As preorders of copies keep coming in, I wanted to show you a chapter from my upcoming text and tutorial of the new ChatGPT4 software. This chapter will be published for writers on the MetaStellar.com website in the coming days. As you recall, they published the first chapter to my popular onging serial, Auschwitz Dancer.
Kokopelli is Damned. Or Five Ways to Use ChatGPT to Craft a Horror Story
By James Musgrave
Most savvy authors who’ve been published know that writing tools are just that: tools that enhance your ability to create but not replace the actual act of “crafting” the work. This includes the latest in the long list of tools, ChatGPT.
What’s quite encouraging about the software is the fact that it is very amenable to using the “microscope technique” of focusing your story’s content so that you have fresh, original ideas. In this article, I will show five ways to use ChatGPT, and I will demonstrate the techniques by using an actual story for an anthology that’s getting crowd funded and has openings for nine additional stories and/or poems based on the anthology’s theme.
We’ve all been there. You weren’t famous enough to be drafted by the administrators of the anthology to write a story, but you think you can craft a story that might win in the competition for the spots that are open for what is euphemistically called the “slush pile,” although we all know that folks get their breaks this way if they can create a great story.
This is where ChaptGPT comes in very handy. Why? Because the usual process requires the writer to first get an idea to craft by searching all kinds of resources online, and then, once you’ve focused on the concept you want to use and the characters you’ll create to work with your concept, you must create the dreaded “first draft.”
Depending upon whether you’re a “pantser plotter” or an “outliner plotter,” this draft can be chiseled, the way Kurt Vonnegut said he “edited as he wrote,” which means he had already visualized his concept and characters and simply kept revising as he created, which is a form of improvisation. He was a great satirist and humorist, so it worked well for him.
On the other hand, maybe you like organization and planning; using all the tools being sold for this, including outlines, character lists, and personality features/details, and actual plot suggestions. You can then create an outline and/or note cards that are used to methodically “flesh out” your outlines of scenes before starting your draft. A writer like Vladimir Nabokov was this way, as he knew every scene he would craft before he started to write his famous (or infamous) novel Lolita.
ChatGPT can work for both methods, and, as I’m more of an impromptu guy, I’ll show you five techniques that you can use, whether you use outlines, scenes, and character descriptions beforehand, or just dig in, keeping your idea about the plot/conflict/character motives in your head as your write, watching the “miracle” surprise you on the page.
So, I’m going to start my task by telling you what the editors suggest first. The best step is for you to come up with an idea that you can handle well and create the most “original” story you can craft. Again, this is where ChatGPT can help better than most writing tools out there today.
That comes to the infamous:
What We Want
Bring us your Faustian deals with the Devil, your debauched rock stars, and demonic incantations. Music that soothes the beast or strangles with an invisible hand. These stories should be so integrally connected with music that the narrative can’t function without it.
Specific songs can be used, but only references and titles can be included. There is no restriction on genre, style, or time period. We are interested in short fiction, horror poetry, and flash fiction alike in science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
For my example, I chose a popular Native American character, and possible evil character (his positive aspect was called a “trickster”). My great-great grandmother was a Native, so I have a personal stake in doing this well also! So, I chose a well-known cultural character from the Southwest tribes named Kokopelli.
You may have seen this little hump-backed, flute-playing dude decorating many tourist trinkets being sold in Arizona, New Mexico, California, and other Southwestern states. He is also a cultural symbol of fertility, with all the positive attributes, like rain, agriculture, and human sexuality (the original artifacts drawn on caves had penises displayed, until the missionaries got rid of them).
The above two paragraphs were my Step 1: Searching for details about your main character and narrator.
What I did was ask ChaptGPT about the focused feature of Kokopelli that fit the character I already had hibernating on my mind: How was Kokopelli a trickster?
In my devious writer’s mind, I wanted to write a story that was not especially gory or even violent, which are the usual tropes of many horror stories. In fact, I happen to know that stories with humor contained in the horror plot are very popular with many editors. Why? Because humor is difficult to write well. Of course, you can go in any direction you wish. I just want you to see how ChatGPT can help you focus upon a direction from which you can get usable ideas with which to craft your story.
This is the actual readout by ChatGPT as its answer to my very specific question:
Kokopelli is a fertility deity commonly found in the mythology of various Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States. While Kokopelli is often associated with fertility, he is also known as a trickster figure.
As a trickster, Kokopelli is said to use his charm, wit, and music to manipulate situations and people for his own benefit or amusement. He is known for playing tricks on others, such as stealing food or playing pranks.
In some stories, Kokopelli is portrayed as a shape-shifter who can transform into different animals, such as a rabbit or a lizard, to trick others. In other stories, he is said to use his flute-playing to hypnotize people and make them do his bidding.
Overall, Kokopelli’s trickster nature is a reflection of the complexity of his character, which embodies both creative and mischievous energies.
So, as you can see, I have many concrete ideas I can use in my story when I begin the draft. This is the genius of using ChatGPT. The human brain is great at focusing on details and crafting them, but it is not a big storage house of random-access memories. What I do, and you can as well, is to choose those concrete ideas contained in the readout and “make them work for you,” which means I insert them in my plot wherein it will serve the overall purpose of my narrator and major characters.
This comes to Step 2: Who is your narrator?
To give you a fast idea of what I plan to do, my character, who calls himself “Cockopelli,” as a slur to his culture, purposely lives off the “rez,” in a trailer. Cockopelli, instead, stays drunk much of the time, and dreams of becoming all the positive things he was “supposed to be,” instead of what he is, a down-and-out drunk and dreamer who likes to taunt his people and trick them rather than help them.
I am beginning to visualize him. However, I want a bit more to assist me when I craft him in the scenes, so I ask ChatGPT, What is the 2023 term for slacker?
Here is the readout:
As an AI language model, I do not have personal opinions, and language is constantly evolving, so it is difficult to predict exactly what the 2023 term for “slacker” will be. However, there are some possible alternatives that have been used in recent years to describe someone who is seen as lazy or not putting in effort:
“Chiller”: This term is sometimes used to describe someone who is very laid-back and doesn’t seem to take things too seriously.
“Moocher”: This term is often used to describe someone who relies on others to support them, either financially or in other ways.
“Loafer”: This term is a bit more old-fashioned, but it is still used to describe someone who is seen as lazy or not productive.
“Slouch”: This term can be used to describe someone who doesn’t have good posture, but it can also be used more figuratively to describe someone who is not motivated or productive.
“Coaster”: This term is sometimes used to describe someone who is not putting in effort and is just going through the motions.
So, cool. I know that my character has a curved back, from hauling all those babies to their mothers, so I am going to use “Slouch,” which connects with this aspect of his former life bringing joy to the tribe, but which he no longer aspires to be. It is also both physical and psychological in my mind, as I craft my story, so I can use it in description and in humorous situations, like quoting Keats’ famous poem (in the public domain!) The Second Coming, most specifically the lines: Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
My character has a drunk’s tendency to exaggerate his self-worth and feel sorry for himself at the same time. I visualized a Native version of the old movie character of “Arthur,” the alcoholic rich white guy, who was both lovable and sarcastic. You can even ask ChatGPT about Arthur’s character traits, and you can steal a few and make them fit your plot in the right places.
I now come to Step 3: Why is your main character/narrator in trouble? As most creative writers already know, conflict and extricating your characters from trouble, or getting them deeper into trouble, in this case, is the best way to read your most important ingredient: the climax (turning point) and the resolution of the conflicts (or not).
So, I again ask ChatGPT a focused question: How could Kokopelli be damned by tribes? I got an excellent readout from my pal:
In Native American mythology, Kokopelli is generally seen as a positive figure associated with fertility, music, and the arts. However, there are some stories where Kokopelli is seen as a negative or dangerous figure, and in these cases, he could potentially be “damned” or shunned by certain tribes.
One common version of this story involves Kokopelli as a womanizer who seduces women and then abandons them, leaving them pregnant and alone. In some versions, Kokopelli is punished for his behavior by the tribe, who reject him and drive him out.
In other stories, Kokopelli is portrayed as a trickster who goes too far, causing chaos and disruption in the community. In these cases, he may be punished or shunned by the tribe for his actions.
It’s important to note that different tribes have different versions of Kokopelli’s story, and his character can vary widely depending on the tradition. While some stories depict Kokopelli in a negative light, many others celebrate him as a positive and important figure in Native American culture.
So, for my plot, I want Cockapelli to be already banned by the Hopi tribe, so the so-called “common version” concerning his womanizing seduction fits my Arthur image, as well as thinking of himself as a lover boy. I can also bring some romantic conflict into my story with the introduction of the woman he seduced and perhaps her relatives.
Finally, my Steps 4 and 5 entail crafting my climax and resolution. I asked ChatGPT an important question: How can Kokopelli redeem himself from being a womanizer to his Hopi tribe? This specific question will aid me in forming the final conflict in my story as well as a possible way he can redeem himself from all the troubles he has caused. I decided a more positive resolution would fit with my humorous character, but I can also leave a “hint” in the ending about his possible “back sliding nature,” or the “trickster” effect.
Here’s ChatGPT’s actual response to my question for Steps 4 and 5:
Kokopelli, a figure from Hopi mythology, is often associated with fertility and music. While some versions of the Kokopelli legend portray him as a womanizer, other versions depict him as a messenger of love and fertility who promotes harmonious relationships between men and women.
If Kokopelli is to redeem himself from being seen as a womanizer, he could engage in actions that demonstrate his respect for women and their autonomy. For example, he could work to promote gender equality and advocate for women’s rights within the tribe. He could also demonstrate his commitment to monogamous relationships and promote healthy and respectful relationships between men and women.
Kokopelli could also apologize to those who he has wronged in the past and seek forgiveness from them. By acknowledging his past behavior and making amends, he could show that he is taking responsibility for his actions and is committed to being a better person.
Ultimately, Kokopelli’s redemption would require a change in his behavior and a sincere commitment to respecting women and promoting healthy relationships. By working to promote positive change within his tribe and demonstrating his respect for women, Kokopelli could redeem himself and earn the trust and respect of his community.
So, this readout gave me some very cool ideas to possibly craft into my climax and resolution. But remember. You use this information only in the way it fits your purpose. In this case, I need to maintain the horrific element, so it is not a romance. However, the result can show Cockapelli “taking responsibility for his actions,” without losing most of his impish or fiendish personality traits. I do know that “giving up the booze” will be high on his girlfriend’s list, so I’ll have to make that work in a special way that will be both funny and appropriate to both characters and their idiosyncratic motivations.
For example, I wanted my two characters to have different beliefs. So, my main character who turns into the evil aspect of the Kokopelli I want to be raised Christian. Therefore, I wanted to know if there was a Hopi myth that explained the Christian belief in the return of the Savior.
I asked ChatGPT: What myth does the Hopi have about Jesus returning?
I received the following:
The Hopi, a Native American tribe primarily located in Arizona, have a prophecy about the return of the Great Spirit, or Pahana, which some people have interpreted as a reference to Jesus Christ.
According to the Hopi prophecy, the Great Spirit will return to the Earth in the form of a “true white brother” who will come to restore balance and harmony to the world. This brother will possess great knowledge and power and will teach the people how to live in peace and harmony with one another and with the Earth.
While some people have interpreted this prophecy as a reference to Jesus Christ, it is important to note that the Hopi have their own distinct spiritual traditions and beliefs, and the prophecy should be understood within that context. The Hopi have long held that their way of life and their connection to the Earth are integral to their spiritual identity, and their prophecy about the return of the Great Spirit reflects this worldview.
The main use of ChatGPT is to get specific ideas to craft within your story. Asking focused questions is the main method of “microscopic querying” to get what you want. This leads to the “result,” and since I have a crafted example from the story, for you to see, I will reprint it here, and then discuss how ChatGPT helped me understand how I wanted to show why the horror elements came about in my imagination:
I wasn’t a Kokopelli then. I was a sober rez graduate of the Hopi Junior-Senior High School in Keams Canyon. Kaia Kalyesvah was also, but we never met there. My Hopi name is Chunta, which means “cheat.” And Bolton was my family name. We all got baptized, so we made Jesus into our returning Savior. In fact, my parents attended the “Cry of the Earth Conference,” at the United Nations in 1992, where the Seven Nations attended. They led the Hopi delegation of Christian believers.
Hopi prophecies speak of the return of Bahana, our True White Brother, who left us in ancient times, promising to return. So, we wore our hair in bangs to form a window, by which to see our Elder Brother when He returned. It was also an identifying mark for the Elder Brother to recognize us. I don’t wear my hair like the Beatles anymore since I was banished by my family and my tribe. Today, Wednesday, it’s long, stringy, black, and littered with Frito crumbs and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
When I was a child, I often visited my So’o (grandmother), Ethel, at her home in Flagstaff, Arizona. She and my Kwa’a (grandfather), Lloyd, lived in a small three-bedroom house on the east side of town, not far from historic Route 66.
Never do I recall a time when So’o did not have in her refrigerator Wonder Bread, Oscar Mayer Bologna, and Sunny Delight. While happy to feed us, she realized that Christians also needed spiritual nourishment, and believed that her grandchildren could not live on Wonder Bread alone. She was happy being raised at the Catholic Mission off the reservation, and she taught us the songs of the church. But she was also the first one to listen to my singing and my playing of the clarinet, and she called me by the Hopi name of Kokopelli.
I wasn’t a Kokopelli then. I was a sober rez graduate of the Hopi Junior-Senior High School in Keams Canyon. Kaia was also, but we never met there. I was too busy getting high with stoners, playing the clarinet, and writing and rapping songs for our Native group, “The Scalpers,” but my grades were still good. I’ve always seen myself like my favorite white author, and fellow rebel, David Foster Wallace.
At the U of A, we saw each other across the huge cafeteria, filled with white faces, mostly, and we knew at once we were meant for each other. I was majoring in English Literature and Journalism, and she was taking Agricultural courses. Her family raised sheep, chickens, and goats in the shaded valley beneath the First Mesa. She told me she wanted to help her people stay fed in the desert near the Grand Canyon, which is the usual way with these reservation homies. At that time, I didn’t think of myself as a player, so I was drinking every trite little bit of the traditional Native bullshit she told me. She is a stupendously attractive woman.
I could go on and on describing how her brown eyes glistened with emotion when she watched the sun come up. Or the way she laughed like a mother quail who sees her chicks cross a stream for the first time. I could listen to her speak for hours, and that’s what I did outside the campus, in the desert, with the full moon shining down on us. That’s when she saw the first image of the Kokopelli on the moon, playing his reed instrument, his bowed back curving around some gray-white craters.
“Why did you name your group the scalpers?” Kaia asked me that night in the desert. “You know our people never made war on the Wasi’chu. We never scalped anybody.”
Obviously, you can see how I incorporated the ChatGPT information about the myth of Jesus and His return. I also “made it my own” by adding character-specific details. I also got the information about the attraction of my main character Chunta Bolton to his girlfriend, Kaia. The last sentence in this passage also alludes to the coming horror transformation of Chunta and his rap group into evil “scalpers,” which will lead to his banishment by the Tribal Council and his need to get back into their good graces. I have in mind that they will not actually scalp their victims, who are Hopi females, but just a ritual cutting of their long hair, which is also a very bad thing for even a Cockopelli to do.
This “rebellion” will happen in a supernatural or magical realism scene when my narrator transforms into the evil aspect of the Kokopelli, and he and his group “scalp” the women at a reservation dance. He does this because his girlfriend, who is pregnant by him, wants him to stop drinking and settle down, but he is indignant.
This will lead into the climactic scene whereby Kaia and the rest of the tribe perform an intervention, so the result is what the ChatGPT suggested. Our horror story becomes a more softened story about tribal and gender equality but with a hint of Chunta remaining a bit of a trickster.
I hope you enjoyed these suggestions, which will also be included in my upcoming tutorial and textbook. You can learn more about this text here.
Thanks so much, and I hope you can preorder a copy of my textbook/tutorial.