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Will AI Replace Fiction Writers?

Are We in Danger of Becoming an Endangered Species?

By Reija SillanpaaPublished 9 months ago 5 min read
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Will AI Replace Fiction Writers?
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

AI is a hot topic at the moment and seems to dominate a lot of discussions among writers, artists, songwriters, and other creatives. As AI becomes more and more advanced and sophisticated, do creators need to worry? How likely is AI to threaten our livelihood? Are we about to become an endangered species?

I don’t know about other art forms, since I cannot hold a tune and I still draw stickmen, but I know about writing. I believe I can tell good writing from bad. Or AI writing from a real person’s work.

With that in mind, I decided to put AI to the test. I wanted to see how well it would handle rewriting a well-known story in different genres.

The first prompt I gave ChatGPT was to write a science fiction version of Jack and the Beanstalk. Here is how the story, Jack and the Celestial Spire began.

In the distant future, on a technologically advanced Earth, young Jack lived in the sprawling metropolis of New Arcadia. The planet’s resources were scarce, and a powerful corporation, Goliath Galactic Enterprises, held a tight grip on them. Jack’s family struggled to make ends meet in this corporate-dominated world.

Not what I would call a captivating beginning. As a teacher, I always used to tell my students that you need to capture your reader with your first paragraph. I was not captured by AI’s effort. Had this been something written by one of my students, my feedback would have been something like this.

Well done for choosing your vocabulary carefully. It is very fitting for the science fiction genre. However, it sounds like you just picked every single word from the vocabulary bank. Give me more details. For example, what is technologically advanced Earth like?

The story continues in a very similar style to the opening paragraph. As an example, let’s take this sentence: In a climactic battle, the rebels confronted Goliath’s forces on the Celestial Spire. I doubt any self-respecting writer would use the words "in a climactic battle".

How about this description of Jack when the prompt was to rewrite the fairy tale as a romantic story? His heart was as adventurous as it was kind, and he had an affinity for exploring the woods that surrounded his home.

What a load of bollocks! If I ever picked up a book containing a sentence like this, I would question the sanity of the writer and the publisher who dared to release it into the world.

However, ChatGPT did not share my view that the sentence was utter rubbish. In a separate chat, I asked it to rate the sentence. This is what ChatGPT said:

I’d rate this piece of writing as 4 out of 5. It effectively conveys the character’s personality traits and his connection to nature. However, there’s room for a bit more descriptive detail or imagery to enhance the reader’s engagement and create a stronger mental picture.

Yes, there certainly is room for descriptive detail and imagery to engage the reader. You got that right, ChatGPT.

My next prompt was rewriting the story with a female lead. This time we get a courageous young woman who possessed a spirit as fiery as her flaming red hair and has a heart filled with dreams of adventure.

This description again reminded me of some of my students’ work. They were trying to tick all the boxes, but the result was unnatural. They were so busy making sure they met the success criteria that they forgot the work needed to be, above all, interesting.

Next, I wanted to see how AI would handle horror. This is the description of the beanstalk growing, which the AI very creatively turned into a vine.

As the vine grew, so did its malevolent aura. It radiated an eerie energy that sent shivers down Jack’s spine. The village, once a place of gloom, descended into a realm of true horror. The air grew thick with an otherworldly mist, and the skies darkened even further, as if the vine had sapped the very essence of life from the land.

Scared? No. Bored? Yes. It sounds like it was trying to squeeze in every horror-related word it could find on the internet. Had I been unfortunate enough to pick up a book with this sentence somewhere, it would have soon found its way into paper recycling. Or as kindling for the fireplace.

Would you like to know how ChatGPT rated the above description? It clearly thinks very highly of itself and its literary skills. Here is the rating.

I’d rate this piece of writing as 5 out of 5. It effectively uses vivid language and imagery to create a dark and eerie atmosphere. The progression of the vine’s growth and the impact on the village is well-described, allowing the reader to feel the ominous aura and visualize the transformation of the surroundings.

Really? Full marks! If ChatGPT were a real person, I would tell them they were conceited and would be better off considering a career as anything but a writer.

However, that got me intrigued to see how it would rate some of my writing. I asked it to rate the following paragraph from my story, Running for Lives. This story was shortlisted in a short story competition so I knew it was good.

Every muscle in Johan’s body screamed in agony and his feet burned as they pounded the road. But he would not stop. He had made a bet. And this was no ordinary bet. Lives depended on him winning.

ChatGPT gave me 4.5 out of five. I didn't get full marks because I needed to add more sensory detail and emotional insight. Here's the full feedback it gave the paragraph.

It effectively conveys the urgency and determination of Johan's situation. The description of his physical strain and the emphasis on the high stakes of the bet create a sense of tension and importance. Adding a touch more sensory detail or emotional insight could further enhance the reader's connection to Johan's experience.

I tried with a few more examples and every time, AI told me to add more emotion and descriptive details. Am I going to take its feedback? Unlikely. Like the rest of my reading material, I prefer my feedback written by a real person.

I asked AI to write several more variations of the fairy tale to finish off the test. After all, you cannot base a conclusion on a few examples alone. The results did not improve. Here are some prime examples.

  • with a sense of wonder, Jack planted the seeds
  • a land where creativity and imagination held sway
  • prosperity flourished, and the utopian society evolved even further
  • in a grim and desolate dystopian world
  • with determination in their hearts, they channelled the energy of the beanstalk

I cannot help it, the work of AI reminds me of some of my students' work. The ones who cram in fancy words without really understanding their meaning and completely overdo it. The ones who try so hard to be perfect and sound clever that the work lacks flow. The ones who can do everything on the success criteria but fail to understand what makes interesting reading.

And yes, I did just compare ChatGPT's fiction writing ability to that of an 11-12-year-old. When you read its "fiction", it feels like it is working on success criteria. It knows the mechanics but fails to deliver what truly matters. A piece of writing that makes the reader tick.

This leads us back to the question: Will AI replace fiction writers? Are we in danger of becoming an endangered species?

Not anytime soon. As long as AI produces fiction like the above examples, lacking any real emotion and instead pooling together cliches from the genre, fiction writers have nothing to worry about.

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About the Creator

Reija Sillanpaa

A wise person said, "Be your own audience". Therefore, I write fiction, poetry and about matters important and interesting to me. That said, I warmly welcome you into my audience.

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