Master the Effective Prompt Repositories

7 min readJun 1, 2024
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When discussing the art of asking questions, I am reminded of Sahdev, one of the Pandavas from the epic Mahabharata. Sahdev was blessed with the knowledge of the past, present, and future. However, it is believed that he was bound by a restriction: he could not reveal this profound wisdom unless he was explicitly asked.

In this context, the reference to Sahdev underscores the importance of asking precise and thoughtful questions to unlock valuable information. Just as Sahdev’s extensive knowledge remained hidden until specifically requested, the potential insights from a resource like ChatGPT are best accessed through well-crafted, explicit prompts. This analogy highlights the key principle that the quality of the questions you ask directly influences the depth and relevance of the answers you receive.

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Some guidelines on how to effectively use ChatGPT and build a valuable prompt repository as an author of books:

Guidelines for Using ChatGPT Effectively

1. Be Clear and Specific

To get the most accurate and relevant responses, it is important to formulate your questions or prompts clearly and with sufficient detail. For instance, rather than asking a vague question like “How do I start a book?”, it is more effective to ask a specific and detailed question such as “What are some effective ways to write the opening scene of a mystery novel?” This approach provides more context and direction, enabling a more precise and helpful response.

2. Iterative Refinement

If the first response isn’t quite what you’re looking for, refine your prompt and try again. Adjust the specificity or focus of your questions based on the initial responses. For example, if you receive a general answer about character development, you can refine your question to, “How can I create a compelling backstory for a villain in a fantasy novel?”

3. Use Follow-Up Questions

To build a more detailed understanding, it is beneficial to use follow-up questions to delve deeper into specific aspects or to clarify previous responses. For instance, after obtaining a list of potential plot twists, you might ask, “Can you elaborate on how to foreshadow these twists effectively?” This approach encourages more thorough exploration and enhances the depth of the discussion.

4. Leverage Different Perspectives

Asking for different perspectives or approaches to a single topic can be beneficial in exploring various angles and techniques. For example, if you’re interested in understanding unique narrative techniques used in contemporary fiction, you might ask for diverse viewpoints on this subject. This approach allows you to gather a range of insights and methods that can deepen your understanding and provide a broader context for the topic.

5. Incorporate Examples

When asking for advice, it is helpful to provide examples or context to ensure that the responses are tailored to your specific needs. For instance, if you are writing a sci-fi novel set in a dystopian future, you could ask for themes that align well with this setting. By providing this context, the advice you receive will be more relevant and useful to your particular situation.

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Building a Prompt Repository

1. Categorize Prompts:

Organizing your prompts into categories such as Plot Development, Characterization, World-Building, Dialogue, Writing Style, and Editing makes it easier to find relevant prompts when you need them.

2. Save Successful Prompts

Keeping a record of prompts that lead to valuable responses is a proactive approach to learning and gathering insights. By documenting both the prompt and the resulting advice or information, you create a repository of knowledge that can be revisited and expanded upon. For instance, if you ask a question like “How can I create tension in a slow-burning romance subplot?” and receive helpful suggestions, jot down the prompt along with the advice provided. This serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it ensures that you don’t forget valuable insights. Secondly, it allows you to track patterns and themes in the advice you receive, helping you to refine your understanding and strategies over time. Additionally, having a record of successful prompts and responses can inspire new ideas and approaches in your creative endeavors. Overall, maintaining such a record is a practical and beneficial habit for anyone seeking to enhance their skills or knowledge in a particular area.

3. Iterate and Improve

Regularly revisiting and refining your prompts based on the responses you receive is crucial for obtaining better and more insightful answers. For instance, if you find that a prompt you’ve crafted seems too generic or broad, such as one about writing dialogue, take the opportunity to refine it. By refining it, you can make it more specific and targeted, which in turn can lead to more actionable insights.

For example, if your original prompt was simply about writing dialogue, you might find it helpful to refine it to something more precise, like, “How can I write realistic dialogue for a teenager in a contemporary novel?” This refinement narrows the focus, making it easier for respondents to provide tailored advice or examples that directly address your specific needs. By continually refining your prompts in this manner, you increase the likelihood of receiving responses that are not only relevant but also offer valuable guidance for your writing endeavors.

4. Include Prompt Variations

The suggestion is to diversify your prompts to delve into various aspects of a subject. For instance, instead of sticking to a single question like “What are some plot devices in thrillers?” you could broaden your approach. One way to do this is by crafting different variations of the prompt that touch on distinct elements of the topic. For example, you might ask, “How do cliffhangers enhance thriller plots?” This approach allows for a more nuanced exploration of the subject matter, enabling you to uncover insights and perspectives that you might have otherwise overlooked. By varying your prompts, you can deepen your understanding and stimulate creativity in your exploration of the topic.

5. Incorporate Feedback and Insights

One valuable approach to refining your writing prompts is by leveraging feedback from both yourself and others, such as beta readers or editors. This feedback serves as a crucial tool for honing the effectiveness of your prompts. For instance, if you receive feedback highlighting a pacing issue within your writing, you can channel that insight into crafting prompts specifically geared toward enhancing pacing. By incorporating feedback into your prompt development process, you not only address areas of improvement but also ensure that your prompts are tailored to tackle the precise challenges identified in your writing. This iterative approach, driven by feedback, facilitates continual improvement and ultimately results in more potent and impactful writing prompts.

6. Document Insights and Tips

When you’re engaging in any sort of writing activity, it’s not just about the prompts and the responses you come up with. Those are crucial, of course, but equally important are the insights, tips, and strategies you stumble upon along the way. These can be the little gems of wisdom that make your writing more effective, engaging, or just easier to tackle. By documenting them alongside your prompts and responses, you’re creating a comprehensive resource that you can refer back to at any stage of your writing process. This repository of knowledge becomes invaluable as it evolves, providing guidance and inspiration whenever you hit a creative roadblock or need a fresh perspective. It’s like having a personal toolbox filled with the tools you need to craft your writing masterpiece. So, whether it’s a brilliant idea that strikes you out of the blue or a handy trick you discover through trial and error, make sure to jot it down. You never know when it might come in handy again.

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Sample Prompts for an Author’s Repository

Here are several sample prompts drawn from my personal experiences. However, it’s essential to recognize that what works well for me may not necessarily yield the same results for you. Therefore, consider these prompts as guiding principles rather than definitive solutions.

1. Plot Development:

- “What are some unique plot twists for a detective novel?”

- “How can I outline a multi-layered plot for a historical fiction book?”

2. Characterization:

- “What techniques can I use to write a complex anti-hero?”

- “How do I create a believable character arc for a protagonist in a coming-of-age story?”

3. World-Building:

- “What elements should I consider when building a fantasy world?”

- “How can I incorporate cultural diversity into my science fiction setting?”

4. Dialogue:

- “How can I write engaging and natural-sounding dialogue between two characters with opposing viewpoints?”

- “What are some strategies for writing subtext in conversations?”

5. Writing Style:

- “How can I develop a unique narrative voice for my novel?”

- “What are effective ways to use metaphors and similes in descriptive writing?”

6. Editing and Revising:

- “What are common pitfalls to look out for during the revision process?”

- “How can I tighten my prose and improve pacing in the second draft?”

By following these guidelines and organizing your prompts effectively, you’ll be able to harness the full potential of ChatGPT in your writing endeavors and create a valuable repository of insights and techniques. All the best.

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Former aircraft engineer IAF, Retired Branch Manager SBI, Psychologist, Best Selling Author & Armed Forces Recruitment Trainer