The challenge we all set ourselves this month was to write (or re-use) a 300-ish-word short m/m romance story and use it as a prompt on an AI site to see what it could come up with. There’s been so much hype about AI lately; if you believe half the stuff you read then it’s well on the way to replacing all of humanity. But does that include LGBT romance writers?
I chose an old story, Concrete Jungle (inspired by the surrealist gardens at Las Posas in Mexico, pictured above courtesy of the Guardian), because it was the right length, and because it’s in a strange, prose-poem style which I guessed AI would have problems replicating. I’m not naming the AI site I used because I don’t want to give advertising space to something I don’t agree with, but it was freely available on Google and I didn’t need to sign up to use it. I fed the summary from Concrete Jungle – two men skinny dipping in a garden pool surrounded by lush plants and butterflies – into the dialogue box and hit ‟write”.
And I was surprised by what it came up with. Most of the other webring members said their results were rubbish, with a depressing mix of poor prose and deeply divisive attitudes. Some AI sites even refused to write ‟gay romance” at all on the grounds that it was ‟offensive”. Go figure. But my result is depressing for a different reason, because it’s actually rather good. The prose flows nicely, the story makes sense, it’s about the right length (although I hadn’t specified word count) and there’s even a romantic element. The only thing lacking is what I’d call the ‟feelz” – the show-not-tell, the emotion, the subtle nuances of a relationship. But if AI keeps on learning at its current rate, it may only be a matter of time before it can do that, too. At which point we writers really will be f*cked.
Below are the two different versions of Concrete Jungle so you can see for yourselves. The first is my prose poem, the second is AI. The styles are obviously very different, but would you have known which was which if I hadn’t told you?
Clutch and thrust of the concrete jungle reminds me of you. Roots clutch at the soil, fingers of men buried alive, gasping their last into the thick brown earth. Stems thrust lightwards like cocks of men at play, criss-crossing, bobbing, stretching towards their life. Leaves clutch the sky, stitched to the heavens, your fingers in my hair.
Your body a brown arrow as you dive, diamond drops capturing the light and holding it to ransom on your skin. You laugh, the sound echoing down the waterfall, smashed on the rocks below. It could so easily be you; I peer uneasily. You eel past my legs underwater, skin brushing skin, and you laugh again. Your voice as tantalising as your touch, promising more. Your teeth startling piano keys against your black moustache, but the piano does not make such sweet music as your voice.
You emerge, a salmon leaping for the land, scattering the diamonds which wither, releasing their pent-up sun back to the sun. The sun warms your brown naked body as you lie, head pillowed on my chest, my heart speaking to your ear.
Sudden flash of blue amongst the twisted shadows of fig trees: a jay scolds from a twig. Like sun on moving water they come out of the forest: a cerulean pillar of butterflies. Five, six, a dozen, their wings reflecting the reflection of the sky. They settle on your torso, painting it with light: cornflowers in coffee, blue eyes in a brown face.
You raise your hand to brush them away. I catch it, bring it to my head. Your fingers take root in my hair. We are complete.
The sun was setting over the horizon, painting the sky in a vibrant orange hue. The air was warm, the temperature just right to take a dip in the nearby pool. Two men, both handsome in their own ways, stripped out of their clothes and jumped into the pool. The water was cool against their skin, and the lush plants surrounding them added to the romantic atmosphere.
The moonlight glowed down on them as they swam, their arms brushing against each other. They were lost in the moment, the only sound being the occasional splash of the water and the chirping of the crickets. As they reached the opposite end of the pool, they stopped and just looked at each other.
The butterflies in their stomachs were going wild, and they both knew what was coming next. They embraced, their lips meeting in perfect harmony. They kissed for what felt like an eternity, and in that moment, all of their worries and fears melted away.
After some time, they separated, both still feeling the same electric buzz that had been present from the start. As they got out of the pool, they realized that this moment was something that they would never forget. They knew that this was the start of something special, something that would last forever.
As I mentioned, the other webring members had very different experiences. Why not pop along and see what AI did with their stories? I suspect some of it will be hilarious!
A L Lester :: Holly Day :: Amy Spector :: Ofelia Grand :: Ellie Thomas :: Addison Albright :: Nell Iris :: K L Noone :: Lillian Francis
12 thoughts on “Read Around the Rainbow: Can AI write an LGBT romance story?”
It’s still got the ‘this thing will last forever’ bit at the end that they all have. It’s very strange!
I know! Presumably the source material was full of that sort of thing… It’s spooky how it knew the word count, though. *shudders*
Probably because it’s programmed to give a solid HEA.
Good point. Maybe we can all write HFN instead and beat it at its own game. 😀
I share your fear about what will happen if AI keeps on learning at its current rate. Right now, it’s pretty easy to tell what’s been written by a human and what hasn’t, but it won’t take all that much to change that. Scary!
I know. I think that’s my biggest worry about it. Right now the results aren’t great, but they so easily could be…
As you say, Fiona, the AI story is perfectly adequate, but yours is full of emotion and atmosphere. There’s really no comparison! ❤️
Thank you! Having seen the same thing repeated in various different settings on the other blogs, I’m hopeful that it’s more obvious to readers than I first thought.
Nothing poetic about the A.I. version. Yours was lovely!
Aww, thank you! and no, like all the others it was strangely flat. We’re safe for now!