Hey, I’m excited! As a writer, what can ChatGPT do for me?
At our Helensvale Writers Group meeting in April, we participated in an experiment: to write a short story of exactly 100 words on the theme of ‘'love story’ incorporating three words, ‘indelible,’ ‘kiss’ and ‘frantic.’ The members voted for the story they judged the best. Who wrote which story was kept secret. What was different about this fun little competition was that one of the writers was ChatGPT. The Group's treasurer/editor, Franz, entered the following instructions into ChatGPT: "100 word love story which includes kiss, frantic, indelible.” Which of the following two stories do you think was generated by ChatGPT? A or B?
“Whaddya think? YOU buy a new truck and I keep driving that decrepit old Commodore? YOU CAN KISS MY BUM!” she shrieked, slamming the door behind her. The ancient Holden V8 agreed, backfiring as she fishtailed out of the driveway, the ferocious acceleration causing gravel to smash into the brand new Pajero he had parked next to it, leaving indelible marks on its duco. Frantically, he dialled her mobile. No answer. Then texted her: ‘Darling, that new Pajero is for YOU, not for me. Sorry, had it arrived on time, I wouldn’t have forgotten your birthday yesterday. Love ya, Sheila.’
Their first kiss was frantic, fuelled by passion and excitement. From that moment, their love was indelible, impossible to forget or erase. As they explored the depths of their feelings, they realized that nothing could tear them apart. Through good times and bad, they held on, never losing sight of the love they shared. With each passing day, their relationship grew stronger, and their love became more radiant. They knew that they were meant to be together, and they vowed to love each other endlessly. But what is today’s definition of ‘endlessly’? The end of time or end of week?
If you voted for B, you are right. Story A was the winning entry. A fascinating result was out of 14 votes the ChatGPT story did not receive a single vote! Why it missed the mark is self-evident: it was boring, and a potboiler, hackneyed concept of love. By contrast, story A was a clever interpretation of the theme and has action, humour, lively dialogue, and a great twist.
The ChatGPT story spat out of the computer in a matter of seconds. Easy! I don’t know how long the winner spent writing his story but it shows evidence of creative thinking around the theme, imagination and getting down to the business of writing, drafting, editing and revising. At least a couple of hours, I'd say.
'Easy' has consequences. In relation to our creativity expressed in art, music and writing, taking the easy option frequently results in sub-standard work. Writers of fiction now have the easy option of using artificial intelligence chatbots (ChatGPT and its competitors) to generate, revise and edit their work. Too easy! The advent of LLMs (large language models) technology has many in the writing community excited about its benefits and advantages. Not so much has been aired about its disadvantages and what it could mean for writers who want to be taken seriously by industry decisionmakers: the publishers, reviewers and readers.
ChatGPT offers the typical lure of a free option. We think, ‘What’s the harm?’ and ‘I’ll just run this paragraph, chapter, book through it and see what it comes up with.’ Before we do, let’s take a quick look at some of the implications and risks of jumping into ChatGPT for our development as writers, the quality of our work, and not least our integrity as writers.
(1) Using AI chatbots will dull our creativity and wither our imagination. It won't be long before we come to depend on it not only to write for us but also to come up with ideas for writing. The quality of our writing will deteriorate, as evidenced by the simple experiment abovementioned. I reiterate no one voted for the ChatGPT story because no one liked it.
(2) Our writing would not be distinctively ours. Our authorial voice and writing style is homogenised into a bland soup lacking favour and bite. All the subtleties and nuances of our plot, characters and settings are missing.
(3) Our writing stagnates. Most writers are never satisfied and continually strive for improvement in their work. But if we use AI, won’t it make our writing better? No, it is a dead end. We must practise, learn skills and techniques, seek feedback, revise and repeat to improve.
(4) Publishers will not publish work that is generated, in whole or in part, by AI programs. After all, they want the very best and have no shortage of accomplished human writers beating down their doors.
(5) Your brand as a writer may be damaged. From your first public outing, imagine having the cover of your book stamped ‘Co-authored by ChatGPT,’ or your book reviewed as “a good effort, aided by ChatGPT.’ As a creative, being known as a Chat-GPT author would be anathema. We want to have control over our own creations and plant our ‘I did it!’ victory flag.
(6) We would run into copyright issues. Who owns machine-generated text? It is complicated. For further information, check out this article.
(7) Our integrity as a writer is compromised. Can we even call ourselves a writer if we use chatbot-generated words? Unless we hold on to our self-respect and integrity, we have nothing worth possessing. Writers must hold the line against the incursion of AI into our creative space.
We will continue to hear the sirens’ call from ChatGPT and others, ‘Come this way, it’s quick and easy.' As a professional editor and writer, I will continue to say, ‘No way.” My writing and editing is the product of my qualifications, knowledge, experience and skills, which is to say my own brain and not some AI conglomeration.
I hope this article has given you food for thought on this topical issue. As ever, your feedback and comments are very welcome.
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Doing the write thing (and lovin' it!)
Lynette Lloyd Moss
Managing Editor and Publisher
LLOYD MOSS publishing