From my Desk...
The Bare Bones Truth About AI and Writers
Conversations with writers recently revealed to me the fear most felt about AI and its rapid development. I had done some bare bones experimentation with the basics but a visit to my hometown of Springfield, Virginia inspired a real test of how well the platform ChatGPT did with creating a story with the bare minimum instruction. With Halloween just around the corner, neighborhoods were filled ghoulish decorations. In front of one house pictured above: a football game played by skeletons displayed creatively in a front yard. That was all I needed to inform my own AI experiment, feeding this instruction into the ChatGPT prompt:
“Write a humorous Halloween theme story about two high school football teams playing against each with skeleton bones cheerleaders and skeleton fans cheering while one team holds the line taking a ghoul-line stand while the bony crowd cheers them on.”
What follows is what ChatGPT produced. My edited version follows.
Once upon a spooky October evening, two high school football teams were preparing for a showdown like no other. The Rivertown Ravens and the Graveyard Gladiators were set to clash under the eerie glow of the full moon. It was a matchup that had the whole town buzzing with excitement, for both teams had a peculiar twist – they were adorned with skeleton cheerleaders and skeleton fans!
The cheerleaders, or “skellies,” as they were affectionately known, had been rehearsing their bone-rattling routines for weeks. They clicked their skeletal fingers together to make an eerie percussion sound that sent shivers down the spines of anyone within earshot. With their high-pitched, otherworldly cheers, they managed to get the crowd both excited and creeped out at the same time.
The fans were equally as enthusiastic, despite their lack of flesh and organs. They clattered their bony hands together in thunderous applause, and their hollow eye sockets glowed with ghoulish delight as they watched their favorite teams.
As the game began, the Ravens kicked off to the Gladiators. The teams collided with the enthusiasm only high schoolers could muster, but the Gladiators, dressed in their sinister black-and-gray uniforms, seemed to have the early advantage.However, the Ravens were not to be outdone. Their quarterback, a lanky teenager named Benny, threw a pass that soared through the night air like a ghostly apparition. It landed perfectly in the hands of their star receiver, Skeletom, who promptly scuttled down the field with a surprising burst of speed, his bony feet clattering like castanets.
The skeleton cheerleaders clapped and danced, their detached limbs performing a macabre ballet in celebration of the Ravens’ impressive play. “B-O-N-E, that’s the way we spell victory!” they chanted, or at least something that sounded like that.
The Gladiators, however, were not about to give up easily. They huddled together, their skeletal faces contorted in fierce determination. As the Ravens approached the end zone, the Gladiators took what they called a “ghoul-line stand,” with their bony hands on their hips, defending their turf.
The Ravens, not to be deterred by the formidable wall of skeletal defenders, pulled off a daring trick play. Skeletom handed the ball off to their running back, Bonecrusher Bob. Bob was known for his brute strength and thick skull, which was now quite literal. He barreled forward, smashing through the Gladiators’ defensive line, causing bones to clatter and fly in all directions.
The skeleton fans erupted in applause, rattling their bones so vigorously that it sounded like a hailstorm on a tin roof. It was deafening.
As the Ravens scored a touchdown, the scoreboard displayed a fitting message for this unique Halloween game: “Ravens 6, Gladiators 6 feet under.”
In the end, the game remained tied, and both teams celebrated their spirited efforts. The skeleton cheerleaders and fans continued to cheer, despite the tie, their enthusiasm echoing into the night.
And so, under the watchful glow of the full moon, the high school football game between the Rivertown Ravens and the Graveyard Gladiators came to a close. It was a night of bone-chilling fun, a game that brought the community together, even if the players themselves were a bit lacking in flesh. The cheers of the skeleton supporters could be heard echoing through the town, proving that on Halloween, even the most unconventional of events could become a beloved tradition.
My edited version:
Under the watchful glow of a full moon.the skeletons lined up, readying themselves just off the field, adjusting their football helmets and pads. The West Springfield Ricketeers and the Annandale Ravens high school football teams were to set to clash in a game played every 100-years. The skeleton cheerleaders, their bone-rattling routines rehearsed for centuries, were ready for the showdown, and they worked the skeleton fans seated in the stands into a frenzy with their high-pitched, otherworldly shriek-cheers. The skeleton fans clattered their bony hands together in thunderous applause, hollow eye sockets glowing with ghoulish delight as their teams rattled onto the field.
The game was one for the history books of all-time, the players surprising with their feats of play, bony feet clattering like castanets as they raced back and forth between the goal posts, the cheerleaders clapping and dancing on the sidelines, a macabre ballet performed in celebration of each impressive play. For any mortal who happened upon the midnight game apparition, the sounds were the most bone-chilling. For other human observers it was the last play that was the most never-to-be-forgotten moment, when the famed defensive line of the Rickteers known as the “Bone Crushers” for their brute strength and thick skulls, held the line in a ghoul-line stand that would go down in the record books for all time.
When the once-every-century game played at midnight on the West Springfield high school football field between the Ricketeers and Ravens came to a close the game ended in a tie. Neither side had buried the other. The skeletons departed from the field, resigned to their eternal fate of an unsatisfying conclusion: an eternal match-up between the two with no side declared the winner – ever. But for those earthly bound lucky enough to happen upon the midnight Halloween rivalry, it was a “boo”-tiful end to a night of good, ‘lean’ fun. (AI Assisted)
I must say, I did have fun with it! But it also led to my reflecting on what the impact of these tools might have on both writers and readers in general.
A predictable glut of AI Assisted books on Amazon and in retail stores will be or may already be our reality as stories can be easily and quickly generated. This particular tale I pumped out in a mere 30 minutes, scary for both readers and writers alike. For readers because, using AI can produce predictable storylines with banal and cliché writing the norm. For writers, anyone can claim “they wrote” a piece generated with AI. And I suspect many readers are not discriminating enough to notice the difference. No wonder writers are quaking in their boots. And readers should too. Any great society is defined by their contributions to art and literature, and we stand on the precipice of redefining ours. But there is an upside, and I am one who is more optimistic than not.
A distinct possibility for writers and their projects is using AI as a tool to help with research, to spark the imagination, and to help generate marketing copy. And there are great programs available to help writers harness the power of AI, like Plottr, an innovative application using AI to create and organize characters and storylines, among other helpful uses. It will be readers though, who ultimately decide the fate of our flesh and blood writers by the power of their purse, demanding quality overall, calling out disingenuous works, and insisting on policies from the leaders shaping this Brave New World to protect us all from unintended consequences and – I can’t help myself – an early grave.