Would You Turn the Page? With a ChatGPT Twist

Here’s one of those Would You Turn the Page of This Bestseller? posts at Writer Unboxed.

I’m always up for this, so I often click through and read the page. Yes, this time I would turn the page for sure. I think this is a great opening.

What I’m going to give you here is the first page and then at some point it switches to ChatGPT, and ChatGPT writes the second page. How obvious is the transition and what marks the transition? Fair warning: the real thing shifts to the fake continuation in the middle of a sentence. That’s not me, the Writer Unboxed post broke off in the middle of that sentence, but it adds to the interest when trying to spot the shift.

***

If I leave this house, it will be in handcuffs.

I should have run for it while I had the chance. Now my shot is gone. Now that the police officers are in the house and they’ve discovered what’s upstairs, there’s no turning back.

They are about five seconds away from reading me my rights. I’m not sure why they haven’t done it yet. Maybe they’re hoping to trick me into telling them something I shouldn’t.

Good luck with that.

The cop with the black hair threaded with gray is sitting on the sofa next to me. He shifts his stocky frame on the burnt-caramel Italian leather. I wonder what sort of sofa he has at home. It sure doesn’t cost five figures like this one did. It’s probably some tacky color like orange, covered in pet fur, and with more than one rip in the seams. I wonder if he’s thinking about his sofa at home and wishing he had one like this.

Or more likely, he’s thinking about the dead body in the attic upstairs.

“So let’s go through this one more time,” the cop says in his New York drawl. He told me his name earlier, but it flew out of my head. Police officers should wear bright red nametags. How else are you possibly supposed to remember their names in a high-stress situation? He’s a detective, I think. “When did you find the body?”

I pause, wondering if this would be the right time to demand a lawyer. Aren’t they supposed to tell me about my rights first? I glance at the clock on the wall, its ticking echoing in the tense silence of the room.

“I found it yesterday evening,” I reply, my voice surprisingly steady. “I didn’t know what to do. I panicked.”

The detective raises an eyebrow, studying me intently. “Panicked, huh? That’s why you decided to hide it in your attic?”

I swallow hard, realizing that I’ve dug myself into a deeper hole. The truth is, I didn’t put the body there. It was there when I moved in a month ago. The previous tenant left me a chilling note, warning me about the consequences if I ever revealed the secret hidden in the attic.

“I swear, I didn’t put it there. It was like that when I arrived,” I protest, desperation creeping into my voice.

The detective leans back, crossing his arms. “A convenient story. So, you move into a new place, find a dead body, and your first thought is to cover it up?”

I open my mouth to respond, but the doorbell interrupts me. Another officer, a younger one, walks in holding a plastic evidence bag with a blood-stained knife.

“We found this in the kitchen. Care to explain?” he asks, his eyes narrowing.

I glance at the knife, my mind racing. I’ve never seen it before. This situation is spiraling out of control, and I can feel the walls closing in.

Before I can answer, the detective’s radio crackles to life. He listens intently, then looks at me with a mix of frustration and curiosity.

“Seems we have another lead on this case. You’re lucky this time,” he says, standing up. “But we’ll be keeping an eye on you.”

As the officers leave, relief washes over me. I’ve bought some time, but the mystery of the body in my attic and the ominous warning from the previous tenant remain. I need to uncover the truth before the police come knocking again.

Gathering my courage, I decide to explore the attic once more, determined to unravel the secrets hidden within the confines of my new home. Little do I know that my journey into the unknown is only just beginning.

***

Okay, that’s really, really interesting. I mean the shift to ChatGPT and where the story goes after ChatGPT takes over.

Here is the last bit of the real beginning: I pause, wondering if this would be the right time to demand a lawyer. Aren’t they

And I did say it broke in the middle of the sentence. I think the continuation works just great for the rest of that sentence: I pause, wondering if this would be the right time to demand a lawyer. Aren’t they supposed to tell me about my rights first? I glance at the clock on the wall, its ticking echoing in the tense silence of the room. That’s pretty good! There’s nothing wrong with that at all. Where is it for sure fake? I think the obviously fake part may start with the bloody knife, but why?

A) The details become more standardized. The thought about the bright red nametags is something ChatGPT wouldn’t include. The bloody knife is a typical prop for a thriller/mystery.

B) ChatGPT loves -ly adverbs. It can’t get enough of them. However, it’s not as terrible about that this time as I’ve seen in other extracts from generated fiction But what it loves even more than that is Exceedingly Standard Movement Tags. It’s enough to put me off narrowed eyes forever. It also just drops a thousand cliched phrases into everything. The situation is spiraling out of control! The walls are closing in!

Because of those proclivities, I think maybe you can spot the fake text right at “my voice surprisingly steady.” That is almost at the very beginning of the fake part. If you don’t spot that, then surely at the bloody knife. If not there, then definitely at this part: Before I can answer, the detective’s radio crackles to life. He listens intently, then looks at me with a mix of frustration and curiosity. “Seems we have another lead on this case. You’re lucky this time,” he says, standing up. “But we’ll be keeping an eye on you.”

C) It’s interesting to me that it wants to end every bit of generated text with a concluding sentence. Little do I know that my journey into the unknown is only just beginning. It seems to me that it does this a lot.

D) Coherence is a problem. A bloody knife now can’t have anything to do with a body that was already in the attic a month ago. I mean, not if the blood is fresh.

Overall, I think this is one of the worst story continuations I’ve personally generated. Not the very worst, but pretty bad.

***

The real first page is from this book:

I’m not familiar with Freida McFadden and I’ve never read any of her books, but I’m mildly tempted by The Housemaid. I’m not really in the mood for a thriller and also I don’t have time to read anything at all right now, but I do like the beginning. Let’s take a look at the description …

“Welcome to the family,” Nina Winchester says as I shake her elegant, manicured hand. I smile politely, gazing around the marble hallway. Working here is my last chance to start fresh. I can pretend to be whoever I like. But I’ll soon learn that the Winchesters’ secrets are far more dangerous than my own…

Every day I clean the Winchesters’ beautiful house top to bottom. I collect their daughter from school. And I cook a delicious meal for the whole family before heading up to eat alone in my tiny room on the top floor.I try to ignore how Nina makes a mess just to watch me clean it up. How she tells strange lies about her own daughter. And how her husband Andrew seems more broken every day. But as I look into Andrew’s handsome brown eyes, so full of pain, it’s hard not to imagine what it would be like to live Nina’s life. The walk-in closet, the fancy car, the perfect husband. I only try on one of Nina’s pristine white dresses once. Just to see what it’s like. But she soon finds out… and by the time I realize my attic bedroom door only locks from the outside, it’s far too late.

But I reassure myself: the Winchesters don’t know who I really am.They don’t know what I’m capable of…

This is really intriguing, but not very inviting. Nina sounds awful, the husband sounds pathetic, I do wonder about the daughter. (Strange lies, really. I wonder whether whatever Nina is saying about her daughter turns out to be true.) Reviews are interestingly mixed and imply that Nina may turn out to be less awful than the reader first expects.

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6 thoughts on “Would You Turn the Page? With a ChatGPT Twist”

  1. I was certain it was ChatGPT by this point, but didn’t spot the actual merger: “The previous tenant left me a chilling note, warning me about the consequences if I ever revealed the secret hidden in the attic.” Just seems too weird of a “twist” at this point in a story. Plus, as you say, chatGPT does love its adverbs & adjectives!

    I agree the actual blurb does not sound like something I’d ever choose to pick up.

  2. As soon as the body is a month old it becomes obvious. Then I looked back and realized that “last night didnt fit either. The tone of the original suggests that she has just found the body and immediately called the cops.
    Sure enough, the actual sample suggests exactly this. It also strongly implies that the main character was primarily hired as a “fall girl”, not a maid. It’s too early to tell whether this is the twist or not. (I hope not, as it’s not much of a twist.)

  3. I read a little further and there are two possibilities: fall guy and self-defense, though the latter is a bit less likely. Either way, this is much more horror, and much less mystery.

  4. Yes, it looks to me like the book is somewhere in the category of “psychological thriller and everyone is a bad guy” territory.

  5. I think I’d rather read ChatGPT’s version of the story! I was curious how a body could be hidden for a month without rotting: vampire, mummy, alien—so many possibilities! And what happened to the previous tenant? Much more interesting than yet another unpleasant family with dangerous secrets.

    (Also, I’m a big fan of things spiralling out of control and walls closing in.)

    I was positive by “voice surprisingly steady,” but I twigged on “glance at the clock.” That’s just not a good sentence.

  6. The story spirals out of control in the real story too. But the main character is an idiot. Sure she has no choice in accepting such a sketchy job, but *why does she actually use the phone*? Also the little girl is not really believable.

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