I worked at Wattpad for almost 8 years and saw first hand how storytelling communities formed around narratives and fandoms. Like many others, I’ve been observing and tinkering with generative AI over the past few months.

This post is an exploration of how this new capability is going to change storytelling communities. I focused on three native capabilities that were not possible before the breakthroughs in generative AI.

  1. Creating stories on the fly
  2. Talking with characters, not [just] fans
  3. Building story worlds at scale

Let’s consider discovery and consumption. Finding media today is a process of discovery among millions of titles. This is made possible with machine learning on large amounts of user consumption data. AI now makes that discovery process almost unnecessary - you can craft a narrative on the fly. We can (and I predict will) go from finding stories from a finite (albeit large) catalog, to simply reading / watching the the stories you want. This changes the role of a consumer into a far more interactive role. This will also necessitate brand new economic structures for content.

But, this doesn’t spell the end of original content. Quite the opposite. I think most new content created will be of the derivative variety - offshoots of a canonical storyline, written by a human. I’m definitely biased, but I think this will be a golden age for fan fiction.

Fan interactions will be transformed too. Instead of merely discussing stories within fandoms, AI will let us also interact directly with the characters in a story. One could argue this isn’t new - roleplay is an established mechanism of fan fiction. What’s new is fans can now “talk to characters” from their favorite fandoms, in high fidelity, in depth, and on demand. This again, is a net add to existing experiences. Fans have an insatiable apetite for participation. People will still talk to other fans, but character conversations are a net new mode of interaction.

The most exciting part is the creative experience. There’s a lot of talk about AI taking away from artists’ control, but the reality is the opposite. Generative AI helps creators step off the infinite content treadmill, and elevates their the role. Instead of building a single storyline, creators are now world builders, inviting readers to play and create their own narratives. This is possible for every creator now, not just the JK Rowlings and GRRMs of the world. This mental model changes what it means to create “content” on the Internet.

It feels like we’re at the dawn of a new age of interactive stories. What an exciting time for creators and consumers.