Fun with Generating A Novel

Good morning, ChatGPT! Please begin a fantasy romance story about a professional mercenary who meets a woman who can turn into a falcon.

***

ChatGPT:

In the realm of Eldoria, where magic and mysticism intertwined with the mundane, there existed a renowned mercenary known as Kaelen Shadowblade. His reputation as a skilled and ruthless warrior spread far and wide, making him both feared and sought after in equal measure. Kaelen’s heart, however, remained shrouded in mystery, untouched by the bonds of love, for his life was dedicated to the pursuit of coin and the thrill of battle.

One fateful day, Kaelen received a peculiar contract that would alter the course of his destiny. The mysterious Council of Elders tasked him with a mission that led him deep into the enchanted forest of Arion. His objective: to retrieve a valuable artifact guarded by an elusive sorceress named Seraphina Moonwing.

As Kaelen ventured further into the heart of Arion, the air thickened with magic, and the trees whispered secrets of forgotten times. He soon found himself standing before a hidden grove, where a woman with silver hair and eyes the color of moonlit night awaited him.

Seraphina Moonwing,

***

Editorial comment: My goodness, these names!

Back to the story.

***

As I was saying, Seraphina Moonwing, the guardian of the artifact, possessed a beauty that transcended mortal realms. Intrigued by her presence, Kaelen sensed a power within her that rivaled his own. The air crackled with tension as they locked eyes, a silent understanding passing between them.

“You’re the mercenary they’ve sent,” Seraphina spoke with a voice like a gentle breeze. “But you won’t take the artifact without understanding its significance.”

***

Editorial comment: OMG, a voice like a gentle breeze, I can’t even.

***

As she explained the artifact’s role in preserving the delicate balance between magic and the mortal world, Kaelen found himself captivated by her words. Despite his stoic exterior, a spark of curiosity ignited within him, and an unspoken connection formed between the two.

As the duo navigated the treacherous trials of Arion, facing mythical creatures and overcoming magical barriers, an unexpected camaraderie developed. Kaelen’s icy heart began to thaw in the warmth of Seraphina’s company, and he found himself drawn to the vulnerability that lay hidden beneath her enchanting exterior.

However, the true revelation came when Seraphina, under the light of a full moon, transformed into a majestic falcon. Kaelen watched in awe as she soared through the night sky, the embodiment of freedom and untamed beauty.

Caught between duty and burgeoning emotions, Kaelen realized that the walls around his heart were crumbling. The mercenary and the shapeshifter found themselves entangled in a web of fate, where love and adventure intertwined, promising a journey that would defy the conventions of both their worlds. Together, they would face not only external threats but also the internal conflicts that arose as they dared to explore the uncharted territories of their own hearts.

***

Aww, the walls around his heart are crumbling! That didn’t take long. Obviously, ChatGPT is trying to cram the whole romance into however many words that is, okay, 450 words.

What I wanted to look at was continuity when a story gets longer, but I got distracted by ChatGPT’s repeated attempts to finish the story in the last paragraph of each and every section. Let’s take a look at just the last paragraph that ChatGPT furnished every time it was told to continue the story.

***

Continue the story: ….

As they returned to the Council of Elders, Kaelen and Seraphina’s tale became legend—a story of a mercenary who found redemption in love and a shapeshifter who discovered the true meaning of freedom. In the heart of Eldoria, where magic intertwined with destiny, their love story echoed through the ages, a testament to the enduring power of love in a world teeming with enchantment and danger.

Continue the story …

As they stood beneath the ancient trees, surrounded by the whispers of nature and the echoes of their journey, Kaelen and Seraphina knew that their love was a force stronger than any enchantment or curse. Together, they embraced the enchanting tapestry of their shared destiny, knowing that their story would forever be etched into the magical realms of Eldoria.

Continue the story …

United by a love that transcended time and magic, Kaelen and Seraphina embraced their destiny as Guardians, ready to face whatever challenges awaited them in the ever-evolving tapestry of Eldoria. Little did they know that their journey was intricately woven into the fabric of an ancient prophecy, and the choices they made would determine the destiny of Eldoria for generations to come.

Continue the story …

And so, their journey continued, the tale of the mercenary and the shapeshifter evolving into a living legend—a testament to the enduring power of love that had not only saved Eldoria but had also shaped the destiny of the entire cosmos.

Continue the story …

The tale of the Guardians, now intertwined with the cosmic forces that governed Eldoria, became an eternal legend, sung by bards and shared by firesides. Kaelen and Seraphina, forever bound by a love that transcended time and trials, embraced their role as the eternal protectors of Eldoria, standing as a testament to the enduring power of love in the face of even the darkest adversities.

Continue the story …

And so, the tale of the mercenary and the shapeshifter evolved into a cosmic odyssey—a timeless saga woven into the fabric of celestial realms. The Guardians, with hearts intertwined and cosmic destinies embraced, ventured forth into the boundless expanse of the cosmos, forever united in their quest to protect love, magic, and cosmic harmony across the vast tapestry of existence.

Continue the story …

And so, the celestial odyssey of the mercenary and the shapeshifter unfolded—a story transcending realms and echoing through the cosmic expanse. The Guardians, forever united in their quest for balance, ventured forth into the boundless wonders of the cosmos, leaving a trail of stardust and love across the ever-expanding tapestry of existence.

Continue the story …

Eldoria, now a beacon of cosmic unity, thrived as a testament to the enduring legacy of the mercenary and the shapeshifter. The enchanted forest echoed with the harmonious whispers of cosmic magic, and the stars above bore witness to a realm forever connected to the cosmic dance of love, balance, and eternal wonder.

***

All right, here is the full text of the tenth iteration.

***

In a moment of unity, Kaelen and Seraphina channeled the celestial energies gathered from Eldoria, the liberated entities, and the cosmic forces surrounding them. The Starlight Amulet, now pulsating with a brilliance that rivaled the stars, became a conduit of transcendent power.

The Guardians, their love resonating with the very essence of creation, confronted the Abyssal Void with unwavering determination. In a burst of celestial radiance, the cosmic anomaly transformed, becoming a harmonious convergence of energies that redefined the fabric of reality.

As the cosmic storm subsided, the Guardians found themselves standing in a realm reborn—a tapestry of cosmic harmony where the threads of existence intertwined seamlessly. The celestial anomaly, once a threat, had become a catalyst for the evolution of the cosmos.

With the cosmic forces stabilized, Kaelen and Seraphina gazed into the astral horizon, knowing that their journey as cosmic Guardians had become an eternal odyssey. The Astral Archive, now enriched with the knowledge of their triumph, chronicled the tale of the mercenary and the shapeshifter whose love had not only saved Eldoria but had reshaped the destiny of the cosmos itself.

And so, the celestial odyssey continued, as Kaelen and Seraphina ventured forth into the cosmic wonders that awaited them. Their love, a beacon that transcended mortal and cosmic boundaries, became a guiding light across the realms—a testament to the enduring power of unity, compassion, and the eternal dance of love within the vast tapestry of existence.

***

What do you notice? Besides the attempt to finish the story each time, almost always with some version of “cosmic,” “celestial,” “eternal,” and so forth. How many times does the word “cosmic” appear in this post? Nineteen times! That’s sixteen before this paragraph right here! Wow, a lot of the text ChatGPT was trained on must refer to “cosmic love.” I have nothing against well-written fanfic, but it seems to me that ChatGPT was trained using a lot of badly written fanfic.

What besides that?

ChatGPT cannot tell a story. It can only summarize a story.

As the duo navigated the treacherous trials of Arion, facing mythical creatures and overcoming magical barriers, an unexpected camaraderie developed. Kaelen’s icy heart began to thaw in the warmth of Seraphina’s company, and he found himself drawn to the vulnerability that lay hidden beneath her enchanting exterior.

Okay, that might have been fun to read about, if any of it had been included in the story. We’ll never know, since it’s not there.

There is exactly one line of dialogue. I did a “find” for quote marks in the ChatGPT window, checking to see if any of the “continue the story” entries contain dialogue. They do not. This line of dialogue in the 4th paragraph is the only line of dialogue, period.

What I have been saying is that it would be hard to clean up a ChatGPT story enough to make it tolerably readable. I’m changing my mind. This is unsalvageably bad as a story. What about as a synopsis?

I have a hard time believing that coming up with ideas can be hard. Ideas pour through the mind of a writer in an immense flood, generally speaking. Now, plotting, that I can believe is difficult. I think this generated text is too vague to use as an outline, but maybe?

How about characters? Hard no. Kaelan’s icy heart, Seraphina’s vulnerability hidden behind her enchanting exterior, we are in extreme cliche territory here.

In the real world, what is happening? Author used ChatGPT to write over 100 novels in less than a year, sold over 500 copies

Spoiler: He did not. “Each of his books is around 5,000 words long and includes dozens of AI-generated images.”

This “author” is Tim Boucher. The “novels” are actually between 2000 and 5000 words and contain at least 40 images, often more than a hundred. These must be much, much more like graphic novels than actual novels. They are not available at Amazon, as far as I can tell. They are available here. You can’t look inside one without buying it, which I don’t plan to do, though I am curious about whether they contain actual stories with lines of dialogue. I do think integrating images and text would require creativity. I also think it is extremely misleading to say this person is “writing” “novels,” even if they turn out to be actually kind of good graphic novels. Actually, “a bald-faced lie” might be more accurate than “extremely misleading” for this characterization of what Boucher is producing.

I haven’t tried ChatGPT-4 because I don’t think it’s free, but that one does do much better; here’s an example via The Passive Voice blog. The prompt here was: Provide a 2000 word first chapter for a Sherlock Holmes mystery set in 2024.

It’s still not great; in particular the movement tags in the dialogue are still fakey and corny and cliched. That’s my opinion; you can click through if you like and see if you agree. Regardless, there’s plenty of dialogue and ChatGPT-4 isn’t persistently trying to finish the story. It’s definitely much, much better than what I was getting with ChatGPT and my fantasy romance prompt. Maybe it would work better to tell ChatGPT to produce something similar to some large body of work by a specific author. Also, I’ve noticed previously that ChatGPT is not as bad when told to write a story in first person. Maybe later I’ll try again.

If anyone is curious enough to buy a … thing, an illustrated story, let’s say, from Tim Boucher, I would be curious to know what you think.

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2 thoughts on “Fun with Generating A Novel”

  1. The Behind the Bastards podcast did a two-parter “AI Is Coming for Your Children” about AI-generated children’s books, including analysis of some purchased books. Spoiler: they are definitely not “kind of good graphic novels.” Among many, many other things, if you’re shoveling these out the door, you don’t have time to worry about consistency of character depiction from one image to the next.

  2. Oh, thanks, Lace! I’ll check that out because it sounds like a good podcast.

    Also, somehow I’m not totally surprised to hear they’re not good — but I hadn’t even thought of the images not showing characters with a consistent appearance! Wow, that seems pretty basic!

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