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How Should A Fiction Writer Use An AI Worldbuilding Tool?

Frantic calls for AI tools to replace writers have flooded writer subreddits and FaceBook groups ever since OpenAI’s ChatGPT hit the markets on November 30, 2022.

One year later, fiction writers are still puzzled about how to properly use AI tools to increase their productivity. Many find them repetitive, soulless, and unable to provide anything meaningful to their creative endeavors. 

And yet, their books aren’t any closer to writing themselves, not even with ultra-smart artificial intelligence programs!

So, how can a fiction writer leverage AI tools to increase their productivity, without sounding like a soulless robot?

Let’s find out:

The Power of AI-Generated Prompts

AI works by using a method called deep learning. Through deep learning, the software is trained on vast amounts text data from the internet, often from your favorite authors and journalists.

Using this content, it learns how to generate words to sound more or less human-like (milleage may vary on that, of course). Whether this is ethical or not, we discuss it in this guide, but what’s important from this is knowing that AI models almost always understand how to generate outlines and blog posts due to their vast training knowledge.

But it just sucks when generating long-form content. Not even the cleverest of Reddit’s AI soothsayers have been able to write an enjoyable book solely using AI – they’ve had to edit large batches of it just to make it bearable for mortal eyes.

But what if you used a pre-generated prompt already proven to work for other writers? 

We at Legerly tested this hypothesis in months of AI experimentation, and came up with a collection of effective prompts for fiction writers of all walks of life. This one’s one of our favorites for novel outlining. We assumed that the novelist wanted to write a vampire novel for this example:

Create an outline for a fictional vampire novel using the hero’s journey as a basis. Give me a one sentence summary of what should happen at each stage

Sure, the title couldn’t get more clichéd than that, but what we have here is definitely workable, especially if you have writer’s block, or aren’t a great novel structure plotter.

Use AI for Worldbuilding

To most of us spec fic writers, worldbuilding comes on its own. Or at least it sort of does. Usually, we get a basic idea, like a kingdom inspired in Maori culture, for example, but lack the knowledge of how to execute it well immediately.

It might take us months and months of reading about Maori culture, interviewing experts, researching obscure sources of information to create an accurate depiction of our fictional world. 

Unless you want to create a theme-park version Maori kingdom for your book, and also offend real-life Maori people with your ignorance, chances are that you’ll spend quite a while researching to properly finish your worldbuilding.

With AI, it doesn’t have to be like that. You can streamline your research process using AI to study the most important tenets of Maori culture and society. You can also, use AI to outright generate comparisons with your world and whichever civilization, Maori or not, you want to create.

Let’s test this one out for instance:

Create a fictional city for vampires inspired by Maori culture. First, give me ten names, five for males and five for females, inspired in both vampire and Maori names, and tell me why you made each decision.

This is what it came up with:

See? Perhaps before ChatGPT and other AI tools were a thing, it would’ve taken me the better part of a day just to have an idea on how to create the Maori-vampire names in the first place. 

Use AI As Your Editor

When it comes to editing, nothing will ever beat the accuracy and practicality of a human editor, so all of your writing content should always pass by a competent editor, when possible.

But of course, you’d want your content to be as self-edited and polished as you can make it before you actually send it to your editor. Self-editing itself can be really tedious for many writers, myself included. I can write you a 90,000 word novel in six months or less, but I just lack the motivation to sit down and edit what I wrote myself.

That’s another great use for AI tools, although this one will take a lot more practice than the previous two examples we’ve provided.

While usually Grammarly or Hemingway come to mind before any other AI tool for editing, both of these are unable to edit beyond the ortographic and grammatical level.

In this case, the prompts to be used could be any of the following:

In the following text, please verify if the main idea or thesis is well-defined. 

Let’s use that prompt with part of the text of this article, and see what ChatGPT surprises us with.

In this case, ChatGPT seems to wholeheartedly agree that the idea of the text is clear and well-defined. Let’s take that a little further, with the next prompt, and the exact same text:

Please reword the following text to ensure that the main idea or thesis is well-defined:

As you can see in this example, the text was made more formal. At times, much more wordy, and less engaging. Though mileage may vary, it seems like the text worsened. 

But here’s the thing: I had not specified to ChatGPT what my audience was, their reading level, or the communicative intention of the text. So as an editor, ChatGPT just went with what it felt was the best idea at the time and rolled with it.

Let’s try again, but specifying the aforementioned details, and seeing how the text changes:

Please reword the following text to ensure that the main idea or thesis is well-defined. Assume a 10th grade reading level, a casual blog writer audience, and a communicative intention of informing:

Much better indeed! While it’s still a little wordy here and there, you can definitely feel the change in energy as early as the first paragraph.

The bottom line

AI can be your worst enemy or a wacky, at times brilliant, writing intern who you can bounce ideas with from time to time. While it will not write your novel on its own, it can help power through those hard bits (especially the middles) that take a lot of our creative time. Coming up with outlines hasn’t been easier than now.

What are your best fiction worldbuilding AI prompts? Share some with us in the comments!

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