Thursday, October 6, 2022

A new tool for world-building



Have you ever wished you could actually SEE that wonderful world you've created for your latest book?

Have I got a tool for you...

I've just discovered Midjourney. I have a number of Facebook friends who've played with the software with stunning results. It's art created by an Artificial Intelligence. It's currently still in development but the beta version is out there for people to play with. The idea is that the user writes a description of what they want to see and the AI uses algorithms to interpret what is required. To do that, the AI analyses images across the web and comes up with its own interpretation.

You type in your prompt and the AI dummies up four pictures. You can then choose one to get other ideas based on your selection until you (might) end up with one that works for you. Be warned, most of the results are dead ordinary and you'll need a number of iterations.

It's fun, addictive, and you can try for free. Then there are paid plans (of course) which you will need if you want any reasonable results. Iteration is the name of the game as you choose which of the pictures it comes up with best suit your idea and use that one for a new round. Anyone who wants to try Midjourney should take a look at some of the many Youtube videos describing what to do. The interface is a bit messy to start with.

The other thing that's messy is the issue of copyright.

The AI collects ideas and art concepts from everywhere, including copyrighted images, to feed its algorithms. Indeed, online image selling sites like Shutterstock have refused to allow AI generated work. It's not something I feel qualified to discuss. As authors looking for cover art for our books, though, it is potentially an important issue. This article from Creative Indie by Derek Murphy is informative. You'll see some stunning images and read both how to use Midjourney, the pros and cons, and the problem of copyright. That section is labeled "What about the Copyright?"

Derek Murphy is a design professional. I'm just a retired old bag having a bit of fun. For my early dabble in the Midjourney world I asked for a picture of what I'd envisioned as the opening paragraphs of my story The Thunder Egg.

THE MIST HAD THICKENED. Two minutes ago, Afra had been able to read the writing on the shop fronts. Now, she could hardly see the signs. Her pulse pounded. She shouldn't have come this way, even if it was the fastest route back to the spaceport. She walked on, the sound of her footsteps muffled in the heavy air. Just a few more blocks and she'd be out of Old Port and its narrow, winding, cobblestoned alleys. Huh. The tourists thought it was picturesque. It was a great place to get mugged. 

I used the prompt "York shambles, cobblestoned street, mist, night, spooky, medieval buildings, woman walks toward viewer."

Here's what I got.

 From there I selected the bottom left image and ended up with this.

I thought that wasn't bad at all. But I've learned a bit more since then and this is what I've come up with for this scene.

So then I wondered how Midjourney would go at creating a picture of little Neyru, who is the star of the story and an entirely fantasy character.

"The thunder egg fell off the shelf where I'd put it, which was odd. I suppose she must have rocked it. When it hit the floor, it started to split and I realized there was something inside. I recall wondering if it would turn out to be some nasty, dangerous, alien creature. Until I saw her. She was half the size she is now, a little damp bundle. I'll admit I was startled and felt useless. What did I know about little alien hatchlings? But as it happened, I'd arranged to eat in my cabin and she dived on my dinner, steak with a salad. She ate steak till she was full, then sort of looked at me with those wonderful eyes like black holes and I was lost."

Where to from here? I started with "cute baby Pern dragon, pretty, smooth, 3D, sitting on hard floor, realistic." which resulted in this.

After a couple of iterations on image 1 (top left) I ended up with this,

I think she's utterly adorable.

If you're at all artistically inclined or would like to create an image of what you're seeing in your head as you write, take a look at Midjourney. It's one of the most fun venues for serious procrastination I've come across.

Oh, by the way, click on the link if you'd like to know more about Neyru and The Thunder Egg.




  1. I really need to give this a try. The "when" has been the problem. You should think about creating a blog or a Pinterest board for all your creations. I'd love to see them all.

  2. There's an idea. I assure you I'm but a dabbler in comparison to people like Cynthia Radthorne. Her work is truly amazing.


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