Writing Algorithm: Will Software Put Writers Out of a Job?

Being a writer is easy. It's like riding a bike. Except the bike is on fire. You're on fire. Everything is on fire and you're in hell.By now you’ve probably seen the predictive text Harry Potter, but here’s a slightly different take, using a writing algorithm for structural and editorial guidance.

No argument, making the words can be hard. Since we have computer-assisted everything these days, algorithms helping me to research, to navigate heavy traffic, to drive safely, why not computer-assisted writing to write efficiently and beautifully? It’s a reasonable question.

Fifty notable classic and modern science-fiction stories were fed into the computer, which analyzed them for common elements of subject, theme, and style. Then it produced a set of rules for producing a new great story, and parameters for writing it.

Aside from some troubling revelations about our current body of work (to fit with the samples, a new story could have only 16% of dialogue from female characters /cough/), the algorithm discovered some must-have scenes and settings (a storm at night, a farm, an enormous city) and plot moments (“include a pivotal scene in which a group of people escape from a building at night at high speed in a high tech vehicle made of metal and glass”). Overall, it offered some intriguing insight into the common components and styles of highly successful science fiction. Is that useful for writing new work?

Let’s see what happens.


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