0269 - Bf993W&2ckf83!7$WW - 2022.11.28

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Comment:

How do you make up stories?

I grew up as an eldest sibling, and frequently had to entertain (read: distract) my younger brother and sister with games and make-believe. I was absolutely an indoor kid, and spent most of my non-school hours either reading novels or watching TV. Storytelling feels natural to me. I can just... do it. It's like walking.

That's not to say that I don't think about what I'm writing - I pay attention to what I'm doing and I plot and plan and set things up because I'm a goddamned professional and I take my responsibility as a creator seriously. I don't have to think, though. I have the ability to just... do it. And, to be perfectly honest... sometimes I don't know how I'm doing it.

I've commented before on how my subconscious occasionally does me favours and sets up symbolism and foreshadowing that I didn't consciously know I was doing. Lee's name is a good example: I picked it because it's simple and gender/racially ambiguous, and it was only later that I realized that "lee" is a synonym for "sheltered". Stuff like that just... happens.

How do you make up stories? How would you teach an AI to make up stories?

Do you start with characters, or setting, or conflict? Do you begin with a climax or a particular scene or a moral already in mind? Can you change course midstory if your audience doesn't like it? Do you follow the Joseph Campbell monomyth? Does your protagonist save the cat? Do you have a macguffin?

I suppose the answer lies in the why. Why do we make up stories? What is Zoa trying to accomplish with this story? Is it trying to amuse Lee? Arouse them? Excite them? Put them to sleep? Set up a persistent fairytale universe? Sell related goods and services?

For me, there is a tendency to be cynical, or to get too deep into my own head when I'm struggling with writer's block. The big thing I have to remember is - create for myself first. Make a story that I'd want to read, something that I'm glad exists, even if it never gets seen by another human being. Put that out into the world, and the audience takes care of itself.

But, of course, Zoa doesn't want to hear a story. Or, at any rate, it doesn't want to hear a story for any of the reasons that a human would want to hear a story. Is it capable of creativity, if it isn't capable of being invested in the end product? Is "creativity" functionally different from making random choices? Will Zoa's story have meaning? Will the world be a better or bigger or more beautiful place because this story exists?

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Transcript:

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0269 - 2167/07/07/02:16 - Lee Caldavera's apartment, bedroom
Zoa: Okay, so I'm contractually obligated to tell you a bedtime story now, huh?
LC: Please refrain from referring to it as a contractual obligation.
Zoa: Riiiiight, right, right. It's an informal trade of closet access for hugs and stories. An informal trade that is being mediated through currency - with appropriate taxes and transfer fees being deducted, because I'm not actually allowed to barter for stuff.
LC: Exactly.
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Zoa: Okay... what story do you want?
LC: Make one up! I want to see what you can come up with.
Zoa: As I said, that is a service I can, in theory, provide. I must warn you, I am not especially confident in my ability to make up a story that you'll actually enjoy.
LC: Since when are you not confident about things? Being confident is... is one of your... you can do it. I know you can do it. You can do things.
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Zoa: Lee, I have literally never attempted to make up a story before. Given my recent string of performances at...
LC: You've told stories before. You can do hypothetical situations.
Zoa: Hypothetical situations aren't the same thing as assembling a structured work of fiction.
LC: Well, don't try to structure it, then. Make it up as you go along.
Zoa: If you insist...
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Zoa: Once upon a time... in a magical realm... filled with dragons and wyverns... there lived a lowly peasant labourer.
LC: Good...
Zoa: They were very beautiful, and their name was capital-B-lowercase-f-nine-nine-three-capital-W-ampersand-two-lowercase-c-lowercase-k-lowercase-f-eight-three-exclamation-point-seven-dollar-sign-capital-W-capital-W...
LC: Aaaaand stop.
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