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Niv stoked the fire with a long stick. It was cold in the wastes. He sat huddled in his roche blanket watching the embers rise up into the night sky. The cliff face at his back protected him from most of the wind, but tongues of the cold air still lapped at his face when they got the chance. He didn’t want to be out here. This wasn’t his world. If it had been his choice, he never would have left Gehenna. He never would have assumed this ridiculous disguise. Who would even believe it? He missed the warmth of the brimstone in his room. He missed the volcano. He even missed Esrith, the old bitter chambermaid who took care of him when he was young.

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His view

After centuries of hiding in the dark corners of the world, and years of bleak existence bound to the will of others, she came. She leaked into the cracks of his hard exterior, melting his frozen soul, unaware of what she was doing. It happened quietly, without fanfare, but for him she was like the sun rising; painful and harsh after eons of cool darkness.

His eyes were attuned to the black cell he inhabited. He could make out the fine texture in the stone and concrete walls. The chains that held his wrists were cold and heavy, but they made no impression on his smooth skin. He hung against the wall, still as death.

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This Person Does Not Exist

She was created by an adversarial neural network.

The idea that this is possible is both amazing and terrifying.

I can see many positive applications for this. For my part, I’ve been thinking of using it as inspiration for character apperances. There is no need for me to ground my character’s appearence on a real person, when there are computers that can generate fictional people. My characters will be completely unique.

On the flip side, real looking people, stories, and evidence can be generated by a computer. If a computer can recreate faces with such impressive detail, what other visual elements can they fabricate on the fly? Photoshop and CG have been around for awhile. We already can’t trust what we see, but with AI able to generate original images instantly, the capacity for indecipherable realistic fake images will skyrocket. We truly wont be able to believe any sort of photographic evidence anymore.

I am still optimistic about what other things this sort of AI could be capable of. I looked up the possibility of AI writing novels, or at least synopses of novels, and came across Janelle Shane‘s pet neural network. She wanted to get her pet neural network to generate potential first lines for a novel by training it on famous first lines from novels. Her data set turned out to be a little small and the neural network basically just rearranged snippets of lines and spit them back out; so she asked for help and created a google form to which people could submit first lines.

She gathered over ten thousand potential first lines and the neural network began generating, if not good first lines, at least grammatically correct ones. It also created some doozies. Go ahead and have a look for yourself at her post about it.

I am still excited though. I think this technology could be very handy as a support tool for writers. I don’t actually want an AI to be able to write good novels. I want it to be able to write really terrible pieces of potentially good novels that writers can use as jumping off points. I want completely original ideas to come out of bots writing story synopses that a human might not have come up with because of our limited experience. I want a bot to be able to shake me of my writers’ block by completing my sentence, or suggesting the beginning of my next line when I can’t think of where to go next. I want a fiction autocomplete. I don’t think we’re far off. Even some of the first lines generated by Janelle’s neural network could inspire a good story.

I can’t wait to see what’s next.

For more on the This Person Does Not Exist project, watch this video:

I have been advised to write

Every article, listicle, or essay about writing I have read have one theme stands out. Write. Write every day. Write when you don’t want to. Write when you don’t feel like it. Write when you do. Write when you’re uninspired and write when the words just fall out onto the page. Just write.

The other critique I have seen is that you can’t call yourself a writer these days if you don’t have a blog…

I’ve had this one for some time, but it has gone unused. I’ve written an article here or there, but nothing consistent or regular. I used to write on LiveJournal, before the word “blog” even existed, but that fell to the wayside with MySpace and Facebook. Here I am, though, trying to revive my blogging habits in hopes of being able to call myself a writer.

The other advice I have seen is to admit that you are a writer. Just start believing you are one. Call yourself one. Tell other people that’s what you are. You don’t to be published to have writing in your soul. I never planned to “be a writer” growing up, but I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always been a story-teller, so I guess it’s time I started believing it and telling other people that’s what I am, even if I suck at it.

The other advice I have seen about writing, though it’s really true for literally anything you want to do in life, is that everyone sucks before they are good at something. I will suck at writing until I don’t. I sucked at chemistry until I didn’t. I will suck at cello, and singing, and sewing, and cooking, and blogging, until I don’t. The only thing that will make me not suck is doing it, and sucking a whole lot until I don’t. That’s just how it works.

I am so used to having things come easy, at least to the point of impressing some people, that as soon as I start feeling like I suck I feel like it isn’t worth it anymore. That is EXACTLY when you have to keep going. That is exactly when it’s time to put in the hard work.

Some of the best fiction advice I have seen so far goes right along with the “you have to just write” advice. For world building and character creation you don’t have to dive into writing your fiction. Write pieces of it you never intend anyone to see. Write character interactions that happen outside the timeline of your book. Write childhood memories. Get inside your characters’ heads. Write their dreams and their hopes. Write until you know each character inside and out, until they are individuals with their own histories and personalities.

So I will write. I will write every day, in one form or another, until I don’t suck; until I have a novel that is done; until I know my worlds and my characters like they are old friends.

I will write.