From Press Releases to Page-Turners: How Writing with AI Stirs My Creativity

As a content specialist, it should come as no surprise that I use ChatGPT and other generative AI tools every day. It’s a great tool for everything from translation and summarization to outlining, drafting and editing PR content.

But that’s not all I use Gen AI for.

As an American PR professional who has spent a decade in Asia, you’d be right to think that I’ve had some adventures, but when I decided to write a thriller set against the backdrop of a fictional PR campaign to launch an American motorcycle brand in Thailand, I couldn’t rely on my imagination alone. Here’s how I’ve used AI tools to develop my novel, Riders on the Storm*:

Character visualization with Adobe Firefly: Visualizing characters has been crucial for my creative writing process. When I began my novel, I found myself picturing characters — some Americans, many Thais and a few Chinese — more clearly than others. I quickly realized that the better I could picture the characters, the easier it was to realize them on the page.

Curious to see what AI could do for me in terms of character visualization, I opened Adobe Firefly and started inputting descriptions. The initial results were always very generic, requiring me to input more specifics. What might have started with a ‘photo of a Thai man with a tattoo on his neck’ had to become something like a ‘hyper-realistic, close-up photo in portrait orientation of a 20-something Thai man wearing a red leather motorcycle jacket, with a handsome face, buzzed short hair on his head and stubble goatee, with a black cobra tattoo on the right side of his neck.’ You get the idea. 

The process always took several tries to find the face I was seeking — the one that resonated with my mental concept. And I had to do this for more than a dozen characters. Whether it was my 10th iteration or 20th, arriving at the right image was almost always a revelation. Not only did the ultimate image resemble the one in my imagination but it also revealed something to me about the character that I hadn’t yet verbalized — a penchant for cruelty, an irresistible charm, a steadfast determination or a secret worry — that stirred my imagination. 

Having these images nearby while writing helped me keep my characters vivid and consistent from page to page, chapter to chapter, especially when bringing them back into action after I’d spent time writing about other characters.

I also used a combination of Adobe Firefly, Photoshop and Illustrator to create cover art for my book based on a detailed prompt inspired by a pivotal scene.

Finding a character’s voice: One of the most remarkable ways ChatGPT has assisted me is in developing authentic character voices from various cultures and educational backgrounds that are unlike my own. For a Thai gang leader whose English fluency is basic at best, ChatGPT suggested strangely truncated phrases that sounded surprisingly authentic to me, resonating with my memories of characters I’d encountered during my years in Thailand. Moreover, my detailed prompt about that character being egotistical and self-centered, resulted in ChatGPT recommending a verbal eccentricity that surprised and delighted me — he refers to himself by name rather than I or me. The AI’s ability to intuit from my prompts allowed me to craft distinctive dialogue that brought the character to life in an unexpected way.

Descriptive passages with ChatGPT: They say ‘write what you know’ but that’s not always the case. Writing some scenes, like a high-speed motorcycle chase or a fight involving mixed martial arts, required a level of sensory and technical detail that simply wasn’t at my fingertips. I could picture the characters and locations easily enough based on the Gen AI images and my travel experiences but the specific descriptions for certain motorcycle riding techniques or fighting methods weren’t entirely familiar to me. That’s when I turned to ChatGPT for assistance. By providing some detailed prompts, it was able to generate descriptive passages that served as a springboard for my adaptation and creative use. But I never used the material ‘as is’ — partly because I didn’t know from where ChatGPT was drawing this information and I wanted to put my own stamp of originality on it. This process sparked my imagination, allowing me to turn raw material into compelling and original scenes.

Gathering evidence: In the back half of my novel, there is a strong emphasis on law enforcement, which required a fair amount of research on my part. Luckily, I know someone with some relevant experience, but I also used ChatGPT (and other online resources for verification) to learn more about the roles, responsibilities and technical capabilities of various law enforcement agencies, operations and tools. By incorporating those insights into my story using correct terminology, I felt that I was better able to bring that part of my novel to life, especially in climactic scenes.

Realizing a creative vision: While there’s some reticence in the publishing world about publishing works that have used Gen AI, I view it as a great tool for realizing a creative vision rather than a replacement for creativity. AI doesn’t do everything perfectly or exactly to my liking, but it provides a foundation that I can build upon. It’s all about guiding the AI to get the desired outcome rather than accepting its outputs as the end product. This is true whether I’m crafting a press release or writing my novel.

Gen AI has made my professional and creative life easier and more productive. It’s an invaluable tool that, when used correctly, enhances both the strategic and creative aspects of my work.

* Let me know if you know anyone in the publishing world. I’m looking for an agent.

About the author: Kristopher Spencer is a former journalist with 20-plus years of PR communications experience with automotive specialization, spanning the U.S., China and Asia-Pacific markets. A Michigan native, he joined IPG/Weber Shandwick in 2010 and has worked at WS offices in four countries.

Kristopher Spencer

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