a great short story can be challenging, but it is also an incredibly rewarding experience. Short stories can be powerful tools for exploring complex themes, capturing a moment in time, or simply entertaining readers with a well-crafted tale. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newcomer to the craft, there are several key elements that can help you create a compelling short story.

   1. A strong opening: The first sentence or paragraph of  your short story should grab the reader's attention and set the tone for what's to come. It should establish the setting, introduce the main character or characters, and hint at the conflict or tension that will drive the plot forward.

   2. Compelling characters: In a short story, there is limited space to develop characters, so it is important to make every word count. Create characters that are unique, interesting, and relatable. Give them clear motivations, distinct personalities, and flaws that make them feel like real people.

   3. A well-developed plot: Your story should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. The plot should be structured in a way that keeps the reader engaged and interested. Avoid predictable or cliched storylines, and strive for a unique and surprising twist or resolution.

   4. Conflict or tension:  Your story should have a central conflict or tension that drives the action forward. This could be a physical or emotional obstacle that the main character must overcome, or it could be a moral dilemma that forces the character to make a difficult decision.

   5. Effective pacing: In a short story, pacing is critical. You need to keep the reader engaged and interested from beginning to end, without rushing or dragging the story out. Use pacing techniques like dialogue, description, action to create a sense of momentum and tension.

   6. A clear theme: A great short story should leave the reader with a clear sense of what it's all about. It should explore a theme or idea that resonates with the reader, whether it is a universal truth about the human condition, a commentary on a current issue, or a personal reflection on life.

   7. Skilled language: Finally, a great short story should be written in skillful and precise language. Choose your words carefully, and use imagery, metaphors, and other literary devices to create a vivid and engaging story. Avoid cliches and overused phrases, and strive for originality and creativity.

In conclusion, a great short story requires careful attention to many different elements from character development and plot pacing, theme, and language. By honing your skills in each of these areas, you can create a story that is both memorable and powerful. Remember that the most important element of any story is its ability to connect with readers on an emotional level, so be true to your own voice and vision, and strive to create a story that will resonate with your audience.

Personally, other than some repetition, I would say the A I software did a good job and covered all the necessary elements. At  this stage in my career, I tend to write instinctively without consciously thinking about the basics, however there are times it probably would not hurt for me to be reminded what the basics are. I think I'll keep this article on file.

I have not played around with having the A I software write a short story to see how well it does. What do you think, will A I programs eventually acquire the ability to put us human writers out of business?

And, if an Artificial Intelligence program does write a short story, who then owns the copyright?


  1. AI is like the misused magic in the Sorcerer's Apprentice. I read an article recently (sorry, I don't remember the source) pointing out that because the AI software uses algorithms, all the writing it produces on a particular subject will tend to parrot the same sources/writers/previous works over and over and become more and more similar.

    Again, I don't remember the source, but apparently someone has already experimented and found that precise result. Long passages of a previous work were copied verbatim.
    I expected that to happen and predicted it to people in a workshop several months ago.

    A different issue with AI, which I also predicted, has come to pass, too. Because the material is copied, intellectual property attorneys are already filing suits for plagiarism. Wannabe writers who use AI to "produce" work quickly are going to lead to a feeding frenzy in the courtrooms at the same time that they help lower the quality of pseudo-new material.

    If you haven't figured it out already, I am passionately opposed to AI and anyone associated with it. And the software product above sounds eerily similar to the tenth grade textbook my classes used in the early 1970s.

    1. Steve, allegedly, the teachers also have software which allows them to tell when a student is submitting work generated by A I. Otherwise, kids would be taking all kinds of shortcuts.

      Also, my programming son tells me that people are playing around with A I software to see if it can program itself to be independent. Scary thought.

  2. I'm with you, Steve. I don't want to read AI fiction.

  3. Eventually, I think it would all be similar.

  4. A school librarian and former English teacher showed me what it looks like when AI tries to write a short story this week. All the characters lacked depth, but the description was reasonably well done. And it doesn't know the rules for particular genres at all (right now). She also showed me how she might use AI. She asked the AI to write an email to a parent defending the presence of a particular book (she gave it a title and author name of a challenged book) in the library collection. It spat out a well-written multi-paragraph email in about a minute. Given how many of those emails she writes these days, it could be a definite time saver for her. Since she knows the books, she can edit if she needs to correct anything.

  5. I have written a piece for SleuthSayers, which will probably appear in May, discussing my attempt to see if an AI could figure out the same plot twist I used. Stay tuned.

  6. Years ago, I had an English class of "low level" kids, which often means they're unmotivate rather than incapable. For writing assignments, many of them would turn in pirated rap lyrics they tried to pass off as their own. I would Google the first line or an interesting turn of phrase and almost always find the real source quickly. They were always amazed that the Old White Guy knew so much about Hip Hop and Rap. ;-)

    Just goes to show that nothing's new except the tools...

  7. Elizabeth Dearborn26 March, 2023 12:38

    Do any of y'all remember a book that was published by Publish America in the early 2000s, "Atlanta Nights" by the author "Travis Tea" (travesty)?

    1. I didn't recall the title, but I think I know where you're going. Want to tell us about it?

    2. Elizabeth Dearborn26 March, 2023 15:46

      They say the mind is the first thing to go ... I forgot one important detail. The manuscript of Atlanta Nights was accepted by Publish America, which claimed to be a "traditional" publisher with "standards." The authors were a group of science fiction writers plus the Bonsai Story Generator software, who deliberately put together the worst book possible. When Publish America discovered this they canceled the contract & the book was published by Lulu instead. I have a copy somewhere!


  8. My consulting company’s landlord, so to speak, was Automation Intelligence, Inc. at 1200 West Colonial, Orlando, a spinoff of Westinghouse Robotics. Thirty years ago, AII was teaching machines such prosaic tasks as sorting tool heads too fine for the human eye, grading plywood, checking welds, and counting sheets of glass on pallets. Those baby steps have led us to today, but we haven’t quite reached the Model T stage.

    RT, your son is right. In one of my college papers I submitted a proposition that as we refined intelligence simulations, the day would come we could no longer tell the difference between man and machine. We are very very close to that point now and research is ever accelerating.

  9. RT, I’ve been looking in on ‘Indy’ direct-to-Kindle writers. Some have been experimenting with AI and are giddy with delight. Suddenly they have in hand a tool that can, they believe, launch them in the big leagues without having to pay the dues. Why sweat for a year writing a novel when you can let the computer crank one out in minutes.

    By the way, the effect of sounding too much like underlying authors is easily dealt with. Simply direct the AI to write “in the style of” George Sand, Alfred Lord Tennyson, or even Sports Illustrated.

  10. Change can be scary, but it's hard to tell if this wonderful or woeful.


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