Can AI service our appetite for stories?
We were curious about the potential of AI as a storytelling tool. Interested to find out whether it could save ourselves and our clients money and time without compromising quality, we did a quick experiment. We gave ChatGPT the same brief as our April 2023 monthly story.
What we learned is that ChatGPT is great for saving time when testing out ideas, but not so much for producing final work. It allows you to produce quick renderings of productions and identify which ideas may work better. But, for quality final productions, we think human insight and a more in-depth understanding of the context are more necessary. Right now, this is not what AI can offer.
Something that surprised us at first was that ChatGPT seemed partial to cheesy endings. It was surprising because even when specific instructions were given to avoid typical endings, ChatGPT always produced a predictable, completely unoriginal ending in every one of the stories that it produced at our prompt. Later, thinking about how ChatGPT works, we realized that this is because the AI’s resource for ideas being collective data, it’s bound to derive from something standard.
But, this is also the strength of AI. It eliminates the need to spend time on the mundane. We found that ChatGPT is great for administrative messaging. ChatGPT can explain, list instructions, and sound impersonal yet perfectly polite. We don’t see the need to write another invoice follow-up email again.
The story brief: write a 500-word short story for the Public Works Publishing monthly stories. It should explore feelings of desire. The protagonist character has an explorer personality. The antagonist is the journey the hero of the story must accomplish to be reunited with his lover. The story takes place between the Sri Lankan surfing seasons on the south and east coasts.
Read the Public Works story
Read the ChatGPT story
If you are thinking about getting an AI to produce creative work, learning how to give a good brief is essential. We were able to get ChatGPT to produce the kind of story we wanted only after refining the brief again and again. Until our instructions were optimized for ChatGPT , the outcomes were always too far from the expectations. To produce this story—which ChatGPT produced at a remarkable speed once we briefed it right—it took us 1.5 hours of fine tuning the brief. Good briefs have never been more important.
We found that for more abstract creative briefs—those involving images, for example—ChatGPT seemed to produce quality outputs faster, while more specific ones—like writing—needed more detailed instructions and revisions to the brief.
Analyzing written productions by ChatGPT we see a marked difference in the depth between lived human experiences and ‘echoes of experience’ learned and re-assembled by AI. There was a more coherent richness to experiences or stories recorded by humans. But, the more ChatGPT and other AI learn to mimic human minds, perhaps this difference will become subtler.
We think there’s a lot that AI can do in helping human messaging. Learning how to use ChatGPT to save time in mundane tasks can open up room to put more into what your business specializes in. We think chatGPT can be a great tool for small businesses to scale without necessarily having to hire people for certain administrative tasks. But the chances of it replacing a creative team that can read and interpret the human experience in its real depth are still very slim. But, that’s only for now, and AI is still in its infancy. The potentials of AI and its influence on our lives will only become evident in the next decade. We leave you with a line from one of our favourite Zen stories— “Good, bad, who knows?”
Yes, who knows? And, what an interesting time to be alive.
Want to know more about our storytelling process?