Using AI tools to develop students’ creative writing skills


The emergence of AI tools has obvious relevance to Creative Writing. This can be exciting but also carries disadvantages. By engaging with AI tools and AI generated content, students can develop their skills and prepare for the changing (digital centric) landscape of modern literature and journalism. Learners develop adaptability, flexibility, and creativity which should help them stay abreast in and navigate an ever-evolving creative industry.

To do this, I have designed in-class activities where students use a range of AI tools as described below under ‘What we did’. They discuss the outcomes of such tasks with each other. For example, they collaborate with a particular poet using Botnik and create a small amount of creative writing which they swap with others, peer review, and discuss.

My approach

I use a range of AI tools across the three modules mentioned above.

  1. Students use Replika, an AI application designed for creating and interacting with characters that simulate real people, to develop fictional personas for the purpose of crafting narratives such as stories or film scripts. To achieve this, students input detailed information about their characters and define specific attributes before engaging them in various scenarios. This process involves prompting the fictional characters to react to specific situations, allowing students to observe and understand human interaction dynamics.

    This tool proves particularly beneficial for students who may experience social isolation, as it provides them with a platform to explore and learn about interpersonal interactions in a controlled environment. By experimenting with different character profiles and exploring diverse responses, students can enhance their understanding of human behaviour and refine their storytelling skills.
  2. Students engage with Botnik, a versatile tool capable of crafting poems or scripts by drawing inspiration from a corpus of text it’s provided or trained with. Botnik can be tailored to mimic the style of a specific author, poet, or even a singer, generating ‘new’ yet similar pieces. This unique capability empowers students to compose new works in the vein of literary giants like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, or contemporary artists like Beyoncé.

    Functioning as a collaborative partner, Botnik assumes the role of the author based on the training corpus it’s fed. In this symbiotic relationship, students collaborate with Botnik to produce fresh compositions that bear the hallmark style of the chosen source material. Through such interactions, students not only learn the art of collaboration but also cultivate lateral thinking skills, expanding their creative horizons. Additionally, these activities foster an appreciation for diverse cultural writing styles, enriching students’ understanding of literary traditions.
  3. Online text entropy calculators, based on the concept of ‘Shannon Text Entropy,’ are used to evaluate uncertainty and surprise in student poetry. This metric measures the level of randomness or uncertainty present in the text through an algorithm.
  4. In ENG6008, particularly in areas like data journalism and investigative reporting, students use ChatGPT to collate extensive amounts of data or research. This approach significantly saves time, considering the labour-intensive nature of data scraping.
  5. Students submit their short stories to ChatGPT to receive feedback on emerging themes that may not have been apparent to them initially. This facilitates a deeper exploration of their narratives and enhances their understanding of underlying themes.
  6. ChatGPT aids students in challenging conventional approaches by prompting the tool to generate a story. This allows students to identify common outcomes or clichés, empowering them to avoid predictable patterns in their own writing.

What benefits has AI had on my practice?

  • Practice can be more inclusive as tools such as Replika are useful to address social isolation and help students learn about interaction as well as collaboration.
  • Students (writing) can become more creative and tangential, exploring a range of perspectives, characters, writing cultures, and avoid cliches.
  • Students can better evaluate, reflect on, and improve their writing.
  • Students can save time on more mundane tasks such as data collection.
  • Students learn how to use AI tools responsibly and appropriately.

What have I learned? 

  • Technology has its flaws
  • Useful for digital humanities
  • The more you use it, the more you become aware of ethics
  • Go to the edges of it, being an AI, comes before being a character
  • AI issues that can affect users’ lives
  • Could become a threat to academic writing

Testimonials and feedback from staff and students

Students have not been that impressed with tools and seem to be aware of its limitations. Some have called it ‘boring and dull’. They realise that the tools try to please the user and responses can be quite bland. Assessment criteria in the modules include originality and AI tools can’t delivery originality, uncertainty, irrationality or doubt. At present, such tools cannot think critically, nor will they make surprising connections or leaps.

My future plans

No significant changes have been planned. The hardcore use of AI tools such as the ones described above will probably be in data journalism, fact checking, and investigative work.

This case study has been captured by the Academic Development team and showcases current practice from BA (Hons) Creative Writing, BA (Hons) English, BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing.

We would like to thank Russell Evans (School of Society & Culture) for participating in this case study.

💻 Technologies: Botnik, ChatGPT, Replika