Friday, 26 May 2023

Read Around the Rainbow - A.I. vs. Me

It's that time again when the Read Around the Rainbow group get together to discuss the topic of the month. It comes around so fast!

Often we decide on a topic and any gossip in the group chat is just that. But this topic has had the group chat buzzing away. 

That's hardly a surprise, AI is a contentious topic among most creatives and educators. This time last year, if you'd mentioned AI, most of the outcry would have come from artists. I follow as many artists as authors on the blue birdy app these days and they been making noise about AI for ages. 

But with the launch of ChatGPT in November 22 suddenly our words are under threat. From the current Hollywood writers strike to the problems faced by educators with AI written papers. It's writing copy on blogs, copy that will be picked up by other AI searches and regurgitated back to us. 

But authors will be fine, yes? No. Amazon is already selling books written by AI. AI that can take our written words and use them against us. And that's all without mentioning the ethics and legality of data mining. Or how AI can marginalise and deny minorities.

So, we decided to conduct an experiment. Write 300 words (or thereabouts), then feed the same parameters into an AI writing program and compare the results.

The Great AI Experiment. 

Write a 400-word gay romance story in past tense, first person point-of-view, about a meetcute where two men meet in a London market. The narrator is a market trader who sells bric-a-brac, the other man is a nurse browsing his stall. Nurse seems plain until the sun comes out and hits him just right. Include at least 150 words of dialogue.

Sample 1

I stood behind my market stall, surrounded by an assortment of bric-a-brac. The London market buzzed with activity, shoppers meandering through the stalls, searching for hidden treasures. It was a typical day until he walked into my life.

A man in a plain white shirt and trousers wandered over to my stall. His eyes flickered with curiosity as he examined the trinkets displayed before him. There was something unassuming about him, but I couldn't help but feel drawn to his presence.

"Can I help you find anything in particular?" I asked, breaking the silence.

He looked up, his eyes meeting mine. "Oh, no, thank you. I'm just browsing. You have quite an interesting collection here."

I smiled, appreciating his polite response. "I try to offer a little bit of everything. Let me know if anything catches your eye."

He continued to peruse the items on display, occasionally picking up an item and inspecting it. The sun was hidden behind the clouds, casting a dull light over the market. But then, as if on cue, a ray of sunlight broke through, illuminating his face.

The sudden burst of light transformed him. His plain features were bathed in a warm glow, his eyes sparkling like two jewels. It was as if the sun itself had chosen him, highlighting his true beauty for the world to see.

I couldn't help but comment on the transformation. "You know, I never noticed it before, but the sunlight brings out something extraordinary in you."

He chuckled, a hint of blush coloring his cheeks. "Well, I suppose I have the sun to thank for that."

We continued to chat, our conversation flowing effortlessly like an old friendship rekindled. He shared stories of his work as a nurse, the challenges and rewards he faced, while I regaled him with tales of the curious items I had collected over the years. Our dialogue danced between lighthearted banter and genuine moments of connection.

As the afternoon sun began to wane, he thanked me for the pleasant conversation. "I should be on my way, but it was lovely talking to you. Your stall brightened my day."

I couldn't let him go so easily. "Wait, before you leave, let me give you something as a token of our meeting."

I reached under the stall and retrieved a small, intricately designed pendant. I placed it gently in his hand, our fingers brushing for a fleeting moment. "May this pendant bring you the same radiance that the sun bestowed upon you today."

His eyes widened in surprise and gratitude. "Thank you. I'll cherish it."

We exchanged smiles, an unspoken connection lingering in the air between us. As he turned to leave, I couldn't resist but ask, "Would you like to meet again? Maybe for a cup of tea or a stroll in the park?"

His smile brightened, mirroring the sunlight that had transformed him earlier. "I would love that. Here, let me give you my number."

As he walked away, I watched him blend into the crowd, the pendant glimmering in the sunlight. Our unexpected encounter in the London market had kindled a flame of curiosity and possibility. And as the market continued its lively symphony, I couldn't help but look forward to the next chapter of our story, guided by the warmth of the sun and the serendipity of connection.

Sample 2

I swear there was nothing special about the guy browsing the bric a brac and ‘maybe someday’ antiques on my stall at Chatsworth Road market. A dishevelled, dishwater blond in an olive green puffa jacket with dark circles under his eyes. Nothing remarkable. 

Then the cloud that had been threatening rain for the last half hour shifted and a shaft of sunlight hit him. 



I could almost hear the choir of heavenly angels as it bathed him in a warm glow. Honest. No word of a lie. Skin a healthy olive tone that spoke of a Mediterranean heritage somewhere in his lineage. Far, far back if his hair was any indication. What I’d taken for dishwater blond was threaded with varying shades of yellow and gold that the sun caught just right, glinting and gleaming. Catching my attention like a magpie with shiny shit. And in that moment I wanted to pluck that man and line my nest with him. 

My nest being the small double in my pokey flat filled with more stock than furniture and pluck… well, you get the analogy I’m sure. 

Between blinks, a halo of rainbow colours had appeared, refracted from beads of moisture that clung to the silk fine strands. 

He was stunning. Despite the drab lumpy coat. And the pinch between his eyebrows. The worried twist of his lips.

Damn, I was staring. And creeping him out if that expression was any indication. So I plastered on my winning smile and cranked up cheeky chappy market trader to the max. 

“That desperate to get to the market that you didn’t have time to dry your hair?” I blurted. That wasn’t what I’d intended to say. And rather than cover my embarrassment I only made it worse. Especially when I channelled my Nan—my Mum couldn’t have given a shit—and tacked on, “You’ll catch your death coming out in this weather with wet hair.”

His snort of laughter seemed to catch him by surprise and he lifted a hand to his lips as though to try to keep it in. Too late. The inelegant sound had already escaped to the ether, catching me square in the chest as it did so. 

“Ah, yes. Desperate to see what tat you had on your stall today.” 

I knew sarcasm when I heard it and that was dripping in it. It also had a refinement to it that screamed posh schools and money, or at least the outward appearance of such, tempered by the softness of a honeyed accent. Greece or one of the islands thereabout, maybe.

Hang on. He’d been to my stall before? I didn’t recall seeing him. And surely I’d remember such a stunning creature. I narrowed my eyes, desperate to place him. The cloud shifted again, hiding the sun once more and from one blink to the next the guy returned to plain and ordinary. Easy to miss. 

I squinted hard. There it was, that shine that seemed to be just under the surface. Dulled somehow, but still there just waiting to be discovered. And now I knew, well, I couldn’t really un-see it. 

Unaware of my inner turmoil he gestured to his hair. “That’s an old wives tale. You can’t get ill going out with wet hair. Unless it’s below freezing, of course.” He ran long, strong looking fingers through his hair and I swear the strands glowed a little as they passed through. “My last patient projectile vomited on me. I had to shower before I left the hospital.”

Night shift. That explained dark smudges and the general air of exhaustion. “Doctor?”

“Nurse.” He gave a self-deprecating smile. “Not as glamorous.”

I wanted to soothe that expression. Slap down whoever had caused it to appear. “Just as important, but more caring and lower paid.”

“I doubt my father would agree with you. He’s a consultant. With an office in Harley Street.”

Dad needed a slap. And it was time to change the subject. “So, which item of my tat takes your fancy.”

He grinned and indicated to a hideous side table. 

Which is the AI? 

I'd like to think that anyone who has read even one of my stories would pick mine out of the two. 

But before I confirm your suspicions there's a few points I'd like to discuss. 

I had to play about with prompt to get anywhere vaguely similar to my piece. The first try had no dialogue whatsoever. You had to ask it to add dialogue. When I didn't specify the type of market trader AI became unnaturally obsessed with fruit and veg. 

"...Your stall has such a lovely array of fresh produce."

I chuckled. "Well, thank you. I take pride in offering the best. Any particular fruit or vegetable catching your eye?"

He pondered for a moment before pointing at a bunch of ripe strawberries. "Those strawberries look delicious. Are they as sweet as they appear?"

I nodded enthusiastically. "Oh, they're fantastic. The juiciest and sweetest strawberries you'll ever taste. Here, let me get you a sample."

And don't even get me started on the bunch of strawberries. Bunch? Really?

Adding bric a brac to the prompt help bring the two samples on a more even keel. But the AI version, while readable, has no author voice. It's bland and generic, somewhat flowery and uses too many unnecessary words. It's also unrealistic in the way the characters act. No nurse coming off a night shift would have the energy to wander a market all day. Nor would a stall holder leave their stall to do the same. 

Each AI version of the scene had a version of:

We continued to chat, our conversation flowing effortlessly like an old friendship rekindled. He shared stories of his work as a nurse, the challenges and rewards he faced, while I regaled him with tales of the curious items I had collected over the years. Our dialogue danced between lighthearted banter and genuine moments of connection.

Curious, a completely different prompt was tried, this one a 1940's historical gay romance set in Wales. But yep, that passage more or less turned up again. 

By now I'm guessing you know which is mine. But just in case you're unsure. 

Sample 1 was AI

Sample 2 was Me

So that's my Two Pennies' Worth on AI complete with links for your perusal. I'll leave you with one more thought provoking article before I send you off to my colleagues. I asked an AI to wite LGBTQ Fiction. 

Check out my fellow RAtR authors who I'm sure will have strong opinions on this subject. I'm looking forward to reading their snippets. 

AL Lester - #ReadAroundtheRainbow: AI Versus the Writer

Nell Iris - Read Around the Rainbow: AI vs Me

Ofelia Grand - Read Around the Rainbow | A.I. vs. Me

Fiona Glass - Read Around the Rainbow: Can AI write an LGBT romance story?

Ellie Thomas - Read Around the Rainbow: AI vs Me

Holly Day - Read Around the Rainbow | A.I. vs. Me

Addison Albright - READ AROUND THE RAINBOW ~ A.I. vs. Me #RAtR


  1. Yeah, the A.I. robot seems to have a few favourite expressions LOL

  2. Oh, yeah, it was obvious which was written by a bot and which was you. Yours was so much better!