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Tell this AI your story's themes, and it'll write the first paragraph for you

It's fun to make computers say silly things

Writing, I can tell you as a professional, is the most important yet difficult thing anyone has ever done in the world. I am therefore extremely grateful for Narrative Device, a browser-based AI doodad which generates the opening paragraph of a story based on two themes or things you feed into it. Finally, some help for the writers of the world! It's potentially interesting and useful, or at the very least it is fun to make a computer say silly things.

Narrative Device offers to provide "inspiration for a story from an AI", eating the themes you suggest to write the opening paragraph. Its creator, Rodolfo Ocampo, explains, "I am doing this to explore creative augmentation using AI, and human-AI creative collaboration" (the topic of his PhD research). It uses the much-vaunted OpenAI GPT3 API, which is trained in natural language from terabytes of text from websites, books, and Wikipedia pages. You know, the AI behind the latest version of AI Dungeon. That one. But here it's used to help the poor, struggling writers of the world, who I think we can all accept are the real heroes.

It could help you muscle through that difficult opening scene of your new FPS:

Input themes: a space marine and demons

The space marine looked around the dimly-lit room, his eyes scanning the grotesque creatures that littered the floor. They were demons, and he had been sent to deal with them. He had been trained for this, and he was ready.

Or it could give you ideas for the next Great PlayStation Exclusive:

Input themes: a sad dad and revenge

The sad dad was sitting in his room, thinking about how revenge would be the best way to make his daughter happy.

I think it's been playing Yoko Taro games too:

Input themes: a sad robot and the future

The robot was sad. It had been abandoned by its creators, left to wander the world alone. The future looked bleak for the robot, and it felt like it had no purpose.

You might also appreciate its help in starting your latest fanfic:

Input themes: Master Chief and romance

Master Chief had been through a lot in his time as a soldier and even more in his time as the leader of the Spartan-IIs. But nothing had prepared him for what he was about to go through.

I like this sort of daft AI toy. I know it's just throwing words and ideas together but: 1) even random AI spew can help, an external thought prompting your brain to react and spark off, potentially leading your thoughts somewhere they might not otherwise have gone (I am reminded of Edwin Evans-Thirlwell's recent chat with game developers using tarot); 2) it's funny when a computer says silly things.

Our Graham discovered that the AI also has striking insight into RPS:

Input themes: RockPaperShotgun.com and Katharine

When Katharine heard the news, she just couldn't believe it. It seemed too good to be true, but there it was, RockPaperShotgun.com had accepted her submission. She couldn't believe her luck. But then she saw the comments.

...an almost suspicious insight into RPS:

Input themes: RockPaperShotgun.com and Ollie

Oliver was sitting in his room, bored. He had been playing RockPaperShotgun.com for hours, but he was no closer to winning than he was when he started. He thought about going outside, but the weather was bad and he was afraid he would get lost. Then he had an idea. He would go to the arcade down the street and play some games. He got up and walked out the door, but before he could even take a step, he was attacked by a group of teenagers.

...downright uncanny insight into RPS:

Input themes: RockPaperShotgun.com and Alice O

Alice looked at the website RockPaperShotgun.com. The site was full of gaming secrets, and she was determined to find out all of them. She was definitely going to be the best gamer around, and nothing was going to stop her.

Actually, it seems to know a whole lot about video games blogs in general:

Input themes: games blogging and romance

Gaming blogs are a staple of the internet, and they always seem to be buzzing with excitement and anticipation for the newest game releases. But what happens when two gaming bloggers collide in the real world? Romance is in the air at the local game store, and the two bloggers are fighting for the attention of the same guy. They're blogging about the games they're playing, the things they're buying, and anything and everything that comes to mind. But there's only one man that they're interested in, and he seems to be oblivious to their advances. Is this the end of their gaming blog romance, or are they about to discover something new and exciting?

However, always remember that any AI model is only as smart as the data it's trained on. Sometimes they'll eat garbage and spew up garbage:

Input themes: game publishers and NFTs

As game publishers continue to embrace the use of NFTs in their games, the industry as a whole is beginning to see the benefits of this new technology. By allowing gamers to own and trade in in-game assets, publishers are able to create a more engaged and rewarding gaming experience for their players. NFTs have already had a positive impact on the gaming industry, and there is no doubt that they will continue to do so in the future.

Oh Narrative Device, what are you like!

The site does seem to be running slower and slower, which might be because lots of people think it's funny when a computer says silly things. Ocampo is accepting donations to help with server costs, if you want to toss in a couple quid as a thank you.

Ocampo has also tried to build safeguards against how cyberwrong'uns inevitably abuse AI models, filtering results through another model to identify potentially adult content or derogatory language. An error message explains it's tuned to cautiousness "to mitigate the reproduction of bias with language models and keep children from reading ugly things." This does mean, disappointingly but predictably, it seems to reject "queer" themes. So how is it supposed to help me with my Ace Attorney fanfic?

Alright then, reader dear, please do tell us all the start of the story you're writing with Narrative Device's help.

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Alice O'Connor avatar

Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice is likely in the sea.

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