Plotting with Robots

Will robots write our books in the near future? True, we writers spend plenty of time pounding our heads instead of our fingers on the keyboard. But will we hand over our jobs to artificial intelligence? Lisa asked an AI bot to come up with 2 short mystery plots, just for fun …

Recently, I’ve been bombarded with unsettling predictions about AI taking over writers’ duties by the end of the decade. All I did was read one teensy article online and then the bots threw a ton more into my news and social media feeds.

Just think, writers. With robots on the job, we’d never have to write that pesky cover copy again. Or query letters or blurbs or press releases. We wouldn’t even have to write our actual books. More leisure time to eat bonbons and stream BritBox. No more stressing over Sprinto.

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As in training your dog to sit, stay, or stop tearing up your hard-earned manuscript pages, you’ll need to give the robots very clear directions. I admit, I was just messing around here, and I didn’t watch the helpful tutorials on YouTube and all over the internet. I went straight to OpenAI, signed up for a free account, and started in with ChatGPT.

I asked the robots to plot a quick story for 2 mystery genres: cozy and noir. The results arrived almost faster than I could type:


My directions: Write a 150-word cozy mystery plot about a detective who is a chicken named Eggatha, with a murder, 3 suspects and a reveal in the style of Agatha Christie.

Eggatha the chicken is a detective who lives in a small village where everyone knows each other. One day, the village’s wealthiest resident, Mr. Cluckington, is found murdered in his luxurious chicken coop. Eggatha is called in to investigate the case and quickly discovers that there are three main suspects: the victim’s business partner, a local farmer, and Mr. Cluckington’s own wife. As Eggatha investigates, she uncovers a web of lies and secrets among the suspects. The local farmer had a grudge against Mr. Cluckington for stealing his land, the business partner had financial motives for wanting the victim dead, and the wife was tired of living in his shadow. In the end, Eggatha cleverly reveals that the real killer was none other than Mr. Cluckington’s wife, who had finally had enough of living in his shadow (sic) and decided to take matters into her own hands. Eggatha solves the case, bringing justice to the village and proving that even a chicken can be a great detective.

Comments: Hmm. Okay, that’s…a start. My favorite part: Mr. Cluckington’s name. Note that the robots did not include either food or a cat in their cozy, but adding those might have turned out badly for Eggatha, Mr. Cluckington, and the killer. Chicken pot pie, anyone?

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My directions: Write a 150-word noir mystery plot about a hardboiled PI in a trenchcoat who is a chicken named Eggatha, with a dark setting, a murder, 3 suspects, a bar and a boozy blonde with a depressing ending in style of Raymond Chandler.

Eggatha the chicken is a hardboiled private investigator, always dressed in a trenchcoat, with a penchant for whiskey and cigarettes. One dark and stormy night, he is approached by a boozy blonde, who hires him to investigate the murder of her lover, a wealthy businessman. The case leads Eggatha down a dark and dangerous path, as he delves into the seedy underbelly of the city, where nothing is as it seems. He soon discovers that the victim had many enemies, including a corrupt politician, a ruthless gangster, and a bitter ex-lover. As Eggatha gets deeper into the case, he realizes that the truth is far more complex than he ever imagined. The corrupt politician, the ruthless gangster, and the bitter ex-lover are all tied together in a web of lies and deceit, with the blonde as the common denominator. In the end, Eggatha discovers that the blonde was the mastermind behind the murder, but instead of bringing her to justice, he succumbs to her charms and joins her in the dark, criminal world. The case remains unsolved, and Eggatha is forever lost in the shadows, a broken man with a broken soul.

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Comments: Okay, I like this start. Whiskey and cigarettes, ha. And that broken, broken soul. I could work with it. But I’d need to add, you know, a few specific details. The case is never solved—well, that’s super noir and makes things even easier! Also: *our* Eggatha is female, robots. Guess I should have designated that for the PI character. And you forgot the bar. Oh right… the whiskey and cigarettes part. The robot is already smarter than I am.

To be fair to the robots, I didn’t give them a chance to refine their plots. That’s how they learn, with each draft, like real writers. But I had a blog post to actually write this weekend. Disturbingly, when I woke up today, I immediately thought of “my” robots and the brilliant details I might feed them. I could do a much better job training bots than I did giving commands to my disinterested golden retriever.

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Whoa. Reboot. I saw Minority Report. I know what the robots are up to. Maybe they need to focus on bringing me those bonbons and learning more efficient ways to clean my house. Robot vacuums, do better on dog hair.

Fellow writers, you’ve been warned.

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Readers, what do you think? Will helpful, hungry, nonjudgmental robots soon provide us with a writer’s life of leisure—and all our future entertainment? Let us know in the comments!

40 thoughts on “Plotting with Robots

  1. Fascinating tests, Lisa. However, unless we feed the cyberbots all those juicy bits about our life experiences, I doubt they’ll replace us.

    Other countries (e.g., China), are putting in place regulations requiring AI disclosures, and with that comes the potential to risk a writer’s reputations. That last point raises a real-time issue. Check out the scandal at CNET for a preview of this slippery slope.

    I asked AI to list the top 100 writing terms and definition, and while the results were mostly okay, it also contained errors. Pretty scary if we rely on some nameless cyberbot for insights and the published text contains errors that reflect poorly on us.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Interesting re: the regulations, Grant. I’m sure more are coming. I know some colleges are changing the way students can do their papers, etc. They already have software to check for plagiarism, but this is taking things to a new level.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The AI slope is teflon coated, and I hope writers and bloggers will school themselves on the potential unintended consequences. After all, nothing worthwhile is ever cheap, easy, or free.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My kids are already doing this plagiarism check at school. (And, in one instance, the teacher thought my child might have plagiarized because of all the fancy words and then ran it through the checker, which absolved my kiddo.)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It may help a bit of writers block trying to come up with a plot line. But, as a reader, I doubt it will every replace all of the personality that you honest to goodness, hard working writers put into your stories. That is what makes all your characters become in a way, family or friends that we look forward to visiting with after a tough day, or on a rainy afternoon. Thank you ALL for what you do!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Well, they are working on it, Liz! I did later try to add a romantic triangle into the cozy plot. The robot simply ignored my request. Not sure whether they had found a “rule” about romance in cozies (there isn’t one, but sometimes readers say they don’t want romance in their cozies, or very little). Or maybe the robot just wasn’t feeling it, lol.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Just a note that, after I’d posted this, I read an article in Wired that talked about generative AI, mostly in regard to art. Fascinating to see what the non-humans came up with–a lot of colorful, fantastical, often machine-like graphics, in 3D. The robots (well, AI) are much farther along in art than they are in writing. The article also talked about how humankind is always threatened by new technologies that bring huge societal shifts. Like, say, the invention of daguerreotypes and the camera. People thought portrait painters and other artists’ jobs would be threatened, but it really created a whole new art form. And interest in photography has jumped, not declined, since the intro of cell phone cameras. Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Connie, I love it! Have you been getting the same articles, ha? Running over right now to read your blog post. (And congrats again on your Edgar nom for The Shadow of Memory!)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I just read that story, Connie–ha! Definitely not Edgar material. (Unlike your real work–congratulations on the nomination!)

      Interesting how none of the stories you and Lisa generated contain any dialogue.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Okay, this is a little terrifying. I can see a world where AI bangs out everything but the character details and we lowly writers get stuck doing that for even more lowly wages. And you can bet every college student in the world will be trying sneak an AI doc past their profs.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m laughing. I love the fact that the computer got Eggberta’s gender right for both the cozy and the noir. Because you have a female lead for a cozy and a male lead for a noir. (And yes, that is being highly stereotypical, I know that there are plenty of wonderful exceptions.)

    I also love how both stories involve characters all connected together in webs.

    I’ll need to see these fully fleshed out, but I suspect I would enjoy both of these books from the computers.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Funny (or not) how the AI made the woman the killer in both books. And it’s as if it simply took all the supposed rules for the two genres and put in plot points that matched those, but without anything terribly interesting to add.

    So I think we Chicks are safe for now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I went back and tried to coach the robots on adding a few details, Leslie, but they wouldn’t take the bait. They literally took the words/phrases I requested and inserted (most of) them into the text, but they still didn’t add anything of their own.


  7. BTW, Robin had an AI come up with a Wikipedia-type bio for me for a lark a few weeks back, and it was just AWFUL! Full of bizarre assertions based on facts from my life, but completely mixed up and utterly strange.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have an issue with AI.
    Yup, I’m old enough remember before a PC existed. I took a business stats class in college (1987), who insisted on 10 years all jobs would be done by computer programs.
    Well, that didn’t happen. But that’s beside the point. I told my teacher he was wrong (anyone surprised I would argue with my teacher?). There would always be certain jobs that have to be done by humans, because a computer truly can’t understand emotions. Imagine a computer as a marriage counselor! Nope! Not happening!
    So I don’t see AI writing anything that we can read and have feelings about. BTW I need that website, cause it sounds interesting.
    As an aside, has anyone read Donna Andrews stories she wrote back in the early 2000s about a sleuth that was an AI in Crystal City? The Turing Hopper series. Fascinating s#^t. She promised more, but her other series is more popular so it went the wayside. You need to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Lisa,
        Maybe if other authors ask her, she just might! It is a fabulous series of 4 books. A cozy my hubbs was willing to read because sputters were some of the main characters. Their analysis jack hacking skills are superb. But of course they couldn’t understand emotions.
        If I remember correctly, she entered a contest where she had to create a unique amateur sleuth. Hence Turing was “born.”
        I learned about that series at my first Malice attendance.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Lisa, this is really interesting! I’m equal parts horrified and fascinated by the AI stuff. When I first heard about it I thought it would be interesting to feed all my Mystery Writer’s books into it and tell it to spit out the next in the series. The technology isn’t there yet, but crikey! And then, of course, I thought, “Egads! What if someone else fed my series in and asked it to spit out the next one??” They’re already doing that with visual art….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You could try “in the style of Becky Clark.” The robots are probably furiously reading all of your Chicks blogs and comments and book blurbs right now. They are hungry.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Lisa, hard-boiled Eggatha made me imagine a desperate beginner with his first assignment in a creative writing class. Maybe it was the broken soul part.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Add me to the “Terrified and Fascinated” crowd. This is generating a LOT of conversation among copywriters as bots are being deployed to (theoretically) replace us. I think it’s going to become a tool that could help with research. But I’d be lying if I didn’t imagine a Terminator takeover!

    Liked by 1 person

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