Harness AI Power for Craft Learning: Voice and Words with Concrete Examples
Read this on galpod.com.
While AI can’t replace human writers, I think it’s an excellent tool for human writers. Not to write for us—as I said before, it would be a bit like paying someone to go on date night with my partner—completely missing the point. But AI can be used as a tool for us to work on our craft.
Today, I want to show how we can use AI to work on specific craft aspects. For example, I can read ten articles about voice, but those won’t necessarily help me in figuring out what my writer’s voice sounds like and how to make my character’s voice sound different based on its personality.
I tried three AIs for this post: Claude, Grammarly, and ChatGPT. I won’t go into the comparison between them, and I haven’t done a market analysis. I took a few sentences from a story I’m about to publish (in a short stories collection—coming soon to a Kindle near you!) so that the example is concrete. My story begins like this:
“You have to try it. It’s like nothing you’ve ever done,” Shireen was glowing with excitement.
“You know I’m up for new experiences, but this sounds dangerous.” Green sunlight, filtered through the canopy, danced on her flowing, black hair. Her stalwart body always had a calming effect on me. Perhaps that’s why the uncharacteristic energy caused disquiet.”
I want to highlight one sentence: Green sunlight, filtered through the canopy, danced on her flowing, black hair. Descriptions are one aspect of my writing that requires work, so I want to focus on this sentence today.
I asked the AIs to rewrite a longer excerpt with various tones. I’ll show here a few sentence variations that caught my attention.
The warm sunlight filtered through the canopy, casting a serene light on her black hair.
(Grammarly, rewrite to be more witty)
The verdant canopy overhead filtered the sunlight, casting a serene aura on the scene. Her flowing, black hair was a stark contrast to the lush landscape around us, and her stalwart body exuded a calming effect.
(Grammarly, rewrite to be more mature)
As the verdant sunlight filtered through the forest canopy, it played a whimsical dance upon her flowing, ebony tresses.
(ChatGPT, rewrite to be more literary)
We were standing in a jungle clearing, with green sunlight filtering through the trees above us. Shireen's long black hair was blowing in the breeze.
(Claude, rewrite to be middle-grade)
This exercise helps me examine concrete word choices and how they relate to character voice. For instance, Grammarly thinks my description lacks the word serene and insisted on adding it. For the life of me, I can’t tell why. ChatGPT’s “whimsical” would have been more appropriate for the tone I was going for, but I think using the word itself may be too blatant.
Note the choice of “verdant” instead of green for the literary and the mature re-writes—it’s just a fancier word for green, although it does connote plants, so it might be a better choice here. “Canopy”, however, is the right choice unless I was writing for middle grade. In that case, Claude suggests I use “trees” rather than canopy, which may be a better choice for a younger audience.
Looking at these word choices helps me figure out what I want and don’t want to include in this story. It’s a way of “learning by doing” that isn’t available when you read articles or books about writing.
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