Will ChatGPT Replace Writers?

With all the hubbub around AI recently, I keep hearing people worry about all kinds of things. Most relevantly, will ChatGPT replace writers and other creatives?

So I did test out ChatGPT with a couple of my WIPs, just to see what I could find out. Some writers seem to have great results using AI to help them complete their drafts, but that has not been my experience at all.

The most useful information I got from the program was when I asked questions about a non-fantasy WIP. ChatGPT offered some useful information on strategies a manipulator might use, and reasons why a person might cheat. It reminded me to look at why their excuses might not work on the protagonist. The explanations and other guidance helped a lot, but the mock-up scene was outright laughable.

Then I asked ChatGPT to write a snippet of a scene in a fantasy WIP. The results were … not what I expected. In well-written fiction, you usually get a mix of dialogue, action, emotion, and description. Writing blogs go on and on about the importance of “showing, not telling.” Teachers of creative writing frown on “filtering” and “stage directions.” Of course, all of these things can be defined and learned (unlearned) to create vivid scenes that capture the attention. So here’s what I got from ChatGPT.

Yeah, not exactly prize-winning prose here. There’s nothing objectively wrong with it, but it’s … bland. A lot of stuff happens, but you learn about it because ChatGPT told you, not because you experienced it. “They knew,” “she felt,” and a bunch of transition words that sound more like a how-to manual than a story ….

The moment I read it—I kid you not—my immediate thought was, “I can do so much better than this.” And then I did. So if ChatGPT is good for something, it’s probably good for making me “fix” its problematically dull writing and for encouraging me to write quickly.

Here’s the first draft of what I wrote immediately after reading this:

Will ChatGPT Replace Writers - my first draft

Admittedly, this is a first draft. I’ll change some dialogue and add more intensity and sensory detail during my edits. Something else probably also will go wrong. But I hope that my version makes you feel the fear and urgency of the situation compared to the AI version. As I read ChatGPT’s scene, it reminds me of a child retelling the scene they read.

So if you’re really concerned about AI, I think your concerns are unfounded, for now at least. I expect there will be a glut of AI-written books entering the indie market as people try to take advantage of a potential income stream. Maybe the folks who always wanted to write a book but lack the skillset will use AI to achieve that dream. As we learned with the initial influx of indie publishing with ebooks, low-quality products and their creators will eventually get filtered out. But will ChatGPT replace writers of quality fiction? Not anytime soon, if ever. It’s a handy tool, sure. But the unique writer’s voice, combined with their creativity, ensures that no one, not even AI, will ever tell the same story the same way.

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