A revolution is gripping artists: Artificial Intelligence. With the recent advancements in ChatGPT and deep fakes, artists were quick to voice concern. The fear of robots taking over creative output loomed over these discussions, like a dark cloud ahead of the upcoming storm. The essayist and YouTuber, Evan Puschack from the Nerdwriter, reflected these fears yet provides a provocative view: humanity may evolve into editors as opposed to writers, proofreaders instead of creators. After all, a novel composed by ChatGPT would require editing and embellishment, as opposed to writing and rewriting. Yet it’s not a convincing view on fiction writing.
I’m a novelist working on her third novel. In the past few years, the experience of book blogging and fiction writing have stressed nuances in creative writing. These are rarely discussed in debate about technology and art. A rebuttal, therefore, is crucial.
I do not believe a robot can write a masterpiece, rivalling greats such as Leo Tolstoy and Thomas Mann, who shaped literature through their keen, humane observations. It is impossible for a robot to accomplish this brilliant level. My article will clarify artists’ concerns while providing a roadmap towards using A.I for literary projects.
Novels are not written overnight. They take months and years, sometimes decades, as long-form fiction requires depth to characters, setting and narrative structure, difficult for robots to accomplish within seconds. Tolstoy emphasised this. Both Anna Karenina and War and Peace were composed over various drafts and revisions. The end result, masterworks of Russian literature, required time, commitment and personality. Robots value speed, convenience and sameness. So far, the writing samples from ChatGPT lack any personality or ‘heart.’ It is dull literature set to a formula. The literary canon, whether Western or Global, reject such storytelling due to its intrinsic lack of merit.
Meanwhile, a novelist showing personality, independent thought and philosophical insight is hopefully rewarded with acclaim. This is certainly true for modern literature, from Jane Austen’s Emma to Anna Burn’s Milkman. Perhaps these are novels only these women could write. Novels, after all, are born from life. Those familiar with Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Demons can attest to this claim. Computers are not qualitative, they are quantitative. These mechanical parts, contrasted with the human mind, differ in fundamental ways that neither can become the other. Transhumanism has limits.
Novels are also never based on a single idea or prompt. Take George Orwell’s fiery 1984; the commentary on politics, love, diplomacy, human nature and tyranny is not made significant by analysing these themes separately, but through understanding Orwell’s jigsaw-puzzle like fusion of them. A novel is a well-built dollhouse. The miniaturist figurines derive purpose from other porcelain objects and the pastel coloured backdrop. All these elements work together. Even if a robot builds a single piece, it cannot curate everything to an excellent standard. Many writers have used ChatGPT for rough character sketches and research purposes. Whilst more is required for a full-length novel, this is a thrilling example, combining modern computer science with historical storytelling modes. Literature has never ignored technology. After the development of the printing press by Gutenburg, writers seized this opportunity, some high on the promises of Reformation.
Typewriters and laptops have been used by writers. We cannot avoid machines. Rather, writers must develop a sensible use of them, perhaps using A.I to ask research questions, create worldbuilding maps or discover synonyms. These opportunities benefit writers. Another solution is treating A.I generated art and literature as its own category. Already, robots have created unique content, fusing images together. The current lack of sophistication may change. Because of this, we can place these visuals into a unique category. Art history promotes this view: it is normal to distinguish sculpture, dance and poetry from each other. It is not unrealistic to apply the same logic to A.I generated art.
I also imagine writers composing novels alongside A.I. Robots can already automate simple tasks regarding spell check and word choice. Of course, most editors are sharply aware of the flaws present in Microsoft Word’s spell check. The same applies to translators frustrated with the limitations burdening Google Translate. However, A.I and technology have transformed language learning into a vibrant and accessible field.
(On a side note, I recommend Babbel for Russian and German, check it out through this cheeky affiliate link!)
The same will apply to creative writing. Therefore, we should not view Artificial Intelligence as a replacement for novel writing, but a tool writers will use, just as pens, computers, paper and typewriters are utilised. A.I cannot write a great novel on its own as it is impossible. Humanity is required for this. Of course, A.I is changing rapidly. My opinions and others will change over the next few years; such is the consequence of technology. This article hopefully illuminated a necessary perspective regarding novel writing and artificial intelligence.
You are welcome to share your opinions in the comments.