Six months. In the six months since OpenAI opened their virtual treasure chest, the world has changed in ways we did not imagine.
We all have strong pro and cons. I’m somewhere in the area “New toys! Let’s see what these tools can do!” After all this time, I see the usefulness of using “AI” as an advanced research and text enhancing tool. It can help with research, characters profiles, location and settings, sensorial maps, and most of all, analyzing text for plot holes or editorial improvements.
No. They will not replace writers, editors as Midjourney and like will never replace a graphic designer. I think that writing is an art and creating is a human endeavor. I will always think this because 1. I’m human and 2. Writing has meaning because of the heart and soul we pour into it.
Enough with the intro. Let’s see a comparison between how Claude by Anthrop/c and Chat GPT4 analyzes a scene based on a specific prompt. You can reuse the prompt by changing the last part according to the genre in which you write.
There are external and internal ways to look at the structure of a novel. For a reader is mostly structured in Chapters. For a writer, there is mostly Scene as a component of the Chapter with the underlying beats or three acts framework.
The Motivation-Reaction Units (MRUs) theory, as conceptualized by Dwight V. Swain, divides the story events into two categories: causes (motivations) and effects (reactions). A motivation is an external stimulus that causes the character to react. It could be a car accident, a line of dialogue, a marriage proposal acceptance, or any other event that happens to the protagonist. The reaction is the character’s response to the motivating factor. It could press the brakes of the car, reciprocating a dialogue, hugging after a proposal, or any action taken in response to the motivation.
The crucial aspect of MRUs is the order in which they are presented. Introducing the effect before the cause might create confusion and jeopardize the reader’s ability to process the story logically.
The reaction part of the MRU can be further broken down into three responses:
- Feeling and/or thought.
- Action (including involuntary physical responses such as sweating or breathing hard).
These responses should be presented in the above order, as it mimics the human process of responding to stimuli. This structure allows the readers to resonate with the natural progression of the reaction and follow the development of the character’s thoughts.
However, there are exceptions to the MRU. The primary goal of the MRU is to create logical and clear prose, and sometimes it may be necessary to adjust it according to the specific needs of the story or to achieve a particular effect. For instance, sometimes the dialogue alone could explain the character’s emotional and mental reaction, or the character might confine their reaction to emotions and/or thoughts without offering any speech or movement.
Let’s take an example:
Motivation: A highly encrypted message pops up on the character’s augmented reality display, warning of an imminent attack on the city’s central server.
Feeling/thought: The character feels a rush of adrenaline mixed with fear. “Could this be a joke, a trick, or is it real?” he wonders.
Action: Swiftly, he exits his small, cramped apartment, leaving behind the flickering neon lights that leak through his window.
Speech: Dialing his trusted ally on his inbuilt comm-device, he says, “We’ve got a situation. Central’s under threat. I’m heading there now.”
Remember, the cyberpunk style often involves high-stakes scenarios involving technology and societal issues. It’s gritty, fast-paced, and often presents moral dilemmas. Also, characters in this genre are often dealing with powers much greater than them, trapped in systems that are nearly impossible to overcome, which can all be reflected in the motivations and reactions you craft.
Analyze this scene as an editor would:
The servos inside Alexander’s artificial hand were humming again. He thought the thought of a finger not tapping on the desk. It didn’t work. The synaptic loop seemed to be an overpriced feature. He used the switch-to-left swipe to put the hand’s neuro servers on standby.
“Someday we’re going to have a long discussion about your behavior, little lady.” His left hand didn’t answer back.
Other people had pets to have monologues with, thought Alexander. He had a missing hand. Other people had dreams. Good ones. He had nightmares of little hungry Alexei kicked by the boots of US soldiers in the Occupied Ukraine and sleeping in the sewers. Also, other people were still living and dying in the Kiev’s slums while he had a desk the 80th floor of the biggest investment bank in the world and an apartment in a good New York neighborhood.
Browsing up and down the document on the screen, he checked once more the internal application form for the Chief Operations Officer position. Not listed on the form was the number of favors he had to call in and the new obligations he had to make to get on the top of the candidate’s short list. He checked marked the box about agreeing with a full genetic markers analysis. This will be the last hop. Aliosa, the medical technician from the Emergency Team, was performing the genetic analysis, and he was a greedy MMO game player hoarding expensive digital items. It will cost him a lot, but Aliosa will take care of modifying the genetic markers in his file. Alexander will be the perfect Russian boy the Board wanted.
The submit button was next.
His eyes wandered towards the left side of his desk. The internal communications branded envelope was unsealed. The seventh year with the company was almost over. He had lost count of the number of unopened envelopes listing the two choices for Friday evening activities. Real wood pulp paper was old school and so expensive.
A voice close to his ear screamed: “Party time! Open the envelope! Open the envelope!” He snapped shut his laptop and almost jumped from the chair. Dimos, the new hire from overseas, had adapted fast to the “bro-sis” culture of the New York offices. He made friends with all the other associates and had a natural talent for smiling while planning to take over your clients or a new high profile project before you answered to his hello.
“I think I’m just going home,” said Alexander.
“Nonsense. This week’s choice is easy. You can go for some manual work in the Classic Engines Inc’s garage or you come with us to sample the new companions from F@rNiente. Either way you’ll get down and dirty, if you know what I mean.” Dimos strengthen the short laugh with an elbow sinking into Alexander’s shoulder. The light pain was probably meant to underline the good joke just made.
Leaning back in his chair, Alexander thought about his options. To do manual work fixing things, an activity reserved here for middle level investment bankers like himself, or enjoy the company of some perfect companion robots that will fill in the need for a human partner. Difficult choice. One night of getting his hands dirty as he used to in his uncle’s garage from Kiev, when he was little, or a night with the perfect table manners dolls at F@rNiente.
“I think I’ll go for grease today.”
“Your loss.” Dimos turned and went for the elevator with the light step of a man with no care in the world. Strutting.
He stepped to the window and let his eyes feast on the sea of city lights below. A truly technological evolution all the same. He remembered the muffled sound made by the wood hand prosthesis when bumping into things. It replaced the one his uncle, the debt collector, cut because of his father debt. Now he could do and feel so much more using the muscle and synaptic receptors of the artificial limb. Suddenly aware of the polycarbonate fingers rapping in the window with a dry hollow noise he returned to his initial train of thoughts. The Ukrainian branch of the bank was the pilot for the employee loyalty program. He’d signed the lifetime employment contract and had given up most of his personal freedom. The chip monitored from geolocation to heart rate but also gave him access to assets and information way above his official paygrade.
His breath formed a cloud on the thick glass and his fingers carved little lighting signs on the condensed liquid. If things went as planned, he’ll move from the investment floor to the floor below with Operations. The chip implanted behind his ear was his way in. Aliosa had better be as good as he said he was. If any trace of Alexander’s Ashkenazi ancestors was to be found, his days in the company were numbered.
Answer from Claude:
Overall, this scene establishes an ambitious protagonist, Alexander, in a high-tech setting. However, the prose could use significant improvements to enhance clarity and coherence:
- The writing is dense and difficult to follow at times due to long, rambling sentences and unnecessary details. Simplifying the prose by breaking up sentences and removing extraneous details would make this scene much more readable.
- The scene lacks focus and direction. While there are hints of Alexander’s goals to get promoted and modify his genetic profile, these motivations are not clearly spelled out. Providing a stronger inciting incident and central conflict to drive the scene would give it purpose and propel the story forward.
- Several references are made to Alexander’s past and setting without sufficient context, which may confuse readers. Additional details on Alexander’s childhood in Ukraine, his artificial limb, the investment bank, etc. would help orient readers.
- The dialogue feels unnatural and stiff. Reviewing and revising the dialogue to sound more realistic can help bring the characters and relationships to life.
- Descriptions of technology like artificial limbs, chips, and companion robots point to a cyberpunk setting, but the world-building overall feels sparse. Providing more vivid details on the technology, cityscape, and societal elements can help transport readers into this futuristic world.
In summary, this scene establishes an interesting concept and protagonist but needs improvement in coherence, clarity, characterization, and world-building. Tightening the prose, strengthening the scene’s direction, deepening the context, improving the dialogue, and enriching the world-building details can all help elevate this piece.
Please let me know if you have any other questions!
Answer from ChatGPT4:
First, I’ll break down the scene using the Motivation-Reaction Units (MRUs) framework, identifying the key motivations and reactions.
Motivation: The servos inside Alexander’s artificial hand were humming again.
Feeling/Thought: He thought the thought of a finger not tapping on the desk. It didn’t work. The synaptic loop seemed to be an overpriced feature.
Action: He used the switch-to-left swipe to put the hand’s neuro servers on standby.
Speech: “Someday we’re going to have a long discussion about your behavior, little lady.” His left hand didn’t answer back.
This pattern continues throughout the piece with motivations such as:
Motivation: Browsing up and down the document on the screen, he checked once more the internal application form for the Chief Operations Officer position.
Feeling/Thought: Not listed on the form was the number of favors he had to call in and the new obligations he had to make to get on the top of the candidate’s short list.
Action: He checked marked the box about agreeing with a full genetic markers analysis.
Speech: (There is no direct speech associated with this reaction, but that’s okay. Not every reaction requires all three elements.)
Motivation: A voice close to his ear screamed: “Party time! Open the envelope! Open the envelope!”
Feeling/Thought: He snapped shut his laptop and almost jumped from the chair.
Action: (Not directly mentioned but inferred – he turns towards the source of the voice)
Speech: “I think I’m just going home,” said Alexander.
Additionally, the scene contains a lot of backstory and inner monologue that provides important context about Alexander’s character and his situation. This information is crucial for the reader to understand the motivations and reactions.
As an editor, I would also look at the scene’s pacing, voice, and consistency. The pacing of the scene is steady and keeps the reader engaged. The voice of the protagonist is well developed, giving a sense of his personality and background. The scene is consistent in its cyberpunk setting, with elements like artificial limbs, genetic analysis, and high-tech corporate culture. However, the scene could be improved by clarifying some of the motivations and streamlining the reactions. For instance, the reason for Alexander’s annoyance with his artificial hand could be explained more clearly to the reader. Also, the reactions could be made more direct and emotional to enhance the reader’s connection with Alexander. Moreover, while the backstory is intriguing, it might be helpful to present it in a more structured manner. As it stands, the information about Alexander’s past and current situation is scattered throughout the scene, which might confuse the reader. An editor might suggest reorganizing these details to improve the narrative flow.
Lastly, the editor might also suggest focusing on showing rather than telling. For example, instead of stating that Alexander had lost count of the number of unopened envelopes, the scene could show a pile of unopened envelopes accumulating on his desk. This would provide a more vivid image and enhance the reader’s immersion in the scene.
Additional request for ChatGPT4: Rewrite your answer as a professional editor for a big publishing house without breaking down the scene.
Thank you for submitting your scene. I found the characterization of Alexander and the world-building in your piece to be engaging and well-rooted in the cyberpunk genre. The use of high-tech elements like artificial limbs, genetic analysis, and a dystopian corporate culture are compelling and contribute to a vivid setting.
However, I have a few suggestions to enhance the clarity and emotional impact of your scene.
First, consider clarifying some of the motivations that drive your character’s actions. For instance, you could elaborate on why Alexander is annoyed with his artificial hand to better convey his frustration to the reader.
Second, strive to make Alexander’s reactions more direct and emotional. This will help readers connect more deeply with your protagonist and understand his state of mind. Remember that it’s not always necessary to include all three elements of reaction (feeling/thought, action, speech) every time, but make sure each reaction is meaningful and advances the story or character development.
Third, while the backstory is intriguing, it might be beneficial to present this information more coherently. At present, the details about Alexander’s past and his current situation are scattered throughout the scene, which could lead to confusion. Consider reorganizing these details for a smoother narrative flow.
Lastly, I encourage you to show rather than tell where possible. For example, instead of stating that Alexander had lost count of the number of unopened envelopes, perhaps show a pile of unopened envelopes accumulating on his desk. This approach will provide a more vivid image and enhance the reader’s immersion in the scene.
With these modifications, I believe your scene has the potential to be even more impactful and engaging. I look forward to seeing your revisions.
Every feedback you can get it will help you in your writing journey. The “AI” will not write in your place, but it will definitely help along the way.