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A Complete Short Story Walkthrough: Using ChatGPT to Create a Mystery Story From Start to Finish (Part 3)

detective talking to the police, pulp style

This is part 3 of a 3 part series. Find Part 1 here. Find Part 2 here.

This final part of the series is all about how I generated the actual text for “Fires of Deceit” with ChatGPT. I used the outline that I molded from parts one and two to guide ChatGPT through each small section of the piece and had it rewrite or expand things when they weren’t working.

During this phase I generally do a lot more manipulating than I’ve done here, especially if I have the story really figured out in my head. But the prompts I’ve used below are the same ones I use no matter the length or the amount of control I want. Especially pay attention to “acting as if” and giving direction on tone, style, etc. Those really make a difference.

Now, onto the story!

The Text Generation

Throughout this section I’ll add notes about why I chose the prompts I did in italics and pullquotes. Everything in regular font is the original conversation between ChatGPT and myself.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

Can you help me write the introduction to Lincoln as if you were a mystery writer? I want it to start with him pouring some bourbon into his coffee and sitting in front of the tv to watch a baseball game, thinking about how little business there is for a private detective in a small town, maybe a few thoughts about leaving again and his time in the city as a cop. Then being startled when someone walks through the door and wants his advice. He remembers Aaron’s dad and has heard about Aaron’s death, feels bad for not going to the funeral. Please write it in first person past tense, with a cynical very sparse style.

A lot of times during this phase of creating I will basically sketch out the scene I have in mind, like I’ve done here, and let ChatGPT fill in the details. I always include information about the point of view, tense, and tone I want used. I also very often suggest an “as-if” (as if you were a mystery writer) to ChatGPT

[GPT]

I poured a good glug of bourbon into my lukewarm coffee, not even bothering to stir it. The TV flickered with the start of the baseball game I’d been looking forward to all day. Small-town life had a way of making a man appreciate the simple pleasures. At least, that’s what I told myself.

Business was slow. Hell, it was nonexistent. There just wasn’t much demand for a private detective in a place where everybody knew everyone else’s business. I’d left the city and my job as a cop with the hope of starting fresh, but it seemed like this town was chewing me up and spitting me out just like the big city had. Sometimes, I’d catch myself thinking about leaving again, but where would I go?

A sudden creak from the office door snapped me out of my thoughts. I hadn’t been expecting company. The door swung open, and there he stood: Aaron’s dad. I’d heard about Aaron’s death, of course, and I’d felt a pang of guilt for not going to the funeral. The town had lost its hero, and I’d just sat in this very chair nursing a bottle.

“What can I do for you?” I asked, trying to sound professional and sober, even though I knew I was failing on both counts.

He hesitated for a moment, and then the words came pouring out. It seemed I had a case on my hands after all. Little did I know, it would take me right back to the past I’d been trying to escape.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

Can you continue in the same voice and style with number 2, the father’s visit? I want him to say that Emily’s been acting strange, didn’t even cry at the funeral. And that he saw her with one of the other firefighters in a neighboring town dancing recently. Which got him thinking about why his son had died. There was no way that Aaron would have gotten himself into the trouble he did. He was always so prepared. He wants him to look into it, see if there’s anything there, even though the local law enforcement are convinced it’s an accident. Aaron’s father can be Mr. Hoffman.

From here I generally just go down the line of the outline and ask ChatGPT to create the piece, putting in whatever details I have in mind.

[GPT]

Mr. Hoffman’s eyes were red-rimmed and tired, but there was a fire in them that caught me off guard. “Lincoln,” he began, “something’s not right about Aaron’s death. I can feel it in my bones.”

I leaned back in my chair, trying to look nonchalant despite my growing curiosity. “What makes you say that?”

“It’s Emily. She’s been acting strange ever since the accident.” He sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. “Didn’t shed a single tear at the funeral. And then I saw her just last week, dancing with one of the other firefighters in a bar over in the next town.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You think she’s seeing someone?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know. All I know is that Aaron wouldn’t have gotten himself killed like that. He was always prepared, always cautious. And now, with Emily acting so odd… I just need you to look into it, Lincoln. See if there’s anything there.”

The local law enforcement had chalked it up to an accident, and who was I to question their judgment? Still, the desperation in Mr. Hoffman’s voice tugged at me. Maybe it was the bourbon or the lack of anything better to do, but I found myself agreeing to take the case.

“Alright, Mr. Hoffman,” I said, extending a hand to seal the deal. “I’ll look into it. No promises, but I’ll see if there’s anything to find.”

He gripped my hand tightly, relief flooding his features. “Thank you, Lincoln. I know I can trust you.”

As he left my office, I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d gotten myself into. This wasn’t just another small-town scandal. This was personal. And something told me it was going to dredge up memories I’d rather leave buried.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

Can you expand the following with more details, including details about how his firefighting equipment failed? : “It’s Emily. She’s been acting strange ever since the accident.” He sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. “Didn’t shed a single tear at the funeral. And then I saw her just last week, dancing with one of the other firefighters in a bar over in the next town.” I raised an eyebrow. “You think she’s seeing someone?” He shook his head. “I don’t know. All I know is that Aaron wouldn’t have gotten himself killed like that. He was always prepared, always cautious. And now, with Emily acting so odd… I just need you to look into it, Lincoln. See if there’s anything there.”

A lot of the time during this phase, ChatGPT doesn’t go deep enough, or summarizes something that I want to create a bigger scene around. When this happens I copy and paste the section and ask it to expand with more details and dialog or whatever other information I want included.

[GPT]

“It’s Emily. She’s been acting strange ever since the accident,” Mr. Hoffman said, his voice cracking with emotion. He sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. “At the funeral, she didn’t shed a single tear. It was like she wasn’t even there. And then, just last week, I saw her dancing with one of the other firefighters in a bar over in the next town. Jake, I think his name is. They were awfully close, Lincoln, and it didn’t sit right with me.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You think she’s seeing someone?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know. All I know is that Aaron wouldn’t have gotten himself killed like that. He was always prepared, always cautious. His firefighting equipment was top-notch, and he checked it religiously. But that night, the air tank malfunctioned, and he couldn’t breathe. The other firefighters told me that the hose got tangled, too, which delayed the rescue. It just doesn’t add up.”

I could see the worry etched on Mr. Hoffman’s face, and his concern was starting to make me uneasy as well. “And now, with Emily acting so odd… I just need you to look into it, Lincoln. See if there’s anything there. Talk to the other firefighters, look into the equipment, find out if there’s more to this than meets the eye.”

I nodded slowly, realizing that there might be more to this case than I initially thought. Aaron’s death was suspicious, and with Emily’s strange behavior, it seemed like there could be a connection worth investigating.

Image: Midjourney

[nova@novaleigh.net]

Awesome! Can you create a detailed beat list for the next section, #3, background research?

I often need to expand the outline further as I go along in the drafting phase like I’ve done here. Not only does it give me a clearer view of what needs to come next, it often creates new ideas that I hadn’t thought of before. For instance, I had no plan to include a visit to the fire station when I started drafting, but this turned out to be a great idea for the story, so I incorporated it.

[GPT]

3.  Background Research (500 words):

    a. Lincoln visits the local fire station (50 words):

    –   He decides to gather more information about Aaron, Emily, and Jake.

    –   Lincoln heads to the fire station, hoping to get some insights from Aaron’s fellow firefighters.

    b. Conversations with firefighters (100 words):

    –   Lincoln chats with the firefighters, learning about Aaron’s dedication and expertise.

    –   He hears about Aaron’s role as a volunteer firefighter, his life insurance policy, and his involvement in the community.

    –   Firefighters mention that Aaron and Jake used to be close friends but had drifted apart recently.

    c. Investigating Emily (100 words):

    –   Lincoln looks into Emily’s background, discovering her dissatisfaction with small-town life.

    –   He learns about her job at the local library and her dreams of moving away.

    –   Lincoln finds out that Emily and Aaron’s marriage had been strained for some time.

    d. Investigating Jake (100 words):

    –   Lincoln researches Jake, finding out that he’s a young and ambitious firefighter.

    –   He learns that Jake was mentored by Aaron but has recently surpassed him in skills and recognition.

    –   Lincoln discovers that Jake and Emily have been spending a lot of time together, fueling suspicions about their affair.

    e. Noticing inconsistencies (50 words):

    –   Lincoln starts to see discrepancies in Emily and Jake’s stories about their relationship with Aaron.

    –   He also notices a lack of clear alibis for Emily and Jake around the time of Aaron’s death.

    f. Determined to find the truth (100 words):

    –   Lincoln becomes more invested in the case, driven by a desire to uncover the truth.

    –   He decides to dig deeper and interview townspeople to gather more information and find potential witnesses.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

can you write the part where he visits the firehouse and talks to the firefighters? Maybe have him talk to Jake too, who seems suspiciously ready to help and friendly. Jake doesn’t know that he’s under suspicion and Lincoln pretends he’s just trying to understand what happened to a friend. Please write in the same first person past cynical sparse tone that you used before

You’ll notice that I often repeat my tense/point of view/tone requests. This used to be more important with GPT-3 than it is with GPT-4, but I still think it helps to remind ChatGPT what style and tone you want to continue using, especially after bits where you’ve switched to outlining or brainstorming tasks.

[GPT]

I headed to the local fire station, the hub of the town’s heroes. It was time to get some answers about Aaron, Emily, and this Jake character. Stepping inside, I was greeted by the smell of sweat and the sound of camaraderie. I could almost hear Aaron’s laughter echoing through the halls. It hit harder than I expected.

I struck up conversations with the firefighters, trying to keep things casual. They spoke of Aaron’s dedication and expertise, reminiscing about the good old days. They mentioned how Aaron and Jake had once been close friends, but the bond had seemingly withered over time.

And then there he was: Jake. Suspiciously eager to help and all too friendly. He didn’t know I had him on my radar, and I played it cool, acting like I just wanted to understand what had happened to an old friend.

“Hey, Lincoln,” Jake said with a grin. “It’s been a while. Aaron was a hell of a guy, wasn’t he?”

“Yeah,” I replied, trying to keep my voice steady. “I heard there was some equipment malfunction the night he died. What can you tell me about that?”

Jake shifted his weight, suddenly uneasy. “Well, you know, these things happen. It was just a freak accident. Aaron’s air tank failed, and his hose got tangled up. It took us too long to get to him.”

His words were smooth, but something in his eyes didn’t sit right with me. I made a mental note to keep a close eye on Jake.

As I left the fire station, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to this story than met the eye. I was determined to find the truth, no matter how deep I had to dig.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

can you write the part where he investigates Emily next? Maybe he finds her at the playground watching her kids with a cup of coffee and sunglasses on. She doesn’t seem happy to see him even though it’s been many years. She knows he’s a private detective, maybe heard already from Jake that he’s snooping around. They talk for a few minutes about old times and Lincoln has some thoughts about how he’s happy he didn’t end up with her, but the kids are cute. Please write in the same tone, and with a lot of sensory detail and dialog.

[GPT]

I found Emily at the playground, watching her two boys play in the sand. She had a cup of coffee in one hand, sunglasses covering her eyes, and a far-off expression on her face. As I approached, I could feel her tense up, her eyes narrowing behind the dark lenses.

“Lincoln,” she said flatly, not bothering with pleasantries. “I heard you’re playing detective again.”

I shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “Just trying to help Mr. Hoffman find some peace, that’s all.”

Emily’s lips twisted into a humorless smile. “And that brings you here, to me?”

“We used to be friends, Emily. I thought it might be nice to catch up.”

We exchanged small talk, reminiscing about the old times. The banter was stilted, and I found myself thinking how glad I was that I hadn’t ended up with her. Still, I couldn’t help but notice the boys – they were cute kids, full of life and laughter.

“Your boys seem to be doing well,” I said, trying to steer the conversation towards Aaron.

Emily’s eyes flicked toward the children, her expression softening for just a moment. “They’re strong. They’ve been through a lot, but they’re holding up.”

I nodded, sipping my coffee, trying to gauge her reaction. “And you? How are you holding up?”

She looked at me, her eyes cold and guarded. “I’m surviving, Lincoln. What choice do I have?”

There was a weight in her words, a heaviness that hung in the air between us. I couldn’t tell if it was grief or something else entirely.

As I left the playground, I knew I had to keep digging. Whatever the truth was, it was buried beneath layers of lies and secrets, and I was going to uncover it.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

can you help me brainstorm what happens next? He needs to find some hard evidence that Emily and Jake are behind the murder and he needs to do that in the next couple of scenes.

[GPT]

1.  Visiting the scene of the accident (100 words):

    –   Lincoln decides to visit the site of the fire where Aaron lost his life.

    –   While exploring the scene, he notices some irregularities that suggest tampering with Aaron’s equipment.

2.  Conversations with local residents (100 words):

    –   Lincoln interviews townspeople, trying to piece together the events leading up to Aaron’s death.

    –   A local bartender mentions seeing Emily and Jake together multiple times, appearing to be more than just friends.

3.  Obtaining security footage (150 words):

    –   Lincoln learns about a security camera near the site of the fire.

    –   He acquires the footage and discovers that Jake was in the area right before the fire, tampering with Aaron’s equipment.

4.  Checking phone records (100 words):

    –   Lincoln requests phone records for Emily and Jake from the night of the fire.

    –   The records reveal a series of calls and texts between Emily and Jake that night, indicating they were in close contact during the incident.

5.  Confronting Jake’s alibi (150 words):

    –   Lincoln interviews Jake’s supposed alibi for the night of the fire, a fellow firefighter.

    –   Under pressure, the firefighter admits that Jake wasn’t with him the entire time, and that Jake had asked him to lie about his whereabouts.

These scenes will help Lincoln gather the hard evidence needed to prove that Emily and Jake are behind Aaron’s murder. This evidence will be critical in the story’s climax, where Lincoln confronts Emily and Jake with their actions.

Image: Midjourney

[nova@novaleigh.net]

I think I’d like him to visit the police next, and ask about what they know. They don’t like him, and he doesn’t like them. They say that it was an accident, just like they told old Mr. Hoffman. He asks if there’s any security footage that he can see. The person shrugs, lets him see it. He doesn’t see anything. False lead. Can you write this in the same first person past tense cynical and sparse tone?

[GPT]

I knew I had to pay a visit to the local police, even though they weren’t exactly my favorite people. And the feeling was mutual. But if I wanted to get to the bottom of this, I needed to see what they had on Aaron’s death.

I strolled into the station, trying to keep my disdain in check. The air was thick with boredom and the stench of stale coffee. The officer on duty looked up from his paperwork, his eyes narrowing when he saw me.

“Lincoln. What do you want?”

I cut straight to the chase. “I’m looking into Aaron’s accident. Anything you can tell me?”

The officer scoffed. “We already told old Mr. Hoffman. It was an accident. End of story.”

I pressed on. “Any security footage I can take a look at?”

He rolled his eyes, clearly irritated. “Fine. Come with me.”

He led me to a small, dimly lit room with a monitor. As the grainy footage played, I watched intently, searching for any sign of foul play. But there was nothing – a false lead.

As I left the station, frustration gnawed at me. I knew there was more to Aaron’s death, but the pieces just weren’t fitting together. Not yet, anyway.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

I like this but can you expand on the following with more details and thoughts about why he doesn’t like the local police: I knew I had to pay a visit to the local police, even though they weren’t exactly my favorite people. And the feeling was mutual. But if I wanted to get to the bottom of this, I needed to see what they had on Aaron’s death. I strolled into the station, trying to keep my disdain in check. The air was thick with boredom and the stench of stale coffee. The officer on duty looked up from his paperwork, his eyes narrowing when he saw me.

[GPT]

I knew I had to pay a visit to the local police, even though they weren’t exactly my favorite people. It went back to my days as a city cop, when I’d made a name for myself that didn’t sit well with the small-town boys in blue. And the feeling was mutual. Their laziness and incompetence had always grated on me. But if I wanted to get to the bottom of this, I needed to see what they had on Aaron’s death.

I strolled into the station, trying to keep my disdain in check. The air was thick with boredom and the stench of stale coffee. I could almost feel the collective resentment in the room, their disdain for an outsider who’d dared to question their methods.

The officer on duty looked up from his paperwork, his eyes narrowing when he saw me. He was a portly man, his badge straining against the fabric of his uniform. I remembered him from high school – we’d never been friends. It seemed like some things never changed.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

can you help me write the next scene where Lincoln finds evidence that Emily and Jake are responsible? In the same first person past tense tone as before

[GPT]

My frustration with the lack of evidence led me to Aaron’s house. Maybe, just maybe, there was something there that everyone else had missed. As I approached the modest, well-kept home, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness. This was where Aaron had lived, loved, and ultimately lost his life.

I let myself in, having obtained the spare key from Mr. Hoffman. The silence of the house was unsettling. I made my way through the rooms, searching for any clue, any indication that something wasn’t right.

In the garage, amongst Aaron’s neatly organized tools and equipment, I found a box of spare parts for the firefighting gear. At the bottom of the box, I discovered a tampered air tank valve. The evidence was right there – someone had sabotaged Aaron’s equipment, making it look like an accident.

But how to connect it to Emily and Jake?

As I continued my search, I came across a stack of mail on the kitchen counter. Among the bills and junk mail, I found a letter from the life insurance company. It was addressed to Emily, and it detailed a substantial payout in the event of Aaron’s accidental death. My gut tightened. This was the motive I’d been searching for.

I needed one last piece of the puzzle – something that connected Emily and Jake directly to the sabotage. It was then that I noticed Aaron’s laptop sitting on the coffee table. A long shot, but worth a try.

I powered up the laptop and started digging. After some time, I hit pay dirt. Buried in a folder marked ‘tax documents’ were a series of photos, taken on a hidden camera. The images showed Emily and Jake together, in various compromising situations. The time stamps on the photos aligned with Aaron’s death, placing the two lovers together on the night of the fire.

The pieces finally fell into place. Emily and Jake had conspired to kill Aaron, collect the insurance payout, and run away together. All I had to do now was confront them and let the truth come to light.

Image: Midjourney

[nova@novaleigh.net]

can you expand the following section with more sensory detail and observations about the house that might give some indication to Aaron and Emily’s personalities: I let myself in, having obtained the spare key from Mr. Hoffman. The silence of the house was unsettling. I made my way through the rooms, searching for any clue, any indication that something wasn’t right.

[GPT]

I let myself in, having obtained the spare key from Mr. Hoffman. The moment I stepped inside, I was struck by the silence of the house. It was unsettling, like a tomb, the memories of happier times clinging to the walls like ghosts.

As I made my way through the rooms, I couldn’t help but notice the small details that spoke to Aaron and Emily’s personalities. The living room was tastefully decorated, with a mix of modern and rustic elements. Family photos dotted the shelves, showcasing Aaron’s beaming smile and the boys at various ages, all wearing matching grins. In stark contrast, Emily’s smile seemed forced, her eyes distant and wistful.

The kitchen was a different story, a clear reflection of Emily’s meticulous nature. Pots and pans hung in a perfect row above the stove, and not a single utensil was out of place. On the refrigerator, a calendar marked with the boys’ baseball games and Aaron’s firefighting schedule gave a glimpse into their busy lives.

I continued through the house, searching for any clue, any indication that something wasn’t right. Aaron’s home office was a testament to his dedication to his work, with neatly organized files and certificates of recognition from the fire department. It was hard to imagine a man so devoted to his community meeting such a tragic end.

As I walked down the hallway, I paused for a moment outside the master bedroom. The door was slightly ajar, revealing a neatly made bed and Emily’s perfume lingering in the air. It felt like an intrusion to step inside, but I steeled myself and continued my search for the truth.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

continue this, please

This is a really helpful prompt when ChatGPT is on the right track and you want more of the same. Sometimes it just runs up against word limits and stops but if you ask it to continue (even mid word) it will do so.

[GPT]

I pushed the door open fully and stepped into the master bedroom, my footsteps muffled by the plush carpet. The room was bathed in soft, natural light filtering through the curtains. A sense of intimacy hung in the air, a stark contrast to the cold reality of the situation.

I scanned the room, my eyes lingering on the dresser lined with Emily’s jewelry and a row of carefully arranged perfume bottles. On Aaron’s side, a simple watch and a dog-eared copy of a mystery novel lay atop the nightstand.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many secrets and unspoken words had been shared within these walls. It was impossible to ignore the sense of betrayal that now tainted the room, the knowledge that two people who had once loved each other had grown so far apart.

Despite the personal nature of the space, I knew I couldn’t let sentimentality distract me from my purpose. I began to search through the drawers and closets, looking for anything that might hint at the truth. What I found instead were carefully folded clothes and neatly organized personal belongings, each item a testament to the life Aaron and Emily had built together.

As I continued to comb through the bedroom, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something crucial. It was as if the truth was just beyond my reach, hiding in plain sight. Frustration gnawed at the edges of my resolve, but I forced myself to push forward, knowing that I couldn’t let Aaron’s memory down.

My determination finally paid off when I stumbled upon the garage, the place where Aaron had spent countless hours tinkering with his firefighting gear and tools. It was there that I found the crucial evidence that would ultimately unravel the web of lies and deceit that had led to Aaron’s untimely death. The truth was finally within my grasp, and I knew that I couldn’t let it slip away.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

can you help me write a scene where Lincoln uncovers the affair? I want it to be very concrete evidence, maybe he sees them together, or talks to another firefighter who tells him about it.

[GPT]

My search for concrete evidence eventually led me to one of the local bars where off-duty firefighters often gathered to unwind. I figured if there was any chance of catching Emily and Jake in a compromising situation, this was it.

The place was dimly lit, filled with the low hum of conversations and the clinking of glasses. The scent of beer, sweat, and smoke clung to the air like an uninvited guest. I found an empty seat at the bar and ordered a drink, doing my best to blend in as I surveyed the room.

It wasn’t long before I spotted another firefighter I recognized, a guy named Charlie who had been on the force with Aaron for years. I made my way over, hoping he might be able to provide some insight into the situation. As I approached, Charlie glanced up, his expression guarded but curious.

“Hey, Lincoln,” he greeted, a little wary. “What brings you here?”

“Just trying to make sense of what happened to Aaron,” I replied, trying to keep my tone casual. “You know, it’s been bothering me. He was always so careful.”

Charlie nodded solemnly. “Yeah, it’s been tough on all of us. Aaron was a good guy.”

We continued to chat, and as we did, I steered the conversation towards Emily and Jake. Charlie hesitated at first but eventually let slip that he’d seen them together on more than one occasion, exchanging knowing glances and hushed whispers.

“They’ve been acting… strange lately,” Charlie admitted, lowering his voice. “I didn’t want to think anything of it, but now that you mention it, it’s been hard to ignore.”

I thanked Charlie for the information and excused myself, my suspicions only growing stronger. As I headed for the door, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. There, in the shadowy corner of the bar, I saw Emily and Jake huddled close together. Their heads were bent, their conversation intense and secretive.

I couldn’t hear their words, but their body language spoke volumes. The intimacy between them was undeniable, and it was all the proof I needed to confirm the affair. My gut twisted with a mix of anger and sadness as I watched them, knowing that their betrayal had likely played a significant role in Aaron’s death.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

Can you help me create a beat list for the final climax scene? I’m thinking that somehow Emily and Jake are called over to the father’s house where Lincoln waits. He talks them through the murder and shows them the evidence he has. Mr. Hoffman is outraged and hurt, he says he’s taking the boys and how disappointed he is in Emily who they accepted as one of their family. Lincoln calls the sheriff to pick the couple up

[GPT]

1.  Lincoln convinces Mr. Hoffman to call Emily and Jake over to his house under the guise of discussing Aaron’s will or some other pressing matter.

2.  Emily and Jake arrive, curious and a bit on edge, wondering what this meeting could be about.

3.  Lincoln begins to calmly lay out the facts of the case, walking Emily, Jake, and Mr. Hoffman through the timeline of events leading up to Aaron’s death.

4.  As Lincoln speaks, it becomes clear that he has uncovered their affair and their plot to murder Aaron. He presents the evidence he found in the garage as the final, damning piece of the puzzle.

5.  Emily and Jake try to deny their involvement, but their faces betray their guilt. As their story unravels, they begin to point fingers at one another, desperate to avoid the consequences of their actions.

6.  Mr. Hoffman becomes increasingly outraged and hurt, unable to believe the betrayal by the two people he once considered family.

7.  As the confrontation reaches its peak, Mr. Hoffman declares that he will take custody of his grandsons and raise them himself, expressing his deep disappointment in Emily and the shame she has brought upon their family.

8.  Lincoln takes out his phone and calls the sheriff, informing him of the evidence he has gathered and requesting that they come to pick up Emily and Jake.

9.  The sheriff arrives, and Emily and Jake are arrested. As they’re led away, the weight of their actions finally sinks in, and they realize that their selfish choices have cost them everything.

10.  With the case closed, Lincoln shares a quiet moment with Mr. Hoffman, acknowledging the pain and loss they’ve both experienced but finding solace in the fact that justice has been served.

Image: Midjourney

[nova@novaleigh.net]

Can you help me write the scene where Emily and Jake show up? I like that Mr. Hoffman tells Emily there is something about Aaron’s will but maybe some other way to get Jake there, like Lincoln calls him and tells him that Aaron left something for him?

[GPT]

I had convinced Mr. Hoffman to call Emily and tell her there was something about Aaron’s will that needed to be discussed. It was a lie, but it was the only way I could think to get her to the house. As for Jake, I called him myself and spun a tale about Aaron leaving a memento for him, something that I knew would pique his interest.

Emily and Jake arrived separately, both wearing expressions of curiosity and a hint of wariness. As they entered the living room, Mr. Hoffman greeted them with forced cordiality, doing his best to hide the storm of emotions brewing beneath the surface.

“Thank you both for coming,” Mr. Hoffman said, his voice strained. “Lincoln has uncovered some information that we need to discuss.”

I took a deep breath, preparing to unravel the web of deceit that had led to Aaron’s death. “I’ve been looking into Aaron’s accident,” I began, carefully studying their reactions. “And it seems there’s more to it than meets the eye.”

Emily’s face tightened, while Jake shifted uneasily, their discomfort growing with each word. I continued, laying out the facts of the case and detailing their affair, making it clear that I had uncovered their secret.

As the weight of my accusations settled over the room, Emily and Jake exchanged panicked glances, realizing that their carefully constructed lies were crumbling before their eyes. I revealed the evidence I had found in the garage, watching as their faces turned ashen with the realization that there was no escaping the truth.

Mr. Hoffman’s gaze flicked between the two of them, his hurt and anger palpable. “I never thought you could do something like this, Emily,” he said, his voice thick with betrayal. “And you, Jake… I treated you like family. You were Aaron’s friend.”

Tension crackled in the air as the reality of the situation set in. It was time to put an end to this twisted game and bring Aaron’s murderers to justice.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

can you expand the following with details and dialog and talk through how Lincoln knows what he knows: Emily’s face tightened, while Jake shifted uneasily, their discomfort growing with each word. I continued, laying out the facts of the case and detailing their affair, making it clear that I had uncovered their secret.

[GPT]

Emily’s face tightened, while Jake shifted uneasily, their discomfort growing with each word. I continued, laying out the facts of the case and detailing their affair, making it clear that I had uncovered their secret.

“You see,” I said, leaning against the fireplace, “I discovered that you two have been sneaking around together for quite some time. A fellow firefighter mentioned seeing you both leaving a motel a few months back. It’s amazing what people will reveal when you just ask the right questions.”

I watched as their eyes widened, and they exchanged panicked glances. “I also found out that Aaron was planning to leave the volunteer fire department. He wanted to focus on his family, spend more time with his boys. But that didn’t sit well with you, did it, Emily?”

She opened her mouth to protest, but I continued, “You were bored with your life, unhappy in your marriage. And Jake, you wanted her all to yourself. Killing Aaron would solve both of your problems and give you access to his life insurance payout.”

Jake clenched his jaw, trying to maintain his composure. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, Lincoln. You’re just trying to stir up trouble.”

I shook my head, smirking. “Oh, but I do know. You two thought you were so clever, tampering with Aaron’s equipment to make it look like an accident. But you missed a crucial detail. I found the evidence in the garage, hidden away.”

As the weight of my accusations settled over the room, Emily and Jake exchanged desperate looks, realizing that their carefully constructed lies were crumbling before their eyes. I had them cornered, and they knew it.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

can you write the final resolution scene where Lincoln summarizes that Emily and Jake were arrested for the murder of Aaron and the kids went to their loving grandparents. Have Lincoln think about what it means to be in a small town, how he feels bad that he lost touch with his friends, and decides to leave town for good. Please write in the same first person past tense cynical sparse tone as before

[GPT]

Emily and Jake were arrested for the murder of Aaron. It didn’t take long for the trial to conclude; the evidence against them was damning. Aaron’s boys were placed in the loving care of their grandparents, who vowed to raise them with the same love and devotion their father had shown them.

As I sat in my office, watching the town square from the window, I couldn’t help but reflect on the events that had transpired. Being in a small town meant that people were connected, for better or worse. And in this case, it meant that I had lost touch with a friend, only to uncover the dark secrets that had led to his death.

I took a swig from my bourbon bottle, the bitter taste doing little to soothe the ache in my chest. I had done my job, brought justice for Aaron, but it felt like a hollow victory. The town I had known was irrevocably changed, tainted by the actions of two people I had once considered friends.

I made up my mind then and there. It was time for me to leave this town for good, to search for a new beginning somewhere else. I couldn’t escape the feeling that there was nothing left for me here, not after everything that had happened.

I drained the last of the bourbon and set the empty bottle down on my desk. With a heavy heart, I gathered my belongings, locked the door to my office, and walked away from the life I had known, leaving the ghosts of the past behind me.

[nova@novaleigh.net]

Wow, that was incredible. Thank you!

[GPT]

You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it. If you need any more help with your writing or have other questions, feel free to ask. Good luck with your story!

[nova@novaleigh.net]

Can you help me come up with a title for this short story? Prioritize for interesting, unique, and pulp sounding ideas.

ChatGPT isn’t the best at titles. Actually, it’s pretty bad right now, and I generally don’t use the suggestions, although sometimes it gets my own mind going in new directions for titles. Even if you give it similar titles and tell it to prioritize things like uniqueness, it still comes up with very bland stuff, in my experience. Still, I thought it would be fun to let it name its own story!

[GPT]

Sure! Here are a few title suggestions that might capture the essence of your short story:

1.  “Fires of Deceit”

2.  “Smoke and Lies”

3.  “Ashes of Betrayal”

4.  “Embers of the Unseen”

5.  “Inferno of Secrets”

Feel free to modify these suggestions or combine them in any way that works best for your story. Good luck!

[nova@novaleigh.net]

can you create a few more that are longer? I like “Fires of Deceit” but want something a little bit longer that is similar

[GPT]

Of course! Here are a few longer title suggestions inspired by “Fires of Deceit”:

1.  “In the Flames of Deception”

2.  “Smoldering Secrets of a Small Town”

3.  “The Burning Lies We Whisper”

4.  “Embers of Deceit: A Small Town Mystery”

5.  “A Trail of Smoke and Betrayal”

Feel free to tweak these titles or mix and match the elements to create the perfect title for your story.


From this point I would take these outputs, put them all together, and then edit them for style and grammar to make this story my own. Although GPT-4 has gotten a lot better at creating the actual text, it still isn’t a replacement for a human writer. Especially if you want your own style to shine through, keep molding these outputs until they sound the way you want them to.

As you can see, with a good amount of direction and plenty of patience, it’s definitely possible to get a working story out of ChatGPT. I imagine this probably works better for genre fiction than for more literary stories but I haven’t tried the latter, so don’t take my word for it! The process also works for longer pieces, although it takes a lot more back and forth and chunking in small pieces. Still, it’s quite a bit better than the old way of doing all the work yourself, at least in my opinion!

Thanks for reading! I hope this series helped you get a better idea about how to use ChatGPT to create stories!

If you want to see the first two posts you can find them here:

Part 1 – Brainstorming and Outline

Part 2 – Character and Mystery Development


ChatGPT for Fiction Writing by Nova Leigh cover

Want to learn more about writing fiction with ChatGPT? Check out my book, ChatGPT for Fiction Writing!

Filled with detailed tips, explanations, prompts and examples, this is a great guide for anyone wanting to start writing better fiction faster.

Includes an entire chapter on drafting for fiction.


“Only actionable book I have ever read in kindle.” – Amazon Reviewer

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