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Reader . . . Be Aware!

In his Grammar Moses column on April 8th, Jim Baumann challenged his readers to a test:  Determine which one of two blurbs on gerunds was written by the artificial application ChatGPT and which was written by him. (The AI version took forty-one seconds to create; Baumann's took five minutes).


If readers were expecting the choice would be easy . . . well, they'd have to think again. 


In his follow-up column the next week, Bauman gave examples where readers (even some of his most ardent followers) were fooled. Most readers felt the AI version was adolescent, lacked variability in sentence structure, and tried too hard to interject humor.


In academic circles (think student papers, professor's articles, graduate student theses) and among professionals (think bloggers, attorneys, journalists), valid concerns about the use of AI are raised—who is the real author writing those papers, blogs, and articles? And where do the facts, assumptions, and conclusions come from?


Beyond these worries, how might the use of AI impact the literary field in fiction and non-fiction works? Will readers be able to tell between works generated by artificial intelligence and those written by (human) authors?


The increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in literature has raised several concerns among scholars, writers, and readers alike. While AI can undoubtedly offer innovative tools and new creative possibilities, it also presents certain challenges and risks.


One primary concern is the potential loss of human creativity and authorship. Literature has long been considered a reflection of the human experience, emotions, and imagination. Critics argue that AI-generated literature lacks the genuine human touch and the unique perspective that comes from lived experiences and emotions. AI systems may mimic existing works or follow established patterns, but they struggle to create truly original, authentic narratives.


Another worry revolves around the ethical implications of AI-generated literature. As AI systems learn from existing texts, there is a risk of perpetuating biases, stereotypes, or discriminatory content. If an AI model is primarily trained on works that reflect certain cultural or social biases, it may unknowingly reproduce and amplify those biases in its own output, leading to skewed representations and reinforcing existing inequalities.


Additionally, the question of intellectual property and ownership arises. Who should be credited as the author when an AI system generates a literary work? This dilemma blurs the boundaries of copyright law and raises complex legal and ethical questions.


Lastly, there is a concern that AI-generated literature might devalue the human creative process. If AI systems become proficient at producing literature, it could potentially flood the market with an overwhelming amount of content, making it difficult for human authors to gain recognition and financial sustainability.


While AI offers exciting possibilities for literary exploration, addressing these concerns is crucial to ensure that the essence of human creativity, diversity, and authorship are not compromised in the process.


* * *

So, who wrote this blog? 

ChatGPT generated all the text beginning with: The increasing use of artificial intelligence . . . .   So, Reader Be Aware!

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Like the Chicken and the Egg . . . Which Comes First: Character or Plot?

A few weeks ago, a journalist asked me which comes first . . . the plot or character. Answering, I said, "Character comes first."

For my stories, a plot doesn't exist without the presence of a character. Character makeup drives my stories and steers the story's path. How might the story in Blackhorse Road or Flower Girl have turned on a dime with changes in the character's makeup?


So what's my special elixir?


Before characters are worthy of being featured in my stories, they must pass an exhaustive interrogation of sixty questions!


Here's a sample of three questions Suzanna had to answer before claiming the first-place spot in Flower Girl.


3. General physical description:  Suzanna is the American ideal of wholesome: Five feet five inches tall, 115 pounds, with a Dorothy Hamil look—light brown thick hair cut in a stylish wedge of the 1980s, silky complexion, sparkling eyes, and charming sexiness. In all, she is a package of the right balance between winsomeness and sweetness


35. What is your character afraid of? What keeps him or her up at night? An unrealistic belief that all people can be saved from themselves. Suzanna has to accept that she cannot be everyone's savior. She learns about Prochaska's model of behavioral change and, in the end, realizes that before people can change, they have to want to change.


36. What does your character think is his or her worst quality? Suzanna's inner critic has a constant theme:  Why did you. . .   That theme is translated as a rumination of should-haves and could-haves. Suzanna doesn't recognize this self-defeating quality until she realizes that living in the present is much more potent than ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.


Sixty questions! Yes, character interrogation takes a lot of time. In the end, like a good interrogation, the character's "truth" is revealed.

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A Leap of Faith

Leap of faith:  Engaging in something and believing it will work out even though there is no evidence or assurance of the outcome.


By training and characteristic, I like plans. In fact, I love plans—PERT and GANTT charts, lists, timelines, data flow diagrams—you name it, and I've probably done it. No leaps of faith or flying by the seat of my pants in computer programming, either.  Systems analysis was my brand. 


So, taking a leap of faith and plunging into fiction writing was uncharacteristic. Or was it?  I'm thinking my character strengths (as assessed by the Values in Action—VIA—survey of strengths) of bravery, creativity, and curiosity were smoldering and waiting for the right time to fire up and break free from doing the sure, anticipated thing.


And what fire the flames ignited! 


For me, writing fiction checks all the boxes that make a flourishing life—called PERMA in positive psychology terms—I couldn't be happier or feel more fulfilled.


Writing sets off positive emotions—seeing and experiencing things differently and deeply—joy, happiness, awe.  Engagement—being totally immersed in the creative process where one day bleeds into another and time goes so fast it stands still. Developing new relationships—relationships with the craft of writing and an entire community of authors, writing professionals, and readers sharing their expertise and helping each other. Fulfilling my meaning in life—supporting others through my stories and characters to be their best selves; showing them that being human is messy, but we can all find our North Stars and fulfill our potential.  And experiencing the fruits of taking that leap of faith—achievement—by walking the path and saying yes to the journey, an achievement itself.


Take a leap of faith. Free those smoldering embers inside yourself—the fire it ignites may pleasantly surprise you.

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