Is AI writing any good?

The robots are coming for us!

I swear at some point I will stop using clicheed (AI-generated) images for posts about AI, but I love making robot armies so here we are.

You will probably know by now that I’m not hostile to AI, but I’m not terribly hawkish about it either, especially not for its use in writing fiction.

The reason is pretty basic: I don’t believe it will help me write more efficient or better fiction.

Note that I’m happy if other people find it helpful. Just not for me.

Honestly I believe AI’s fiction writing capability is pretty crappy.

Sure, you can get it to spit out a working version of a short-ish piece. This is not as easy as those who have never worked with it think it is, but you can do it. You can even get some nice scenes.

But it lacks emotional integrity and intelligence.

AI fiction writing illustrates why AI is a misnomer. It’s artificial all right, but intelligence… that’d be a big, fat NOPE!

AI merely spits our own historic work back at us. And while it does so, it cannot make emotional connections. Because it’s a model of probabilities, not intelligent at all.

You can tell AI writing by its distant prose. It’s very poor at POV immersion and piss-poor at allusion, double-negatives, sarcasm and anything other than the most clicheed metaphors, especially metaphors that don’t follow the set format (I’m talking about metaphors and allusions that may spread over more than one sentence).

This is a hugely interesting experiment (now with results, linked at the top)

If you look at sample 7, the entire latter half of the sample consists of a sentence type that is very common in ChatGPT fiction. There are seven sentences. Six follow the pattern. [Character doing something], [descriptive clause], [character doing something else].

People incorrectly identified #5 as AI, and I knew it wasn’t, although I am also not a huge fan of the writing, but you see how there is repetition where the female character says “It is you” twice in close succession for literary effect. AI would never ever do that. AI doesn’t “do” literary effects.

AI writing is terribly “on the nose”. It doesn’t allude. It doesn’t have a double meaning. It doesn’t mean just the opposite of what’s on the page (a human would write and understand this, because, well, human).

If I ask AI to write a business email with certain elements, it’s very good at that. I still wouldn’t let the email loose in the world without checking, but the result should do the job.

If I asked the same AI to write an email to a coworker I hate to say that I’ve done all the stuff she asked me to do, but at the same time, be really passive-aggressive about it, it would fail badly.

And here is the rub: this is the space that engaging fiction inhabits. Stuff like discussions between characters where the reader can pick up that none of dialogue actually means what the characters want to say. Interactions between characters where the reader has figured out that they hate each other but this isn’t actually stated on the page anywhere. The scenes where what’s not being said is far more important than what is being said.

Those are the things that will make a reader think: I’m really enjoying this.

And AI can’t do that. I very much doubt it will ever be able to do that. Not without copious editing and checking and rewriting, and by that time, I might as well write the thing, because I know what I want, even if the infernal model doesn’t.

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