As AI chatbots grow more powerful, people are experimenting with all kinds of uses for bots that can spit out lots of coherent text, some quite successfully, others not so much. One area where there was not as much meaning and successful experimentation was the use of large language models to write whole novels. But one person has recently taken issue with this, asking ChatGPT to end George RR Martin’s long-running book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, on which the TV show Game of Thrones is based.
And the AI did… well, not too bad. But don’t expect him to replace Martin anytime soon, either.
Independent developer Liam Swayne he published a project today where he used ChatGPT to write the next two books in the Song of Ice and Fire series: The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring. Speaking to IGN, Swayne explains that he guided ChatGPT to write the books through a series of prompts: First he gave ChatGPT one prompt to create an outline for the first chapter of The Winds of Winter. Then, he did that over and over again to create a total of 45 chapters. From there, he returned those outlines to ChatGPT and asked him for a more detailed outline of the same chapters. And finally, he used those extended outlines as prompts to ask ChatGPT to write the chapters themselves, turning each bullet point into its own scene.
If you are thinking that a full to read and just wanted to summarize how well AI really did at this task, thankfully Swayne shared some highlights with us. First of all, credit where it’s due, ChatGPT seems to be very good at tracking character continuity even with a web as complex as the one in the Game of Thrones books. One example Swayne posted on GitHub shows ChatGPT including the character Illyrio in the first few paragraphs, then disappearing for over a hundred thousand words before returning to one scene with Varys, then disappearing again for another huge amount of time. ChatGPT was able to remember Illyrio and reintroduce him when it made sense, highlighting ChatGPT’s amazing ability to “remember” information and recall it when needed.
That said, ChatGPT is not going to replace Martin anytime soon. As great as it is at mapping out a plot, it’s lousy at Martin’s favorite trick: killing off characters in surprising ways. Despite being specifically inspired for a story that includes many character deaths, ChatGPT fails to kill anyone interesting in two whole novels.
It’s a bit better at general plot types, though. Swayne tells me that one of his favorite plot twists in AI The Winds of Winter is Lord Jon Connington turning traitor against Daenerys Targaryen, “a twist I didn’t see coming but it served the story well”. Another moment in A Dream of Spring Bran had a vision that the Wall was not just a physical barrier, but a mystical shield that held back the power of the Night King. “This twist fits well within the universe and builds tension for the rest of the story,” says Swayne.
When I ask Swayne what conclusions he has drawn from this project about AI and a long-form text like Martin’s novels, his answer was positive for writers and fans of human-created literature themselves:
Large language models can be very scary, but this project makes me more hopeful about the future of writers and AI. This project shows that large language models like ChatGPT can take hundreds of pages of text into account when deciding on a narrative, which can help writers quickly set plots. It also shows that AI can only do what has been done many times before. This project gave me confidence that AI will not replace unique literary works anytime soon. I believe that the AI had difficulty writing character deaths specifically because most writers (and therefore, most of the training data) are reluctant to kill major characters. This is part of what separates George RR Martin from other writers: his stories make unconventional, surprising decisions. At this point, AI can only do the most common, which means it struggles to create stories that don’t go by the books. I was very surprised when I started this project that writers who make unexpected creative decisions cannot be replaced.
Sure, ChatGPT might have given us something to read while we wait for Martin to finish the books (he recently said that The Wind of Winter is about three-quarters of the way done, back in 2022). But we can be sure that what Martin is concocting is probably much more interesting than the AI version. And hey, it looks like AI could end up being a rich tool for writers who want to keep track of their own complex plot maps and character webs, too.
Earlier this year, we explored other possibilities of AI, for good and ill, here at IGN in our AI Week. You can check out all these ideas at our AI Week hub.
Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.