I went ahead and asked ChatGPT to write a novel. Here are the results.
Last October, I tried feeding the opening of Pride and Prejudice to some AI content generators. The results were by turns ridiculous and intriguing.
A little more than a month later, ChatGPT was released. Several other AI chatbots followed, and now a lot of novelists are genuinely concerned about a future where AIs might replace us.
Is that possible?
I asked ChatGPT to write an entire novel for me, just to see what would happen.
To start, I asked the AI for 10 ideas for a fantasy novel.
I chose one of the ideas.
And I set a rule for myself: I could ask the AI for more text, but I could not revise that text or in any way try to shape the story by suggesting what might happen next. If ChatGPT was going to take my job, after all, it needed to be prepared to do its own work.
I kept prompting the AI until the story reached something like a conclusion. Then I asked for a title, and “Dreamweavers: Guardians of the Everdream” was born.
I’ll post the complete story below, but first, here are my observations.
- The prose was clean. I think this is the thing that scares writers about AI–any handful of sentences, taken alone, mostly sound okay.
- The cliche level was high. Voices quaver, hearts blaze, chests heave, legends are forged, destinies are intertwined, visages are ethereal, and of course, prophecies and artifacts are ancient. If a village is being saved from the darkness, a resilient child who has lost his entire family to the darkness appears on cue to tug at our heartstrings.
AI chatbots don’t do anything so direct as to remix the words of the works that came before it. Instead they learn that patterns of our stories, what words frequently follow each other, what tropes are most often found together. They don’t commit straightforward cut-and-paste acts of plagiarism, but they also don’t create anything new.
- The AI got the rule show, don’t tell backwards. Beneath the deceptively competent prose, the story read more like a summary or outline of a novel, not like an actual story for a reader to watch unfold.
- The “novel” was short. ChatGPT kept trying to end it even sooner, and I kept encouraging it to go on, but after 5000 words we reached a place where I could no longer convince myself the story was anything but done.
Partly this was because of all that summarizing, and partly it was because of a tendency on ChatGPT’s part to keep trying to circle around to an unearned dramatic ending. Much like when Smart Copy tried to write a Jane Austen vampire novel for me, ChatGPT could only keep its forward momentum going for so long.
- The AI couldn’t hold on to the thread of the narrative. This may be its greatest weakness as a storyteller. Artifacts were granted to the protagonist, used once or twice, and forgotten. The protagonist, Ariella, returned to places she had never actually left. Characters were introduced and forgotten–including a team of “destined” dreamweaver companions who Ariella assembles just in time for the story to never mention them again.
AI chatbots can only keep track of what they’re talking about for so long.
This is just one anecdote, of course, but for now, my take is that getting a complete, coherent, readable novel from an AI chatbot would take as much work or more work than writing the book oneself. It would require constant feedback and reworking and rethinking and editing–things that, together, are a large part of the writing process. Little time would be saved, and even then, the results probably wouldn’t be all that great.
I can’t know whether AIs might replace writers one day, though I’m pretty skeptical. But right now?
We’re not even close. AI chatbots like ChatGPT aren’t really even designed for writing novels right now, as even a short time working with them makes clear.
Instead I think one of the greatest dangers–not only for writers and those who hire them, but for those using AI for other purposes as well–may be in imagining that AI is capable of more than it is, and in moving forward and making decisions based on this assumption.
The full “novel” follows. You can also visit ChatGPT to read the story alongside the prompts that generated it.
Dreamweavers: Guardians of the Everdream
In the quiet realm of Somnia, where dreams held sway and imagination was the currency of the land, a young woman named Ariella wandered through the ethereal landscapes of slumber. Ariella was no ordinary dreamer; she was a gifted dreamweaver, blessed with the rare ability to shape and mold the dreams of others. With a delicate touch and a vibrant imagination, she wove tapestries of wonder, bringing joy and solace to those who sought refuge in the realm of sleep.
But on this moonlit night, as Ariella ventured deeper into the recesses of Somnia, a foreboding chill wrapped around her heart. The once-vibrant dreamscape seemed tainted, its colors muted, as if a shadow had fallen across its magical horizons. Unease prickled at her skin, and her senses tingled with an otherworldly presence.
As she neared the edge of a crystalline lake, Ariella’s keen eyes caught a glimpse of movement beneath the tranquil surface. Ripples disrupted the mirror-like stillness, revealing distorted reflections that twisted and contorted with dark intent. A surge of panic coursed through her veins, for she realized with a shudder that nightmares had breached the boundaries of sleep, seeping into the waking world.
With a determined resolve, Ariella raced back through the winding corridors of Somnia, her footsteps echoing through the hallowed halls. She sought the council of the Dreamkeepers, the ancient guardians entrusted with safeguarding the realm from malevolent forces. In the heart of the Dreamkeep Citadel, she found herself standing before a gathering of wise elders, their eyes brimming with concern.
“Elders,” she began, her voice quivering with urgency. “The realm is under siege. Nightmares have invaded our waking world, their tendrils spreading like a sinister plague. We must act swiftly, lest the fabric of reality crumbles under their malevolent influence.”
The Dreamkeepers exchanged worried glances, the weight of the situation etched upon their weathered faces. They knew the dire consequences of allowing nightmares to roam free beyond the boundaries of sleep, for if left unchecked, the very essence of humanity could be consumed by darkness.
“We hear your plea, Ariella,” one of the elders spoke, his voice resonating with ancient wisdom. “But the eradication of these nightmares requires a unique alliance of dreamweavers. You must gather a team, for together, your combined strength may be enough to push back the encroaching darkness.”
Ariella nodded, her determination igniting like a flickering flame within her core. She would assemble a band of dream warriors, those who could traverse the dreamscape and stand against the nightmarish intruders. Their journey would be treacherous, fraught with perils both tangible and intangible, but the fate of humanity rested upon their shoulders.
As she stepped out into the moonlit night, Ariella gazed up at the starry sky, drawing strength from the infinite expanse above. The task ahead was daunting, but she had the power of dreams on her side. With unwavering resolve, she set forth on a quest to protect the waking world from the encroaching nightmares that threatened its very existence.
Ariella ventured into the realm of Somnia once more, her steps guided by an unseen force. She sought out those who possessed the extraordinary ability to manipulate dreams, searching for allies who could stand beside her in the battle against the encroaching nightmares. Her path took her through twisted forests of surreal foliage, where dreams and reality intertwined, and across shimmering plains where forgotten memories danced in the moonlight.
In the depths of a hidden grove, she discovered the first of her destined comrades. Lysander, a stoic figure with eyes that mirrored the starry skies, was a dreamwalker who traversed the vast expanse of dreams with grace and agility. With each step he took, the very ground seemed to ripple like a mirage, and the dreamscape responded to his presence. Lysander listened intently as Ariella spoke of the nightmares that plagued the waking world, his commitment to the cause evident in the determined set of his jaw.
Together, they journeyed further, their path leading them to the edge of a luminous waterfall that cascaded into an abyss of dreams below. It was there that they encountered Esme, a mischievous sprite who flitted through the air with ethereal grace. Esme was a dreamshaper, her touch capable of molding dreams into whimsical forms. She had witnessed the intrusion of nightmares firsthand, and her once-playful demeanor had been replaced by a steely resolve. She joined Ariella and Lysander without hesitation, her presence a testament to the urgency of their mission.
As their ranks swelled with dreamweavers of various talents and backgrounds, they forged deeper into the heart of Somnia, their destination clear—a mythical sanctuary known as the Veil of Reverie. Legends whispered of its existence, a sanctuary where dreams were forged and nightmares held no power. It was said that within its hallowed halls lay ancient knowledge and artifacts that could turn the tide against the encroaching darkness.
Their path grew treacherous, the very fabric of dreams unraveling around them as nightmares clawed at the boundaries of Somnia. The air grew thick with an oppressive aura, as if the dreams themselves mourned the intrusion of darkness. But Ariella’s resolve did not waver. She clung to the belief that the power of dreams, when united, could overcome any adversity.
With the Veil of Reverie shimmering in the distance, Ariella knew that their journey was far from over. The true battle had yet to begin, and the fate of both the waking world and the realm of dreams hung in the balance. As the moonlight bathed her in its gentle glow, she whispered a vow to herself and her companions: they would become the protectors of dreams, the warriors who would stand against the nightmares and preserve the hope and wonder that dreams held.
Through the Veil of Reverie they passed, stepping into a realm bathed in an ethereal glow. The sanctuary unfolded before them, a tapestry of shimmering mists and floating islands adorned with blossoms that emitted a soft luminescence. The air hummed with ancient whispers, and the dreamweavers felt the weight of history upon their shoulders.
In the heart of the sanctuary stood an enigmatic figure known as the Dream Guardian. With hair as silver as moonlight and eyes that mirrored the depths of the cosmos, the Guardian possessed wisdom earned through eons of vigilance. It was said that the Guardian’s power flowed from the very essence of dreams themselves.
Ariella and her companions bowed before the Dream Guardian, their eyes alight with determination and hope. They shared the tale of nightmares creeping into the waking world, of the impending doom that loomed over humanity. The Guardian listened, nodding solemnly as the gravity of the situation unfolded before them.
“You have come seeking answers and the means to safeguard dreams,” the Guardian spoke, their voice a melodious harmony that resonated through the sanctuary. “But know this, dear dreamweavers: the road ahead is fraught with trials and sacrifices. The nightmares that plague your world are born from a darkness that seeks to consume the essence of dreams themselves. To prevail, you must confront not only the external threat but also the shadows that dwell within.”
With those words, the Dream Guardian revealed the sacred artifacts of the dreamweavers—their weapons and tools imbued with the very essence of dreams. Each dreamweaver stepped forward, accepting their chosen artifact with reverence and understanding. These relics held the potential to channel their powers and enhance their abilities in the fight against the encroaching nightmares.
The Dream Guardian bestowed upon Ariella a staff adorned with celestial symbols. As her fingers wrapped around its smooth surface, a surge of energy coursed through her veins. She could feel the dreams of countless souls whispering within, urging her to rise and defend the realm.
Armed with their newfound artifacts and emboldened by the blessing of the Dream Guardian, Ariella and her assembled dream warriors set forth from the sanctuary, their path clear. They would journey back to the waking world, where darkness lurked at the edges of consciousness, threatening the balance of dreams and reality.
United in purpose and armed with the power of dreams, the dreamweavers braced themselves for the battle to come. They knew that their efforts would be a beacon of hope for a world on the brink of despair. With unwavering resolve, they stepped through the Veil of Reverie, ready to face the nightmares head-on and protect the fragile tapestry of dreams from being unraveled.
As the dreamweavers passed back through the Veil of Reverie, the borders between the realms of dreams and reality blurred, and they emerged into the waking world. The transition was palpable—the air felt heavier, laden with the residue of nightmares seeping into the cracks of existence. They found themselves in a desolate forest, where twisted trees loomed like skeletal sentinels, their branches reaching out like clawed fingers.
Ariella took a moment to survey her companions, a diverse assembly of dreamweavers who had pledged their abilities to this noble cause. Among them was Seraphine, a sorceress whose magic manifested through dazzling illusions, and Roran, a stoic guardian who could conjure ethereal shields to protect their allies. There was also Calder, a rogue with the ability to slip between shadows, and Aria, a bard whose melodic voice could weave enchantments.
Together, they formed an unbreakable bond, drawing strength from their shared purpose. Ariella looked into their eyes and saw reflections of her own determination mirrored back at her. They were ready to face the nightmares and restore balance to the realm.
Their first destination lay in a nearby village, where reports of sinister occurrences had surfaced. As they approached, the dreamweavers saw the aftermath of twisted dreams materialized into the waking world. Buildings were half-submerged in darkness, and the villagers moved about like specters, their faces etched with fear and despair.
Amidst the chaos, a young boy named Jonas caught Ariella’s attention. His wide eyes reflected a mixture of innocence and terror as he stared at the ominous shadows engulfing his home. Without hesitation, Ariella approached him, her voice gentle yet determined.
“What happened here, young one?” she inquired, crouching down to meet Jonas at eye level.
“The nightmares… they took my family,” Jonas whispered, his voice trembling with sadness. “They came from the darkness and… and…”
Ariella placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, her heart aching for the boy’s loss. “Fear not, for we are dreamweavers, defenders of dreams and protectors of the realm. We will bring an end to these nightmares and ensure your safety.”
Jonas glanced at the dreamweavers surrounding Ariella, hope kindling in his eyes. With newfound courage, he nodded, a spark of determination igniting within him. “I’ll help you in any way I can,” he vowed.
Moved by the boy’s resilience, Ariella gave him a warm smile. “Your bravery is commendable, Jonas. Together, we shall reclaim this village from the clutches of darkness.”
The dreamweavers spread out through the village, their artifacts pulsing with radiant energy as they confronted the nightmares that haunted the waking world. Ariella summoned her dreamweaver staff, its celestial symbols glowing with a soft luminescence. She channeled her power, calling upon the essence of dreams that flowed within her, and weaved intricate patterns in the air. Dreams took shape, manifested into protective barriers that pushed back the encroaching darkness.
The battle against the nightmares was fierce and relentless. The dreamweavers fought side by side, their unique abilities intertwining in a symphony of magic. Seraphine cast illusions to disorient the nightmares, while Roran unleashed powerful strikes with his ethereal blades. Calder darted through shadows, delivering swift and precise strikes, and Aria sang enchanting melodies that soothed the restless spirits.
The dreamweavers’ efforts were not in vain. With each nightmare banished, the light of hope began to flicker within the villagers’ hearts. They witnessed firsthand the power
As the dreamweavers continued their valiant struggle against the nightmares, a glimmer of renewed hope spread through the village. The nightmares, once unrelenting in their assault, began to falter in the face of the dreamweavers’ resilience. The dark tendrils that gripped the buildings and streets weakened, and the encroaching shadows receded.
Emboldened by their progress, Ariella rallied her companions. “We’re making a difference,” she declared, her voice carrying a note of triumph. “But we cannot falter now. We must press on until every last trace of darkness is banished from this village.”
With their determination rekindled, the dreamweavers pushed forward, their movements a harmonious dance of power and purpose. They reached the village square, where a towering nightmare loomed, its presence suffocating. It thrashed and writhed, its form shifting and contorting in an unsettling display.
Ariella and her comrades stood before the nightmare, their hearts pounding in unison. They knew that defeating this monstrous embodiment of fear would not only save the village but also send a powerful message to the encroaching darkness that their resolve was unwavering.
Seraphine raised her hands, conjuring a dazzling display of illusions that obscured the nightmare’s vision. Roran charged forward, his ethereal blades slashing through the darkness, while Calder unleashed a flurry of swift and deadly strikes. Aria’s voice soared, her enchanting melodies infusing the dreamweavers with renewed strength.
Ariella, wielding her dreamweaver staff, channeled her deepest connection to the realm of dreams. She closed her eyes, allowing the dreams of the villagers and her fellow dreamweavers to intertwine with her own. Energy surged through her, an unstoppable force that flowed through her veins like a river of pure light.
With a resolute cry, Ariella unleashed a torrent of dream energy upon the nightmare. The very fabric of dreams responded, weaving around the creature like ethereal chains, binding it with the strength of collective hope. The nightmare writhed in agony, its monstrous form weakening with every passing moment.
Then, with a final surge of power, the nightmare shattered into a thousand shards of darkness, dissolving into nothingness. The village square was bathed in a warm glow as the nightmare’s influence evaporated, leaving behind only the echoes of victory.
The dreamweavers stood amidst the triumphant silence, catching their breath and surveying the transformed village. The once desolate and twisted forest had given way to vibrant flora, while the spectral villagers emerged from their homes, their faces etched with relief and gratitude.
Jonas, the young boy who had lost his family, approached Ariella with tears glistening in his eyes. “Thank you,” he whispered, his voice filled with a mixture of grief and gratitude. “You saved us.”
Ariella knelt down and embraced him, the weight of the moment lingering in the air. “We did it together, Jonas,” she replied, her voice filled with compassion. “Remember, darkness may seek to consume, but the power of dreams and unity can bring forth the light.”
The dreamweavers became revered figures in the village, their deeds spoken of in hushed whispers and tales passed down through generations. They continued their quest, traveling far and wide to confront nightmares wherever they arose. With each battle, they grew stronger and their bond deeper.
As they ventured forth, their reputation spread throughout the land, inspiring others to stand against the encroaching darkness. Dreamweavers from distant realms joined their cause, forging an alliance that transcended borders and united dreamers of all kinds. Together, they became
With their ranks swelling, the dreamweaver alliance embarked on a grand quest to protect not only their own realms but also the collective dreams of humanity. They traversed treacherous landscapes, delved into ancient temples, and braved the darkest corners of the subconscious. Their battles were fierce, their victories hard-earned, but their resolve remained unyielding.
As their reputation grew, whispers of their exploits reached even the highest echelons of power. Kings and queens sought their aid, knowing that the fate of their realms rested on the dreamweavers’ shoulders. It was in these royal courts that legends were forged and destinies intertwined.
Ariella, now a seasoned leader, stood at the forefront of this noble cause. She embodied the essence of a true dreamweaver—fierce yet compassionate, steadfast yet adaptable. The dreamweavers looked to her for guidance, and her wisdom guided them through the most perilous of trials.
Together, they uncovered ancient prophecies that foretold of a cataclysmic clash between dreams and nightmares—a battle that would decide the very fate of existence. Armed with this knowledge, they prepared for their greatest challenge yet, uniting dreamers from every realm in a mighty alliance that spanned dimensions.
As the final confrontation loomed, Ariella stood before the assembled dreamweavers, her voice carrying across the vast expanse. “We are the dreamweavers, guardians of the realms and protectors of dreams,” she proclaimed, her words infused with a resolute determination. “In the face of darkness, we shall be the light. Together, we shall prevail.”
And so, the dreamweavers embarked on their ultimate quest, their hearts aflame with courage and hope. Through the realms they traveled, their unity resonating like a beacon of defiance against the encroaching nightmares. Their journey would lead them to the very heart of the dream realm, where dreams and nightmares waged an eternal battle for dominion.
The dreamweavers traversed the ethereal planes, guided by ancient prophecies and the collective dreams of countless souls. They encountered celestial beings who bestowed upon them otherworldly blessings, augmenting their powers in preparation for the impending battle. The very fabric of the dream realm seemed to ripple with anticipation, aware of the pivotal role the dreamweavers played in shaping its destiny.
At long last, they reached the Sanctum of Dreams, a place of unimaginable beauty and power. Its towering spires pierced the heavens, and its shimmering halls echoed with the whispers of forgotten dreams. In this sacred haven, the dreamweavers would make their final stand against the nightmarish forces that sought to devour the realm of dreams.
Within the Sanctum, they discovered a dormant entity—the Dreamweaver’s Heart, an ancient artifact said to be the source of all dreams. Its radiance pulsed with a gentle rhythm, waiting to be awakened. Ariella approached the heart, her hand trembling with reverence. As her fingertips brushed against its surface, a surge of energy coursed through her, intertwining her destiny with that of the realm.
The dreamweavers gathered around Ariella, their presence lending strength and unity. Together, they channeled their collective dream energy into the Dreamweaver’s Heart, awakening its dormant power. A blinding light engulfed them, and the Sanctum trembled as the heart radiated with newfound vigor.
Empowered by the heart’s awakening, the dreamweavers were granted the ability to venture into the deepest recesses of the nightmare realm, where the malevolent forces awaited their arrival. They donned armor forged from the essence of dreams, their artifacts glowing with an intensity that matched the blaze in their hearts.
As they stepped into the nightmare realm, the dreamweavers were confronted by unimaginable horrors—the embodiment of twisted fears and forgotten nightmares. But they did not waver. With every strike, every spell, and every harmonious note, they pushed back the darkness, unraveling the nightmares one by one.
Through battles that tested their resolve and sacrifice that pushed their limits, the dreamweavers neared the heart of the nightmare realm. They faced the ultimate adversary—the Nightmare Weaver, a sinister being that sought to submerge the realms in eternal darkness.
Ariella, infused with the power of the Dreamweaver’s Heart, stood at the forefront of the final clash. She met the Nightmare Weaver’s gaze, her eyes ablaze with determination. With a surge of energy, she unleashed a torrent of dream energy, a cascade of brilliance that enveloped the Nightmare Weaver.
The realm shook as the clash between light and darkness reached its crescendo. The Nightmare Weaver fought desperately, but Ariella’s resolve was unyielding. With a final strike, she shattered the nightmare’s form, dispersing the darkness that had plagued the realms.
With the Nightmare Weaver defeated and the nightmare realm cleansed of its malevolent presence, a wave of tranquility washed over the realms of dreams and reality. The dreamweavers stood in the aftermath of their victory, their chests heaving with exertion and triumph. The Sanctum of Dreams echoed with the collective sigh of relief from dreamers across dimensions.
As the dreamweavers basked in the moment, a gentle voice echoed through the sanctum. It was the voice of the Elder Dreamer, a wise and ancient being who had watched over the realms since time immemorial. The dreamweavers turned their attention to the ethereal figure that materialized before them, its luminous form shimmering with boundless wisdom.
“Brave dreamweavers,” the Elder Dreamer spoke, its voice like a soothing melody. “You have fulfilled your destinies and safeguarded the realm of dreams. The harmony between dreams and reality owes you a debt of gratitude.”
Ariella stepped forward, her gaze fixed upon the Elder Dreamer. “We are honored to have served,” she replied, her voice filled with reverence. “But our journey does not end here. There is much work to be done to ensure that the realms remain in balance.”
The Elder Dreamer nodded, a gentle smile gracing its ethereal visage. “Indeed, the realms are ever-evolving. As the dreamweavers, your purpose transcends a single victory. The threads of dreams and reality are intertwined, and your guidance shall be sought in times of need.”
With those words, the Elder Dreamer extended a hand, and a brilliant light emanated from its palm. The dreamweavers watched in awe as a constellation of stars materialized, forming a celestial map that spanned across realms. It revealed the intricate connections between dreams, realities, and the path the dreamweavers must traverse.
“The journey continues,” the Elder Dreamer said, its voice resolute. “In every dreamer’s heart, a spark of your light resides. Guide them, protect them, and ensure that the power of dreams remains a beacon of hope in their lives.”
Embracing their newfound purpose, the dreamweavers pledged their unwavering commitment to the eternal balance. They vowed to nurture dreams, ward off nightmares, and champion the potential within every slumbering mind.
And so, the dreamweavers set forth on a new quest—one that would take them to unexplored realms, where dreams awaited their touch and nightmares cowered in fear. They became the guardians of dreams, the harbingers of inspiration, and the defenders of the realm’s collective imagination.
As their story unfolded, legends were etched in the annals of time. Dreamers across dimensions whispered their names in awe and shared tales of their heroic deeds. The dreamweavers were no longer mere mortals—they had become immortalized symbols of courage, hope, and the indomitable power of dreams.
Together, they would navigate the intricate tapestry of dreams and reality, their hearts forever intertwined with the very essence of existence. And wherever darkness threatened to encroach upon the realms, the dreamweavers would rise, their unity an unbreakable force against the tides of night.
For as long as dreams were cherished, their legacy would endure—a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit and the resplendent beauty that lies within the realm of dreams.
And so, the dreamweavers embarked on their timeless quest, their souls forever intertwined with the dreams of humanity, as the realms of dreams and reality found solace in their watchful presence.