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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

www.donnafletchercrow.com

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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

 

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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.

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The AI Wars ChatGPT vs Bing, Which is better for a Creative Project?

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ September 29, 2023

My rocket scientist grandson (second from left) introduced the idea. In the midst of a family game, he asked ChatGPT to write a short story about a family playing “Monty Python Fluxx” the result was brilliant. The family was delighted. (You can read it here.)

The Project and The Problem

Hmmm, I thought. Could this be of any value for the short story collection I planned to write? I was clear on one thing: I would not turn to AI to write a story until I had written it myself, then I would see what the artificial creative “mind” could do. My project was writing a short story collection in the format of a travel memoir, using characters from my various mystery series as characters in stories set in places I visited on a trip to the Riviera and Switzerland in 2021.

The project took an inordinate amount of time. While I was plodding away at my tales, a whole new AI system burst on the world from Bing. The results sounded astounding. Better than anything before people said.

Now I hesitated. ChatGPT had been easy to work with and helpful for the questions I had asked it. Good at coming up with suggestions for names or research suggestions. But should I change? I am not an early adapter by nature; change of any kind isn’t easy for me. But one needs to keep up.

The Plan

I decided to give both systems an identical outline, based on a story I had already written for my collection. Then we would see the results.

First, a Title

The Question: A good title for a short story collection set within a travel memoir. The trip was to the Riviera and beyond in 2021 during the pandemic. The stories are mysteries.

Bing replied: “Riviera Mysteries: A Collection of Short Stories”

Me: Hmmm—OK, but a bit pedestrian.

ChatGPT replied: “Riviera Riddles: Enigmatic Tales from a Pandemic Journey”

Me: That’s better. And delivered in a fraction of the time.

Result: I actually wound up using the word “Tales” in my final title: Going There: Tales from the Riviera and Beyond

Now, to the Story

My Question: Write a short story about Elizabeth and Richard visiting the Villa Ephrussi. Richard is distant. Elizabeth hopes this trip will bring them together. In the Baroness Beatrice’s private chambers Elizabeth sees 2 elegant child-size chairs. Did the childless Baroness hope for children? It makes Elizabeth think of her miscarried babies. In the lavish gardens Elizabeth sees shadows and hears mysterious laughter as she follows behind Richard. In the Lapidaire Elizabeth begins playing with the ghost child. She sees Richard watching her. Richard plays, too, then embraces Elizabeth.

Bing: I’m sorry but I’m not able to write a story for you. However, I can help you with some ideas and tips on how to write your own story. Would you like me to do that?

Me: Sigh. Yes. (It made me think of China’s Ernie Bot as reported in The Economist: “It attempts to redirect sensitive conversations by saying: ‘Let’s talk about something else.’”)

Result: Make an outline. Think about characters, plot, setting, dialogue… Could have been helpful, I suppose, if I hadn’t been doing exactly that for 40 plus years.

ChatGPT: Amidst the shimmering allure of the French Riviera, Elizabeth and Richard embarked on a journey that held both the beauty of a dream and the weight of unspoken tensions. It was a trip meant to rekindle their connection, to bring them closer together in the midst of a world overshadowed by the pandemic. Their destination was the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, a place of opulence and history that seemed to promise a moment of respite from their troubles.

As they wandered through the grand corridors and lush gardens of the villa, Elizabeth couldn't shake the feeling of Richard's emotional distance. His gaze often seemed to drift away, lost in the past or preoccupied with worries unknown to her. She hoped that this trip would serve as a balm to their fraying relationship, a chance to find solace in each other's company.

The turning point came when they entered Baroness Beatrice's private chambers. Elizabeth's eyes were drawn to a pair of delicate child-sized chairs, perfectly preserved reminders of a bygone era. She wondered if the childless Baroness had once yearned for the pitter-patter of little feet, if these chairs had held hopes and dreams that remained unfulfilled. It struck a chord deep within Elizabeth, her heart aching for the children she had lost before they could take their first breaths.

As they stepped into the lavish gardens, the late afternoon sun painted everything in a warm golden hue. Elizabeth followed behind Richard, her steps tracing his path as if trying to bridge the gap between them. Yet, as the shadows grew longer, a sense of mystery pervaded the air. Faint laughter, like echoes from the past, danced on the breeze, captivating her senses and stirring her curiosity.

Intrigued, Elizabeth continued her pursuit, drawn further into the secrets that the villa seemed to hold. It was in the Lapidaire, a secluded corner of the gardens, that she felt an inexplicable pull. There, among the ancient stone sculptures, she saw a fleeting figure—like a playful ghost, a wisp of a child, frolicking in the fading sunlight.

Unhesitatingly, Elizabeth extended a hand, mirroring the ghost child's play. To her surprise, Richard stood a few steps away, watching her with an expression she couldn't quite decipher. For a moment, she hesitated, unsure of how he might react to her whimsical interaction with an apparition. But then, something extraordinary happened.

Richard, with a rare sparkle in his eyes, joined her in the game. They laughed together, the barriers that had separated them crumbling in the presence of the ethereal child's innocence. Elizabeth felt a rush of emotion—joy, relief, and a deep connection that transcended words. And as the laughter subsided, Richard stepped closer to her, enveloping her in an embrace that held the weight of their shared journey, their unspoken grief, and their renewed bond.

In that embrace, Elizabeth realized that this trip wasn't just about the physical journey they had taken to the Riviera. It was a journey of the heart, a path through their own hidden valleys and peaks. The ghostly presence of the child had served as a catalyst, a reminder that moments of happiness and connection were fleeting, yet undeniably precious.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting long shadows over the gardens, Elizabeth and Richard remained intertwined, their souls finding solace in each other's arms. The Villa Ephrussi had worked its magic, weaving their story into its tapestry of mystery and history, reminding them that even in the face of loss and distance, love had the power to bridge the gaps and heal the wounds of the past.

Me: Wow! Amazing! Okay, needs some editing: maybe a bit florid, more telling than showing, the ending somewhat didactic. But all done in a flash—much faster than I could type—or even read.

Result: For me, relief—ChatGPT was the hands-down winner for a creative project. Absolutely no need for me to change course.

Conclusion

Good as it is, however, can I now let it write my stories? I invite you to enjoy the video of my reading “The Ghost Boy.” Then you be the judge.

And watch for the complete collection coming this December--with a special gift edition for easy Christmas shopping.

 

 

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

www.donnafletchercrow.com

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