This is a page from the notebook I use to record ideas, so please excuse the penmanship, scattershot grammar, and indecipherable context. I jot down these notes stream-of-consciousness style in case I want to expand upon them later.
The original entry is from 2011 but now that it’s 2023, let’s see what ChatGPT can add.
First things first, let me flesh out the idea a bit more. I’ve translated my gibberish into a rudimentary storyline, and added names so ChatGPT can assist.
Prompt Outline a complete scenario based on this story idea: A writer, Bob, uses someone’s true life story as a basis for a screenplay. The acquaintance’s name is Jane. Bob was desperately trying to meet a deadline, writes a screenplay in a hurry, using Jane’s story undisguised. Bob sells the screenplay and the movie is produced two years later. Bob completely forgets about the true origin story. When the movie airs it ruins Jane’s life, revealing a secret she did not want her family to discover. Jane plans her revenge on Bob, who is now a wealthy, connected man in Hollywood
Let’s see what The Machine has learned.
ChatGPT Bob was a struggling writer who had been trying to make it big in Hollywood for years. He was desperate to meet a deadline for a screenplay, but he had writer's block. One day, he was at a party and overheard a woman named Jane talking about a difficult experience she had gone through. Bob was struck by Jane's story and saw it as the perfect inspiration for his screenplay. Bob went home and wrote the screenplay in a hurry, using Jane's story almost word-for-word. He changed the names and locations, but the story was otherwise undisguised. Bob sold the screenplay to a major studio and was thrilled to finally have his big break. Two years later, the movie was produced and released in theaters. It was a huge success, and Bob quickly became a wealthy and connected man in Hollywood. However, he had completely forgotten about the true origin story of his screenplay. Meanwhile, Jane was horrified when she saw the movie. It was based on her true life story, and it revealed a secret that she had never wanted her family to know about. Jane's life was ruined, and she was devastated by the betrayal of someone she had once considered a friend. Jane knew she had to get revenge on Bob. She began investigating him and found that he had become one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. But Jane was determined to expose the truth. Jane hired a private investigator to dig up dirt on Bob, and she discovered that he had a long history of using other people's stories without their permission. Jane went public with her story and accused Bob of stealing her life story for his screenplay. The media picked up on the story, and Bob's reputation was ruined. He lost all his connections in Hollywood, and his career was over. Bob was left alone and penniless, while Jane finally had the satisfaction of getting her revenge.
From recent experience, I’ve learned to avoid having The Machine come up with an entirely new scenario when there is something specific I want work on. Here, I wanted The Machine to expand on a couple plot points without changing the whole story.
Prompt Do not modify the above story. It will now be known as THE TALE whenever it is referenced. Now, list five ideas each on two issues in THE TALE: 1. What scandalous incident in Jane’s life did Bob write about? 2. What did the investigator find out about Bob?
ChatGPT 1. What scandalous incident in Jane’s life did Bob write about? - Jane's struggle with addiction and the overdose that almost killed her - Jane's extramarital affair with a famous politician - Jane's involvement in a high-profile court case that revealed damaging information about her family - Jane's secret past as a member of a cult - Jane's estrangement from her children due to a long-standing family feud 2. What did the investigator find out about Bob? - Bob had a history of plagiarizing other people's work - Bob had bribed several people to get his screenplays made into movies - Bob had sexually harassed multiple women in the entertainment industry - Bob had a criminal record for embezzlement and fraud - Bob had a drug addiction and had been in and out of rehab multiple times
Okay, there are lots of options to consider. I like the plagiarism angle. What if Bob had a former writing partner named Steve? Let’s see what The Machine comes up with for the investigator to uncover.
Prompt In THE TALE, Jane's investigator found out about a secret relationship that Bob had with a writing partner named Steve. Things the investigator might have found:
ChatGPT - Evidence that Bob and Steve were romantically involved, including emails, text messages, or photos - Proof that Bob had given preferential treatment to Steve when it came to getting their screenplays produced - Information about any unethical or illegal activities that Bob and Steve had engaged in together, such as plagiarizing or stealing other people's work - Evidence that Bob had used his power and influence in the industry to cover up his relationship with Steve, including bribing or threatening people to keep it a secret - Details about the impact that the relationship had on Bob's personal and professional life, such as conflicts with his family or colleagues.
Having done this ten-minute exercise with The Machine, I’ve decided this is NOT a story I want to pursue further. Perhaps that, in itself, is a valuable reason for using ChatGPT to assist. It allowed me to see if the subject matter would spark my interest enough to dig in and excavate.
I can see now why many writers are intimidated by ChatGPT. I’m convinced I could come up with better, more innovative choices if given the time. But how many hours or days did I save by having The Machine make suggestions for me? It’s a trade-off for sure.
ChatGPT and all its AI relatives are not going away. That’s why I’m going to put it in my writer’s toolbox and see where the technology takes us. Just as the typewriter gave way to word processing and library research to the Google search, this new tool has the potential to help a writer work. Or it might become SkynetGPT. I’ll keep writing until then.