Steering the literary world into a captivating era, the integration of artificial intelligence in children’s
book writing has sparked both curiosity and conversation. With the creative landscape continually evolving, the marriage of AI and storytelling has opened unprecedented avenues for authors and publishers alike. From crafting imaginative narratives to curating interactive experiences, the role of AI in shaping children’s literature is a fascinating intersection where technology meets the timeless magic of storytelling. In this blog post, we delve into the intriguing realm of AI-powered children’s book writing, exploring its impact, possibilities, and the enchanting stories emerging from this innovative collaboration.
Okay…now here’s the part where I do the thing all those news anchors do when they’re being cute: That entire opening was written by ChatGPT with the prompt, “write me a one-paragraph introduction to a blog post about using artificial intelligence in children’s book writing”.
Now, I know you probably want to go back and read it again. Go ahead…I’ll wait.
Artificial intelligence is the sort of thing that drives people to extreme perspectives, especially when you apply it to a specific context like kidlit. I’ve read plenty of articles warning that AI will be the downfall of all creativity, and to be fair, I’ve come across more than a few YouTube channels devoted entirely to generating picture books using AI with what seems to be the sole purpose of flooding the market and turning a profit.
But the thing is, AI is a tool. You can use tools for all sorts of things, both good and bad. My toddler demonstrates this regularly when he whomps his brothers with the play hammer on his workbench.
In this post, I’m choosing to highlight AI as a tool for good. We won’t delve into all of the implications for children’s publishing (my friend Susan did a great job with this a few months ago in her post, “What Does AI Mean for Middle Grade?”). The reality is that there will always be people out there who use the hammer for whomping.
So how does AI support true creativity and help middle grade authors craft awesome stories? Here are three things I’m really excited about:
A lot of authors conceptualize elements of their stories by using vision boards. They’ll collect clippings from magazines, search clip art databases, and even draw illustrations themselves. The idea is that a visual reference can help kickstart the creative drive and supplement the process of generating new ideas. Artificial intelligence is really great for this! Specifically, we’re talking here about generative AI (like DALL-E). AI image-generating engines can give a real boost to writers in a creative slump. For example, if you’re trying to envision a scene but having trouble nailing down the descriptive language, you could use a simple prompt such as “murky swamp” and get a whole collection of AI – generated images that could serve as reference points for drawing the scene.
This works really well for characters, too. For one of my books a few years ago, I used an avatar creator to construct my main characters ahead of time. I’ve always struggled to describe physical attributes of characters in my stories, and I thought it might help to have pictures of them tacked all around my writing desk. It took me a few hours, but it was worth it to help me flesh out physical details. Now, that same process would take only a few minutes using prompts in a program like dream.
Research is foundational to most creative works, even works of fiction. I was working on a spooky middle grade a few years ago and probably spent hundreds of hours researching paranormal investigators, types of ghosts, haunted locations, etc. A lot of that process involved sorting through websites and combing for specific information that related to my story. Artificial intelligence can do this much more quickly and efficiently. Google’s chatbot, Bard, can organize Google’s extensive database of information into a neatly packaged summary that feels like it was written just for you (because it was!). Of course, for non-fiction writers who rely heavily on accurate information, additional fact-checking will be required, but it’s still hard to argue with the ease of having a personal research assistant at your beck and call. Bard even arranges things in bullet points. I love bullet points!
When I was querying agents a few years ago, one of the things I struggled with was coming up with appropriate comparisons between my books and previously published works. Book comps are an important aspect of pitching a book, and while there is much debate about the value of referencing your creative works in relation to similar titles, it is a reality of the publishing world. That said, the process of sifting through thousands of other titles (many of which a reasonable person could never hope to have read) is extraordinarily time consuming. By now you probably know where I’m going with this. AI can do it for you! Just check out this example from ChatGPT in the screenshot below. I asked for comp titles for my latest middle grade book (which goes out on submission this January!). If I were pitching my work to an agent or editor, this list could be really helpful. Bonus… This is a great way to discover some wonderful new writing!
I hope you found this admittedly brief list thought-provoking. Of course, the lingering question remains… is AI going to completely upend children’s publishing? Personally, I don’t think so, and neither does AI. I mean, obviously I asked, and ChatGPT’s response is a fitting way to wrap up this post:
“…the essence of storytelling and the emotional connection fostered by children’s books are unlikely to be diminished. Instead, AI may complement human creativity and expand the possibilities for engaging young readers.”