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An update from our sixty-fourth Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday, April 22

Conner started off the workshop by asking the question, "What is voice?" Participants answered the question in different ways, but we eventually summed it up as a “poetics.” A voice differs based on diction, register, and rhythm, and is “how the narrator addresses the reader.” To illustrate why voice matters, we were asked to write down a few things you would think of if you were told to write a one-paragraph story about the Holocaust. Afterwards, we looked at a story about the Holocaust written by the chatbot ChatGPT and compared it to a piece of flash fiction about the same topic, but by a person: “On Waterproofing” by Anne Carson. While the ChatGPT story was generic, boring, and loaded with cliches, “On Waterproofing” had a real voice. This was the same for the other ChatGPT stories we read versus the actual versions—“A Mown Lawn” by Lydia Davis and “Give it Up” by Franz Kafka. After reading these stories, we were asked to think of our own prompts. Conner picked a few of them and asked ChatGPT to write one-paragraph stories based on them. They were just as lacking in voice as the stories we read earlier. Then, we picked one of the stories and rewrote it, but better—in other words, with a voice. Finally, we shared our work.

The Challenge: Take a story written by ChatGPT and rewrite it, better.

The Participants: Emma, Anushka, Seva, Philip, Stella, Rachel, Polina, Liesl, Ananya, Yueling, Aaron, Madeline, Nova, Josh, Samarina

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