Boy howdy. It seems like everyone is wondering whether or not you can make a novel with AI. There’s a dream that you can throw some prompts into a machine and get a story for fun and/or profit. So, that’s the question I want to explore today. Then I want to dig into some ways to leverage AI that I think may be more effective for writers. This is especially important since an estimated 90% of online content will be generated or influenced by artificial intelligence by 2026.
Sure You Can Write a Novel with AI
I mean. Sure. You can. Go ahead and knock yourself out with it. It’s definitely possible to write a novel with AI. But, will it be good?
Odds are no. However, I would prefer to put this to a test of sorts. I used a sequence of prompts to try to write a short novel using AI:
- Write a young adult novel about a fellow named Twice Shy Pete Addams and his accomplice, Lady Guinevere of Castle Silverndawn.
- Please continue with chapter 3
- Continue with chapter 5
- Introduce a possible betrayal in chapter 6 that ultimately is resolved with friendship and peace.
- In chapter 7, introduce a new villain who is pulling the strings.
- Continue with chapter 8 building suspense.
- Continue with Chapter 9 resolving the immediate threats.
- Continue with chapter 10, shifting to a new perspective, and setup a sequel.
My Young Adult Novel with AI
Chapter 1: The Mysterious Messenger
Twice Shy Pete Addams lived in the quiet village of Havenbrook, where rumors of enchantments and magical creatures were often dismissed as mere tales. Little did the villagers know that Pete had a secret. A secret that involved an unlikely accomplice – Lady Guinevere of Castle Silverndawn.
Pete, with his unruly mop of curly hair and a perpetually mischievous twinkle in his green eyes, had earned the nickname “Twice Shy” for his knack of escaping tricky situations not once, but twice as cleverly. Lady Guinevere, on the other hand, was a phantom of the castle’s past, a spirit rumored to be both guardian and prankster…You can read the whole novel here.
My Biased Review
I don’t think it’s very good.
Using cliches can be okay. Sometimes. Since the AI writing the story is building solely from what others have created in the past it tends to rely heavily on phrases and expressions that are fairly common. There is also an over use of character names and restating the plot/summarizing the future plot at the end of every chapter. However, this 10 chapter story is effective as a test. Yes. You absolutely can write a novel with AI. But, will it be any good? As I said earlier the odds are no. It will not be good. There are a number of examples where AI attempts to create art were poorly received.
I think there is something incredibly human and personal about writing stories. Or, at least there is for me. I want to share my perspective on the world and how it could be with others. It’s something I’ve said before, but in the work of most novelists you can see their very souls. In an AI-generated story, you have a soulless machine mishmashing together a pastiche of different experiences procedurally assembled.
Expanding an Idea with AI
There is one technique I’ve seen recommended online that I thought would be worth exploring. This is taking a paragraph or a concept and asking AI to flesh it out. It’s using the soul of a writer, but also giving them back some time by helping to brainstorm and flesh out a scene.
Why I Write Short Story Expanded with AI
This one was prompted with: “Write the rest of a chapter based on this excerpt:
The other day I needed to change my oil in my car. I live in Alaska and we got a ton of snow and spice recently, so I needed the maintenance to be done. So that day I drove through the snow”
Chapter 7: The Unseen Connections
As I settled into the chair in the waiting area at Jiffy Lube, contemplating my stance on favors for strangers, I watched the snowfall outside the window. The white landscape seemed to muffle the sounds of the world, creating a serene backdrop for my internal musings. The scent of motor oil and the distant hum of car engines became the soundtrack to my thoughts.
As I flipped through a magazine that had seen better days, my mind circled back to the moment at the entrance with the nimble old lady. Was it really so bad to extend a small act of kindness, even to a stranger? I pondered this as I observed the hustle and bustle of the Jiffy Lube technicians, efficiently moving from one car to the next.
Soon, my car was up on the lift, and the mechanic informed me that everything was proceeding smoothly. I leaned back, closing my eyes for a moment, and found myself reflecting on the events that had led me to this point. The surgery, the snow, the race to the front door – it all seemed like a series of interconnected moments, each influencing the other.You can read the rest of this AI generated chapter based on Why I Write here.
The story has a pleasant sentiment. It just doesn’t reflect my actual experiences. I was impressed by the AI’s ability to interweave some of my storytelling tendencies and the key plot elements from my story. If I were to include a scene like that in a book I would make it a little less saccharine. The moral is written too clearly with no ambiguity.
Honesty is the Best Policy Short Story Expanded with AI
The other AI experiment prompted with “Write the rest of a chapter based on this excerpt:
Theodore did not run towards the town square. But, he did not walk either. It was a measure of steps chasing after each other clumsily to the onlooker, but effective in its gait…”
Theodore approached the town square with a mixture of concern and frustration etched on his face. The townsfolk were gathering, their whispers spreading like the rustle of autumn leaves. As he drew nearer, he overheard snippets of conversations about the recent brawl, the accusations against the king, and the fate that awaited his friends in the stocks.
He tried to blend into the crowd, keeping his hood low and avoiding eye contact. The last thing he needed was to draw attention to himself, especially with his side throbbing from the previous night’s altercation. The narrow alleys and cobblestone streets served as a maze of shadows, offering him some concealment.
Reaching the outskirts of the gathering, Theodore surveyed the situation. The town square was a chaotic scene of curious onlookers, some shaking their heads disapprovingly while others whispered conspiratorially. The stocks, a symbol of public humiliation, stood in the center, and within them were Henry and Nicholas, their faces displaying the residue of a night filled with ill-advised choices.
Theodore hesitated for a moment, wrestling with the decision of whether to openly approach his friends or maintain a cautious distance. Ultimately, loyalty won over discretion. He took a deep breath and strode towards the stocks, his pace deliberate but not hurried…You can read the rest of this AI generated chapter based on Honesty is the Best Policy here.
For this one, it felt more useful. It took the small draft I had written to illustrate a point and expanded on it to tell a compelling start of a tale. There were a few phrases and lines that I think could be cut or edited down.
Works of Art in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
However, using AI to help flesh out a scene like this feels like a way to use AI as a tool versus relying on it to create. That’s really my point. As long as the author imbues their soul and experiences to their works then the works themselves have value and meaning. Ignoring the political notions of The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction and instead focusing on “aura” as what I call the soul of the author. One could say “that which withers in the age of [artificial intelligence] is the aura of the work of art.” I think a piece of art needs human intent to be truly valuable. Maybe I’ll change my mind some day, but I sincerely doubt it.
Note: I’m not the first to make the Art in the Age of Artificial Intelligence comparison. Definitely won’t be the last.