Story Weaving with AI: Stitching a Personalized Story with ChatGPT
Endless Ideas, Length Limitations, And Fighting Incoherent Arcs - Part 2
Dive beneath the surface of a magical narrative, and you'll find a web of decisions, inspirations, and challenges. In my previous article, I shared how I started creating a personalized gift using ChatGPT. I shared about creating the scaffolding and sample prompts.
I started referring to ChatGPT as C. C was not yet a person, but not just a tool. C was a collaborator. But, I’ll also give its full name once in each section because a reader may skip to some section.
But every journey has unexpected detours that catch you off guard. In this follow-up, I will share more about AI-assisted storytelling. I'll start with C's dizzying wealth of ideas and the effort in stringing them together. I will end with exploration on the challenge of adding a personal touch without being the hands that shape every detail.
I have a follow-up article on adding illustrations to the storybook.
Challenges With Integrating Endless Details
I followed other steps provided by C (ChatGPT), like generating clues, crime details, and specific plot points. For instance, the story was to have a frozen Phoenix feather clue found at a location. The story hinted at some mysterious crime event, maybe an undercover auction or even a secluded potion master's lab.
I had a lot of details, but, I did not know the core motivation. I was looking for a resolution to the mystery C suggested. Some suggestions were useful, but honestly? I found it hard to justify the MacGuffin for the story. What narrative will explain someone’s evil motivation to steal an ice cream recipe?
I had a lot of details, but, I found it hard to use these details into the story. Not only is there a limit on how much information C can process at once, but there seemed to be a cap on its output. If I fed it two sections of my story for inconsistency checks, it'd review, fix, and spit out a corrected version. However, the length of the output was often half of the combined length of those sections.
Drowning In Ideas: The Search For A Cohesive Narrative
I felt swamped. C (ChatGPT) gave me rich ideas about various story elements, from locations to plot resolutions. But, stitching everything together felt insurmountable. Had I bitten off more than I could chew with this gift project?
I took C’s help to guide me on the next steps. It suggested crafting a plot outline with four Acts, beginning with the theft of the ice cream recipe in Act 1 and culminating in redemption in Act 4. After a few prompts, I had specific details for each Act, a foundation for the story.
But, when I queried C about weaving all this into a coherent tale, it bombarded me with another five-step procedure. And, in the fifth step? Yet another five sub-steps!
I'm creating a story. chatgpt generated the plot, locations, characters, and resolution in separate prompts. i need to combine them. e.g. the plot has some characters but not the characters i created in depth.
I will provide:
- the plot premise merged with location depth
- The list of characters you've created and a brief description of each.
fit the plot to my preferred character traits.
Crafting The Story Opening With ChatGPT
Together, C and I wrote the introductory Act 1. We set the tone, introduced the core plot, and kickstarted the primary conflict: the theft of the ice cream recipe.
I want to write the introduction to a story. (story = Craft a crime story where the two of you are detectives searching for a stolen, legendary ice cream recipe in a setting inspired by the magical world of Harry Potter).
this is what it should have: "Start with the story premise you got from Step 1. This will set the tone, introduce the main plot, and provide context. Exposition: Introduce the characters, setting, and the primary conflict (stolen ice cream recipe)."
--- here are some details about act 1.
Once I had the Act 1, the introduction, I moved to other Acts. I fed info of each act into C along with detailed character profiles, and C generated parts of the story.
What Worked And Didn't Work To Align Partial Outputs?
I initiated an independent chat session with C (ChatGPT) to create Act 2. I could not input the entirety of Act 1, so C generated a new, interesting, narrative. This piece felt redundant, revisiting characters and themes from Act 1 and veering off in tangential directions.
Merging Acts 1 and 2 for alignment wasn't feasible either. C's creative output during my tests, regardless of the input's length, seemed capped at about 500 words. (I have had longer outputs in other tasks.)
The best workaround? I input both Acts to C and asked it to analyze the acts, pinpoint discrepancies, and explain revisions, without making any content edits. C’s output was in 3 parts:
List Potential Misalignments
Suggestions for Tightening Plot Connections
Notice it did not edit the text, only analyze it for edits.
I have act 2 and act 1 of a story separately generated by chatgpt. I've concatenated them here. List out edits you should do to align them better. Let’s Think Step by Step.
I then gave it excerpts from Acts 1 and 2, interspersed with details about characters, settings, and the plot outline. This allowed C to stay within its context window and adjust paragraphs incrementally. When I made a few manual tweaks, I had C polish the writing style. Using the same scaffolding method, I'd first ask C to explain the style fixes before any actual edits.
the 2nd para here is not in the same writing style as 1st and 3rd para. explain how to align it. don't make changes, only explain.
Using Summaries As A Launchpad For Continued Storytelling
Aligning Acts 1 and 2 had sapped a lot of my energy and time. Progressing to Act 3 felt daunting. So, I took a different approach: I asked C (ChatGPT) to condense the story so far. I used this summary as a springboard for later sections.
I’ll share one example of using this technique. I requested a flashback scene detailing the magical ice cream recipe's origin. I provided an outline of a subplot and a section of the story. I asked C to brainstorm ideas without writing first. Then I picked some of its ideas and asked it to flesh out the flashback scene in full.
C would sometimes generate output in the style of a business report rather than a fiction novel. So, I had to give clear directives to C: I wanted C to generate an elaborate and creative output.
Adding An Irish Essence To Remind Us Of Home
The world of Harry Potter is rooted in the British Isles and we are close by, in Ireland. So, I weaved in some Irish elements into the narrative. I asked C (ChatGPT) for ideas to sprinkle that Irish essence. For instance, we played with the perpetual, but mild, rains of Ireland. C’s idea was that the adventurer could only decipher the ice cream recipe parchment when it is dampened by genuine Irish rain.
Now i am thinking how to infuse elements of ireland or irish culture into the story. for e.g. I could mention GDPR that is a recent part of european culture. i could mention some kind of relationship with the Brits. a fascination with fish and chips. always rainy. give me ideas.
C and I worked on incorporating 8 ideas into the story.
Weather: A person can only read the recipe when its parchment gets wet from the Irish rain.
Irish shamrock. I wasn’t sure of Clover vs Shamrock for a while.
Magical Irish Music: An enchanted bodhrán (traditional Irish drum) that when played reveals hidden messages not visible to the naked eye.
Fish and chips, a popular dish in British Isles.
GDPR, a privacy regulation in the EU, which becomes a hurdle for the detectives. We called it Goblin’s Data Privacy Regulation.
Here is one example of figuring out a way to add these elements.
I want to add something related to finding a shamrock or an image of it or a pendant of that shape or something else. in a magic fantasy story. give me ideas. premise: in a crime scene, there is a shamrock clue.
Navigating 4 Challenges In Story Editing
I found 4 challenges in fixing the plotline, concluding the story, and connecting the dots:
Conclusions were nonsense and humorous
Acts were not connected.
Characters did not use human detective skills like reasoning, conversations, or persuasion. They kept using the same magical abilities.
It was hard to emulate an elaborate, descriptive writing style without repetition.
1 - I tried to pen down the story's conclusion. But the results felt oddly humorous and misplaced. For example, one scene is where the formidable antagonist displays the coveted ice cream recipe at a high-stakes underground auction. The irony? After this, this same character battles the heroes to claim that recipe. The narrative had logical inconsistencies. Why showcase a secret recipe in a public auction? Another example was the antagonist building a rival ice cream business using the stolen recipe. But, why publicize their ownership of the recipe? How does a secret ice cream recipe translate to the start of a rival business? The storyline had gaping holes.
Write a dialogue-heavy scene where Drusilla reveals her intentions to fuse the recipe's magic into an invulnerability potion to the auction's attendees.
2 - I also observed a disconnect among the acts created by C (ChatGPT). I spent time bridging these narrative gaps, ensuring a cohesive flow from one act to another.
In these paragraphs, the characters investigate something in hogwarts then the scene jumps to knockturn alley. Although they had been there before. How can we build a connection bridge between the scenes? For example, some clue parchment or symbol lying in the floor in hogwarts that pointed to something in knockturn alley? Something else? Give me ideas. Do not write. Only explain what could be done.
Sometimes I had to think of transitions and instruct C. I gave backstory along with it. C did the work of sticking to the right tone.
write that transition. make them say something like it is very rare and off-beat and whacky magic that most people may not believe in. so don't know whom to ask. but luna always had a knack to know whacky magic. luna doesn’t directly know about the auction but has knowledge about the artifact or item of interest. while coming out of the gringotts they see a witch reading a magazine upside down. that reminds them that there is someone else they know who reads a magazine upside down - luna - she reads the quibbler upside down.
3 - Throughout the narrative, characters were incessantly using their magical powers. It felt redundant and distracting. A gripping tale doesn't just revolve around special powers. A gripping tale is about characters - their emotions, history, and growth. At times, I had to instruct C to tone down or even omit these magical references, ensuring that character development remained central.
write a scene where Sylvia and Hector, undercover, navigate the black market auction, trying to discern the intentions of the attendees using their personalities and persuasive conversations to discern genuine interest in the recipe versus those looking for other rare artifacts.
4 - I aspired to emulate the tone of J.K. Rowling, but this was challenging with C. It tended to over-elaborate. C would add repetitive background details about protagonists across all acts.
reduce dialogue. reduce length of this transition.
Weaving Personal Traits Into The Story
When crafting the story, my primary vision was to weave the narrative around my wife and I. Once I had the overarching plot in place, I followed the Checklist manifesto route, and built a checklist. I used this checklist to ensure C had embedded all traits I’ve listed earlier within the narrative. I’ve wrote earlier above the power of checklists in this journal-style article and in this instructional article.
I searched through the generated content for each trait and characteristic. If a particular trait was amiss, C (ChatGPT) and I worked to add it somewhere.
Hector wears rimless round spectacles. But it is not mentioned clearly in my story. Help me add it somewhere in these paragraphs.
With C's help, I brainstormed potential sections where a missing trait could blend in. For instance C would give me recommendations on how to integrate “long black hair” charactestic to different scenes. From the suggested ones, I chose the most fitting and requested C to generate the sentences. This methodical approach ensured that the output was not just a fictional story but a reflection of us.
Sylvia is caring and loving. I want it to be clear in my story. Help me make it clear somewhere in one of these sentences, taken from different parts of the story. rank these paragraphs / sentences for their aptness to mention that, so that the writing is similar to JK Rowling's writing style. Let’s Think Step by Step.
Addressing ChatGPT's Gender Bias
I noticed that C’s story often portrayed male protagonists as the dominant, smart, quick-on-their-feet, problem-solvers. The women were supporting case in C’s stories. I did not want such a narrative. I sought a balance between male and female characters. I wanted the female character in this story to shine as a brilliant detective to mirror my wife's traits and be apt for a gift for her.
It was a coincidence that at the same time, my former colleague, Tina Sadeghi, also found examples of gender bias in her research at Stanford.
C gave strengths, skills, and accomplishments to the male protagonist. So, to achieve a balance, I had to instruct C to favor the female protagonist.
show sylvia as the brilliant detective.
3 Issues In My Story Narrative
I found 3 issues in my story’s narrative:
No character arc
No failures or deadends
1 - Matthew Dicks, in Storyworthy, underscores the importance of a character arc. A character's beliefs become moral or ideal at the end of the story. At the start of the story, the character has the opposite belief. The belief should evolve from the start to the finish of the story. But, my protagonists seemed static. Their convictions, fondness for ice cream, and friendship remained unchanged from the beginning to the end.
2 - I found incorporating foreshadowing with C (ChatGPT) challenging. Connecting early plot elements to later events seemed beyond C's grasp. It demanded more of my manual editing to subtly introduce elements early on that would pay off later in the story.
3 - C’s story outline initially included some subplots or narrative dead ends. The detectives investigate something that isn’t fruitful. These subplots were tricky, too. It was taxing to craft these diversions and then steer the narrative back to the main plot.
I found some ways to fix issues 2 and 3, but not 1.
Next, Illustrating The Story
I had co-authored a 6,000 words story. Once I had the story text ready, I decided on the illustrations. I write about it in my next article. It covers:
Selecting the artistic medium and inspiration
Consistency in a character’s look.
Comparing text vs image generative AI
For the above sections and sample Midjourney results, take a look at the next article coming up.