Evolving WriteCraft: AI brief writing for speed, good dialogue

AI writing sequence, dialogue, and character development

Writing method: AI Briefs

Word count: 2037

Keith's Audio Commentary

Modified Transcript

Daily Writing Progress

Today is June 30th, 2024. Last night I recorded or I wrote 2,000 more words.

I had to get another chapter in because today, this morning, is the only time I'm going to have to do my writing. So I knew that I had to get my writing done yesterday.

I made yesterday a double session. I did about 3,000 words total. 2,000 in this second chapter of the day and then around 1,000 for the first chapter that I did.

AI-Assisted Writing Method: The Brief Writing Approach

Today, or last night, the writing method was AI writing the briefs method.

So not the co-writing method, but just writing the brief and then having the AI essentially draft a draft chapter. And the briefs are pretty detailed.

I've talked about these before, but let me talk a little bit about how they come together.

The AI Writing Process: From Brief to Chapter

So essentially, it's just a description of what I want to happen in the chapter with some parts fleshed out and other parts not.

I'm giving the AI instructions. Basically, it's a simple instruction just to say, I want you to help me write this chapter.

Here's the previous chapter and then here's my notes or my sequence of what I would like to see happen in this chapter. From there, it's me going through the events.

I'm writing the chapter, but I'm doing it more bullet point style.

So it's like Zena does this and she reacts to that. She comes in this part and then they realize this happened and then it just goes from there.

Sample AI Chapter Brief - it's just bullet points of ordered events

What I'll do throughout is I'll tell the AI parts where I want it to describe certain things in detail.

AI Chapter brief - "Describe this" prompts the AI for more vivid detail

Then when I get to certain beats of dialogue, then I will actually write out the dialogue most times because AI dialogue tends to be pretty generic because it just doesn't know how people talk really. And as an aside, that brings me to, well, let me finish my thought about the briefs.

After the briefs, after the dialogue's done, and after I get through the entire chapter, then I will say, write me an outline, usually, because I want to see where the AI's head is at and what it's thinking.

Because I've noticed with writing with AI, the more you give it, the more it tends to summarize certain things because it basically wants to prove that it did its work.

It's like a student that wants to get out of class early.

It wants to prove that it did its work so it can be done, but it's going to give you not the minimum amount of effort, but it's going to give you the median amount of effort. So if you really want to go in on certain parts or emphasize certain things, that's the back half of the process, which I'll explain in a little bit. But once you generate the chapter.

I read through it, see if it hit everything I wanted, and then I'll go through in certain beats and be like, I'll just take that sentence or that paragraph and say, hey, I want you to expand this. This is a little thin. Or I'll just take certain things out if it was way off the mark.

If it started embellishing and doing its dumb AI thing to where it just makes up whatever shit it wants to do, I take that shit out. And so I'm basically starting to edit now.

The Writer's New Roles: Writer, Director, Programmer, Editor

That's what's interesting about this AI brief writing process is essentially you're a writer slash director slash programmer slash editor.

I was talking with Ajani about this the other day.

I think that's what's hard about using AI. The way I'm using it is because you can't just be a writer.

Because if you're a writer, all you do is write the story, but then you can't direct the AI to get a more specific output or it's just inefficient. It just takes you too long.

I hear I've heard that complaint before about working with AI, which is true. If you don't just like anything, if you don't know how to use it, then it's just more efficient for you to do it yourself.

But I've been using AI for the last year and a half, specifically for writing. At this point, I can direct it like we're seasoned colleagues at this point.

I understand its limitations for the most part, and it understands what I can bring to the table. It doesn't understand anything about me, but I know how to work with it to where it can go back and forth. So after I do this little mini review, then as I said, I'll just do specific parts.

AI as an Editor: Getting Feedback on Your Chapter

Then I added another step recently that's been pretty helpful. It's been pretty cool.

It's essentially asking after the chapter's done and I get it more or less to where it's a solid, you know, there's stuff that I will take out eventually because the AI tends to over deliver on certain things and under deliver on other things.

But I'm like, okay, this is more or less close. This is like 85% there. I will go back and ask the AI, what did you think of this chapter?

How can I make it better?

Is it engaging?

What do you think? I'll basically ask for its opinion.

I can do this in the same chat too, even though it probably works better if I refresh chats. I've done refresh chats before to where you get, basically you're bringing another, you're bringing an editor in basically.

Because at this point, the AI has been a writer slash curator slash editing its own work, of course. But if you just want edit raw feedback, then I suggest starting your chat.

Anyway, you do this and it will go through it. It will tell you the strengths and weaknesses of the chapter.

It does a pretty good job of this, especially Claude. I use Claude, by the way, Claude AI for always for writing just because it's just way better at writing fiction.

Most of the stuff that it comes up with is stuff that's obvious and stuff that's like, yeah, okay, I knew that. I knew that. But occasionally it comes up with something that, well, this isn't clear, or here's an opportunity here to explain this, or let's get into the mindset of this character. We should show this.

I found that like a good editor, it's good at identifying blind spots in the narrative that you can use to right then and there punch up what you wrote. I think that's really cool.

I think this is a very effective way to use AI. So it's turned into a, how to write with AI primer, but it's good.

This is basically a summary of everything that I've learned, how I use it.

I don't know, this chapter took about an hour and a half to get done last night, doing it this way.

One of the reasons it took a little bit longer is because I was using Claude's new projects feature and it just totally shit the bed on me by the time I finished writing the brief, because this was a pretty plot heavy.

I'll get into the explanation of what happened to the story in a little bit, but this is a pretty plot heavy chapter that I wrote last night.

So there's certain revelations that come up and we're getting towards the, I'd say this is the 80% mark in the story. I don't know how much writing is actually done, but the story that I want to tell, I'm at about 80% at this chapter.

And so if we get some revelations, so I had to write a lot of dialogue. And one of the things that I, the AI just does by default is it summarizes things. Cause like I said, the more you give it, the more it wants to just, okay, I'm done. I did it. And so we'll truncate dialogue and I'm pretty specific about dialogue.

The Importance of Dialogue in Fiction

I was thinking of, as I was writing last night or after I finished writing, I read Stephen King's On Writing again. And this is kind of cool.

If you've been listening or watching or whatever, watching these or reading these, you can probably see in the last few ones, I'm reading this book as I'm writing, which has been very instructive.

I read the part where he talks about dialogue and how, what I liked is that he pulled examples of, of bad dialogue.

And what it essentially comes down to is do you understand how people really talk? How different group dynamics work?

And I thought this was really interesting because he basically says dialogue is either you have it or you don't.

You're either an observant person and you're a social person because it helps to be a very social person when writing dialogue, because you can call up on these different scenarios that you've been in and social constructs, and you can put those on the page more easily.

But one of the examples that I love that he bought up was Lovecraft.

Apparently Lovecraft didn't have very good dialogue in general in his books. I don't know. I haven't read Lovecraft. This is just by Stephen King's example, but he gave an example in the book and it was pretty not good. The dialogue was pretty terrible.

The example that he found, of course, these are cherry picked. Who knows? He probably, Lovecraft probably had some good ones, but this particular example was pretty bad. It was just hard to understand. It was just, it wasn't organic. It didn't feel natural.

I think that's what good dialogue does. It makes you feel like you're in on a conversation.

You're privy to information and mental insights that you could only get from talking to another person. In this case, you're talking to a fictional person in fiction, but sometimes in nonfiction, there's good dialogue too.

His suggestion to get better at dialogue was to basically be more social and have more real conversations, but then it's not enough to just do that. You also need to transfer that to the page or to the screen.

I've always known that dialogue is something that I'm pretty good at. I remember early on in writing Cereus & Limnic, my first novel, that I was hesitant because I just didn't have the experience. But now that I've written a pretty good amount of fiction, I know that dialogue is one of my strengths.

It's because I do like talking to people. I tend to be a pretty extroverted person. And not just that, I'm always observing.

This goes back to my time as a cop in the military. And just as a social person, I'm always observing different group dynamics, different individual dynamics, how people interact with me, how people interact with each other. And it's just something that I don't really think about that hard. I don't have to think about, is this natural? It's one of the parts of my writing that it just feels very automatic and in many ways unconscious.

Character Development and Authentic Voices

Another thing that helps me excel at it is that I like writing characters.

I was recently rereading a few parts of Sync Whole. It's is unique because it's written in first person from the perspective of a 19-year-old Asian female, of which I'm clearly not. But in that sense, it's written very well, I think.

One of the highest honors I feel like I would love to hear from somebody who reads my work is, I couldn't tell that a man wrote this, let alone a non-Asian person wrote this. I couldn't tell.

I'm not trying to pass off as Asian or anything, but it's more about the character for me. It's always about the characters. That's what I go back to.

And with Stephen King, I'm 100%, this is the first part of his book where I'm 100% agreeing.

Your characters need to talk. He talked about how he got, used to get, or still does, probably, I don't know, but he used to get hate mail from people talking about how he would just curse in his dialogue in his books.

He'd use ethnic slurs, things like this. He even used the word nigger in there. I mean, I'm sure he does. But he says the dialogue has to be honest. It has to be honest to the character.

He says that about writing in general, but it just has to be honest to the character. And if your character uses slurs, then that's what they're going to do.

Because real people do use slurs, despite what the messaging of our world would have you think, that it's bad to do these things. But people behind closed doors, everybody's a little bit racist. Everybody's a little bit biased against something, somebody. It's just human nature. And so the more you're able to put that on the page, the better your dialogue is going to be.

I only intended this to be 15 minutes long, but I went off on a dialogue rant. So I'm going to go a little bit over, but let me talk about the guts of this chapter.

Chapter Overview: The Gates of Okinawa

In this chapter, we see Zena and he's with the agent, Nigel Tam. And they've gone through the gate and then they find themselves on this, this Titan of a demon.

And this is the Shadow of the Colossus moment where they have to basically ascend this demon going through the different traps and the weather's bad.

Then at the same time, the demon is trying to sink their ship. It's a pretty dire situation and it's pretty breakneck pace chapter. There's a lot of description in there. There's a lot of things in there, but I think overall, and I'll probably go back and trim some of it down,

but overall, I'm very happy with the came out. But what surprised me at the end, which I wasn't really planning on, I knew I was going to write that part about the description of the chapters.

What surprised me was the end to where, how it ended with a lot of dialogue and we get some lot of dialogue and we get some revelations,

as I said earlier, about the, the world and about the, where's this all going with the gates, because this is the fifth gate that they're trying to close.

So we get insights about the gates. There's a dramatic moment ripped straight from a Chinese drama. I just had to do it. It was so much fun. Then the chapter ends. This is a, this is a good one. This is, I was really happy. I remember after last night, after I finished, I told my wife, I was just like, this, this novel...

Reflections on Genre and Writing Style

I originally wrote it, started writing it last month with an intent for it to be a bestseller. I don't know if it's going to be a bestseller, but I know anybody who reads this, it's just going to have fun with it. It's a fun story.

It's billed as horror and there, there are horror elements. There are elements of suspense, but it's, I feel like it's more of an adventure horror story.

It's definitely an adventure to where they're having to go around Okinawa and it's called the gates of Okinawa. So you got to seal these gates and you meet different people on the way, a certain, you lose certain characters along the way.

They gain abilities. They build relationships. It's very much an adventure story. And more and more, I think that's more of my, I think that's where I'm most comfortable is an adventure story.

It makes sense. I mean, and I wasn't trying to be an adventure writer or things like that, but I do like this. I've always liked that notion of groups of strangers getting together to, to do something. I've always loved that.

It's no surprise that in my, my own writing, it just comes out that way. And of course, there's other elements of, you know, there's elements of romance, there's elements of, of thrill of a thriller.

And then in Cereus & Limnic, it's more technology and philosophically This one, there's not so much of that. It's, it's more of just have fun, get lost in this world with these characters, get to know a few Japanese demons, and then we'll see you on your way.

But yeah, I guess I'm an adventure writer now. Who knew?

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