Read Around the Rainbow is a blogging project featuring yours truly, A.L. Lester, Ofelia Gränd, Holly Day, K.L. Noone, Amy Spector, Addison Albright, Fiona Glass, Lilian Francis, and Ellie Thomas. Every month, we pick a topic and then we blog about it. Check the other blog posts by clicking the RAtR widget in the sidebar, or the links at the bottom of this post.
The May RAtR topic is A.I. vs Me.
Yup. This month we’re talking about artificial intelligence, a hot and very controversial topic. Let me start by making my opinions clear: while I’m sure there are many areas where AI can be useful, I’m not a fan. And not only because I’ve watched Terminator many, many times, but as a writer, it upsets me when someone feeds a prompt into AI and then claims to have written a book. I could come up with more examples, but I’ve decided against ranting, and instead focusing on the writing experiment part designed to compare a short story written by a human being vs written by AI, where both use the same prompt for the story.
The idea for this came when one of the RatR authors suggested AI as this month’s topic, and then A.L. Lester told us her husband, sci-fi writer Paul L. Arvidson, had “asked Chat GPT to write an 150 word story, entitled ‘The Rise of the Robots’,” then written a story for the same prompt and asked his readers to guess who wrote which piece. You can read it here, and even though I haven’t read anything by Paul L. Arvidson before, it’s easy to figure out which story is written by a human being and which wasn’t.
So our challenge was: write a 300-word romance story (or reuse an old 300-word story you’d already written), feed the parameters to the AI, and see if it can write romance better than it can write sci-fi (and better than us). I decided to play with my current WIP, a yet unnamed story I’m writing for a project with the old Naked Gardening gang, but for World Letter Writing Day on September 1. I took the important parts from that story (second chances, reunion, character names), added information about my writing style, and wrote a reunion scene only for this blog post that won’t be included in the final story, but because I thought the second chance trope would be good for a super short story. Then I proceeded to break the rules, because I always do, and because 300 words weren’t enough for my story. But I gave the AI the same word count, so I figure that’s fair 😁
This is the prompt I came up with:
Write a 400-word gay romance story in present tense, first person point-of-view, about second chances where two men meet again at a train station, after not seeing each other for ten years. They share a kiss. Narrator’s name is Henri, other main character is Isidor.
Then the kind and generous Addison Albright helped me feed that into the AI (because I didn’t feel like signing up for something I’m never going to use again).
And now it’s time to stop rambling and get to the point. But before we do, I just want to inform you that the AI cheats worse than I do, because it produced 457 words when my prompt clearly stated 400. And mine is 400 words exactly, so I win! 😁
AI story: Rekindled Love
As I stand on the bustling platform of the train station, my heart pounds with anticipation. It has been ten long years since I last saw Isidor, the man who once held my heart in his hands. The memories of our past relationship flood my mind, and I wonder if fate has finally granted us a second chance.
As the train doors slide open, a rush of passengers pours out onto the platform. I scan the crowd, searching for a familiar face amidst the chaos. And then, I see him. Isidor, standing there with the same mischievous smile that used to make my heart skip a beat.
Our eyes meet, and time seems to stand still. I can see the surprise and recognition in his eyes, mirroring my own emotions. Without thinking, I step forward, closing the distance between us. The cacophony of the train station fades away as we stand there, facing each other after a decade of separation.
Words fail us in this moment, but our bodies speak a language all their own. With trembling hands, I reach out and touch Isidor’s cheek, feeling the warmth of his skin beneath my fingertips. The electricity between us is palpable, and I can sense that he feels it too.
In a bold move, Isidor leans in, and our lips meet in a tender, desperate kiss. It feels like coming home, like the missing piece of my heart has finally been found. The years apart vanish as our souls reconnect in this stolen moment of passion.
Breaking the kiss, we both gasp for air, our eyes locked in a mixture of longing and disbelief. A thousand unspoken words hang in the air between us, the weight of our shared history and unresolved feelings.
“I never stopped loving you,” I finally manage to whisper, my voice filled with vulnerability.
Isidor smiles, his eyes glistening with tears. “Me neither, Henri. Life took us on separate paths, but my heart has always belonged to you.”
Embracing each other tightly, we stand there, oblivious to the world around us. In this embrace, we find solace and hope for a future filled with love and forgiveness. The train’s departure announcement echoes in the distance, but we pay it no heed. Our second chance has arrived, and we are determined to seize it with both hands.
Hand in hand, we walk away from the train station, ready to embark on a new chapter in our lives. Together, we will navigate the challenges that lie ahead, knowing that love has brought us back together against all odds. And as we step into the unknown, I can’t help but feel grateful for this serendipitous reunion and the promise of a love that is meant to last.
My story: /Unnamed/
The train station is almost empty when I arrive. The chill nips at my cheeks but doesn’t cool the fire that drives me. Nothing could, short of him not alighting the train in four minutes as scheduled. According to the board, the train is on time, but I wake up my phone for the hundredth time this morning to check our message thread for updates. Nothing new since he wrote right after he boarded.
I’ll try to sleep. See you soon.
I bounce on the balls of my feet like a five-year-old the day before Christmas, and lay my hand on my chest, trying to soothe my fluttering heart that forgot its rhythm ten days ago when I received his letter, the first I’d heard from him in ten years.
My darling Henri, he’d written, I still dream of you after all this time.
Ten years of no contact, ten years of never getting over him, of comparing every man to him and finding them lacking, of questioning the decisions we made, and wondering if we couldn’t have made it work somehow, is about to come to an end.
In a minute, I’ll know.
I forget to breathe when the train screeches to a halt. My heart thrashes in my chest when he finally stands before me, my knees can barely keep me upright.
“Isidor,” I whisper. When he meets my gaze, his eyes lack the glint of mischief I used to love. As though he, too, had suffered and regretted our choices.
“Henri.” His voice is thick, as though he’s about to cry. His bag drops to the ground with a thud, and he holds out his hand for me to take. I don’t hesitate, and when his warm palm finally is pressed to mine, I can breathe again.
He leans in and rests his forehead against mine. His hot breath caresses my cheek, chasing away the emptiness, giving me back my life. “I’m going to kiss you now,” he says, voice rumbling in his chest. “If you don’t want that, tell me now.”
I wrap my free hand around his neck, stand on my toes, and rub my cheek against his, hoping my coarse beard against his clean-shaven skin will have the same effect it used to. When it makes him shiver, I murmur, “I want to.”
His lips capture mine. All is right in the world again.
I admit it wasn’t as awful as I expected. Someone has clearly fed the AI a steady diet of romance novels, because it contains all the elements we want and expect from our romance stories: hearts skipping a beat, eyes meeting, gasping for air after a kiss, walking off hand-in-hand into the sunset. The AI also gave its story a title, which I didn’t because I always do that at the last possible minute, but if I had named it, it wouldn’t have been Rekindled Love.
The AI story doesn’t tell us the reason why the MCs meet again after ten years, but I admit that’s my fault. I forgot to tell the AI that Isidor contacts Henri by writing a letter, and that’s why Henri’s now waiting for him at the train station.
But. If I read a whole book written like that, I would get bored easily and DNF it after a few pages. It’s flat, unimaginative, can clichéd. It tells rather than shows (A thousand unspoken words hang in the air between us, the weight of our shared history and unresolved feelings”), and the dialogue is cheesy (“Life took us on separate paths, but my heart has always belonged to you.”)
But its biggest crime is that it doesn’t make me feel anything. I’m easily moved, I tear up at gifs of lonely Pluto, so as you can imagine, it’s not that hard to evoke feelings in me. I’m a huge fan of short stories (you know this about me by now), and I’ve read many short fanfics that have made me feel ALL THE FEELINGS! in under 500 words, so that’s not the problem either.
The problem is that it lacks soul. Rekindled Love has a beginning, a middle, and an end, it has enough components to make it recognizable as a romance story, but there’s no personality, no originality, no soul. But that’s not surprising, because how would anything that lacks a soul, be able to infuse it in its stories?
This has been a very interesting writing experiment, and we had many fascinating conversations as we fed our prompts into different AI bots. And we were very upset when the one Ellie used refused to write a gay romance and changed one of the MCs from Luc to Lady Lucinda, while the one used for my story clearly had no such objections.
I also can’t help but wonder what the AI would’ve produced if I’d been even more specific when I wrote my prompt. What would have happened if I’d told it to write a 400-word gay romance story in the style of Nell Iris? Would I discover that someone had bothered to steal my work and feed it to the AI to learn it how to write, as has happened with so many other people’s art? Would the AI be able to mimic my writing so closely that you would read it and think, Yeah, Nell could’ve written that?
It’s a frightening thought.
Luckily, I didn’t sign up for the service so I can’t rewrite my prompt and check, and I don’t plan on asking Addison to run another prompt for me. Because even though I’m usually a person who detests unanswered questions, I can live without the answer to this particular question. Some things are better left in the dark.
I’ve said many times that there should be a program where I could input my entire manuscript and press a button that says “write blurb” and said program would spit out the perfect blurb. Maybe AI is my punishment for those thoughts?
You really don’t want to miss out on the other posts on the topic. It’s always interesting to read different takes on the same subjects, but this time that’s doubly true. Personally, I can’t wait to see what my fellow RatR authors have come up with 🙂