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August 6, 2017

Computer Generated Fiction

by Criss Davis

There are many ways to approach the problem of how to generate the “fiction”. The simplest solution is to simple print the word “fiction” 50,000 times and and call it a day. Simple, easy, and a novel of fiction full of fiction. <insert Exhibit meme here>.

There are also many more complex examples which include using twitter bots, neural networks, and some which are more complex combinations of word for word replacements of existing books with neural learning networks and twitter bots. I have looked at many of these and I love their code, however as a fiction lover I am not a fan of their output.  I want to be able to read the output of these programs as if I am reading a new Science Fiction novel.

When there is a need, fill it.

I started my journey without first knowing that there was even a yearly competition for the exact same thing. Being a lover of data and working in the Computer Security industry prepared me for the research. I first broke down the problem into a simple question of what exactly I was trying to accomplish?

The answer is generate fiction.

That led me to researching what the elements of fiction were. Let me warn you ahead of time. If you are a fan of fiction, don’t do the insane amount of research I did into the elements and patterns that go into writing it. You will begin to find yourself seeing the patterns and focusing on what the writer is doing wright or wrong and critiquing them and losing some/a lot of the pleasure of the story.

As an example of this, one of the elements of a character is their personal progression over time. In any given scene a character can only progress or digress up or down the character development ladder so far for it to be believable.  This means that a relatively happy person cannot believably become a evil person or saint over night or in one scene. I track this by incriminating or decrementing every action that takes place that affects a character.

As a father of two little kids I made the switch to audio-books a few years ago as my main source of fiction. Since I started researching the elements of fiction, listening to an audio-book has become a game of counting cards. I subconsciously start keeping track of each character and placing the character in their particular state and then keeping track of their state. When one characters state becomes top-heavy (  A superhero with no super villain or vice versa ) or when one one of the characters state suddenly changes without the data to back it up, it’s … it’s like having Leto as Joker. You have a steady stream of Jokers and stability of character and then suddenly, brain fart. Welcome to my thought process.

Characters all affect each other. Therefor each character has to be tracked and each interaction they have will affect how future interactions will take place. Just like in real life.

I could continue on with my thought process and how I arrived to my conclusion however I believe that no one actually wants to read page after page of rambling. What is important however is the conclusion itself.

What am I trying to accomplish? Generate fiction.

Ok. How do writers do that? I know that you are thinking what I first thought, that some of the Greats just sat down and simply let the words flow from their fingers and thus the Novel was born. The rest of the world has to Plot their works and develop their creations in their minds for years sometimes before writing them.

Do you know any such accomplished computer programs or Shakespearean neural networks?  Me either.  Therefor the logical approach to me is to have my computer generated fiction first perform this tedious task of plotting, researching, character development, scene development, and so on. Some of the computer generated fiction has begun to develop this process into a coherent model.

However there is still a problem.  I could not figure it out. I just knew that there was a problem.  I will just skip ahead and tell you the answer because I realized that so far no one I have looked at has yet to consider it. Universe. We, humans, exist. When we are telling a story we are using the world around us as a frame of reference.  Everyone has considered the timeline at one point or the other and possibly tracking how their characters interact with one another.

If we truly wanted a computer program to create a novel, it then needs to know everything about the world around it. It cant just know the main character and whom they interact with and how they affect each other, it needs to know every person in the story and how their interactions affect each other and the world around them before the novel and throughout the novel.  True world building that a character can move throughout.

I believe that the Universe, of the Point of Reference is a critical element to the riddle of Computer Generated Fiction and making it indistinguishable from something written wholly by a person. Another possible name for it might be Reality?

  • Universe
    • Time
      • Scene
        • Event
          • Character
            • Action
            • Dialogue

 

 

 

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