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AI-Generated Art as a Writing Tool

Let me begin by saying that I am well aware of the controversy around AI-Generated art, and this post is in no way suggesting commercial use. The legal arguments are still rather murky on AI art, and some platforms will remove your work if you use it. Add to that, my own experience produced results that were often not commercially viable. I have, however, found a non-commercial use that serves me well.

I think all writers want their descriptions to be both vivid and ring true. I sometimes feel that mine fall a bit short, although a member of my writing group generally compliments me on them. In my head, I'm thinking, well yeah, you just tore xyz apart, so you need to find something nice to say. You know, imposter syndrome.

More as an experiment (or an excuse for not writing but still feeling productive), I began experimenting with generated art. My initial results with descriptions I made up on the fly were truly wretched. Then, I decided to take descriptions from my book and see how the AI rendered them.

My first description was the house that my protagonist inherited from her family. It was based on the older homes in my hometown, so I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted it to look like. Did my description convey that? I wasn't sure. I fed the description into the tool, and the middle picture was the result. It looked GREAT and was exactly what I wanted. I showed it to someone who still lives there and asked does this look like a local home? Their answer, it could slide right onto any street in town. Yay me!

I did the same experiment with the cottage, which I call Witch Cottage in the books. The AI produced several good candidates, but the one shown here was my favorite.

A banshee appears in my third book, The May Babies Ball. While researching banshees, I discovered a lot of contradictions. They ranged from what banshees looked and sounded like to what their appearance foretold. To add to the confusion, a lot of banshee lore is quite modern, coming from movies and roleplaying games. Were they young or old? Yes, they were. Were they skeletal? Sometimes. What color was their hair? Red, black, white, or gray. Getting the drift? Basically, I felt pretty much on my lonesome when it came to describing the banshee.

After much writing and rewriting, I ran my description through the AI. I was pretty pleased with the result, although it added the facial tattooing and the one skeletal hand, which weren't part of my original description. I liked those additions and revised the novel to incorporate them. By the way, you can see a problem that often appears in AI-generated art: the non-skeletal hand is deformed. It seems to have a lot of problems with rendering hands and eyes.

If you're fretting about the vividness and accuracy of your descriptions, give AI a try. It might make you feel more confident or show you where something is missing. I used Microsoft Bing's free tool, Image Creator, to create these images.

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