Six months ago we announced:

We would like to find the best prompt to make GPT-4 do the following:

  • write the first chapter of a science fiction novel
  • the result should be good enough to make seasoned sci-fi readers (us) crave for a continuation

Why?

  • to create a "midjourney moment" for writers. The sooner we have an AI-written Nebula-quality novel, the more people will realize that the actually intelligent AI is already here
  • to better evaluate the creativity of GPT-4
  • to blow our minds with a surprisingly good AI-generated sci-fi story (which is the ultimate science fiction moment by itself).

Today we announce the winner: Waldvogel. The stories generated with their prompt turned out to be the most captivating and the most enjoyable to read. We ask them to message us so we discuss how to better transfer the $300.

At the end of this post are 3 stories that GPT-4 has written, using the winner’s prompt plus our custom plot summaries. You can find the prompt and the plot summaries at the very end.

How we evaluated the prompts:

  1. Generate 3 stories for each prompt, using our plot summaries. 1 shot.
  2. Read each story and rate it from 1 to 10. The criterion: how strongly we want to read the continuation.
  3. Sum up the scores for each prompt.
  4. The prompt with the highest total score – wins.

Some conclusions we drew from reading the generated stories

The whole experience is liberating. If you’re writing a story, you can now write a decent first draft in minutes. The gap between your imagination and a decent text is much smaller now. 

One learns to recognize the prose generated by GPT-4. The plot twists may be original and interesting, but many story elements and many phrases are often reused. 

A competent editor is required to make a publishable material from it. But perhaps one can partially replace the editor with GPT-4 itself. 

The overall quality strongly depends on the prompt. It’s possible that some better prompt can squeeze even better stories out of GPT-4.

The participants have tried several prompting strategies: write a long enumeration of requirements, ask GPT-4 itself to write the requirements, just ask GPT-4 to pretend to be a writer, add some quirky personality traits, etc. At the end, the strongest prompt turned out to be one of the simplest (59 words). But the second-strongest prompt contains 1100 words, and it was not far behind by the total score. 

We used the vanilla web version (chat.openai.com). If you play with temperature etc, you likely can get even better results, especially with some best-of-N sampling.

GPT-4 is still far from writing at the “Nebula” level. But it has already surpassed the level of a novice writer with some years of practice. 

GPT-4, a machine, is already capable of writing interesting science fiction. This is a science fiction moment by itself. 

The winner’s stories

Story 1.

The sun pierced through the blinds, casting striped shadows across my bed. I groggily reached for my phone, the usual morning routine. Great, another day in paradise, I thought sarcastically. Then, I felt it. A weight on my neck, unfamiliar and... squishy?

"Ow!" I yelped, touching my face, or rather, what should have been my face. My hands recoiled as they met something round, smooth, and distinctly... tomatoey?

I bolted to the mirror, my heart pounding. There, in the reflection, was a woman with a ripe, red tomato for a head. "This is a joke, right?" I said, half-expecting my normal face to reappear. But no, just a tomato, with my usual messy hair sprouting from the top.

My roommate, Jenna, stumbled in, eyes half-closed. "Hey, do you know where my—WHOA!" She froze, staring at me, or rather, my tomato head.

"I know, I'm a walking salad ingredient," I quipped, trying to lighten the mood. It didn't work.

"How did this even happen?" Jenna asked, her eyes wide.

"Well, I definitely didn't ask for extra veggies on my face," I retorted, trying to maintain my signature sarcasm despite the panic rising in my chest.

Jenna inched closer, reaching out tentatively. "Does it hurt?"

"Only my pride," I replied dryly.

We heard a knock at the door. "Are you ladies decent?" It was our neighbor, Mr. Thompson.

"Define 'decent'," I muttered, rolling my eyes.

Jenna opened the door. "Hi, Mr. Thompson, can this wait? We're having a... situation."

Mr. Thompson peered in, his gaze landing on me. His eyes nearly popped out of his head. "Good Lord, what happened to you?"

"I woke up feeling a bit seedy," I said, unable to resist.

Before anyone could respond, a sharp, sudden pain exploded in my tomato head. I gasped, my vision blurring.

"Hey, are you okay?" Jenna's voice sounded distant.

Then, as if things weren't bizarre enough, a vine started sprouting from the top of my tomato head, growing rapidly, twisting around my hair.

"This can't be good," I mumbled, before everything went black.

The room was spinning as I lost consciousness, the last thing I heard being Jenna's panicked voice and the sound of Mr. Thompson exclaiming, "I always said eating vegetables would be the end of us!"


Story 2.


The sun was glaring down on Main Street, casting long shadows from the old oaks that lined the sidewalk. I leaned against the chipped paint of the corner store, watching people scurry by, their faces buried in screens and thoughts.

Great, another scorching day in paradise. Just what I needed, I thought, rolling my eyes.

A group of kids raced past me, their laughter echoing off the buildings. My gaze followed them, a smirk tugging at my lips. Ah, to be young and oblivious.

"Hey, Jamie!" called out Mr. Henderson, the store owner, as he stepped outside. "You gonna buy something, or are you just decoration?"

I grinned, pushing off the wall. "I'm thinking, Mr. H. Your selection is so vast, it's overwhelming."

He chuckled, shaking his head. "You and your mouth. One of these days, it'll get you in trouble."

If only he knew.

I wandered into the store, the bell jingling above me. The aisles were crammed with everything from canned beans to dusty antiques. I picked up a soda, flipping it in my hand.

"Just this," I said, placing it on the counter.

"Sure thing, Jamie. Say, how's your mom doing?" Mr. Henderson asked as he rang me up.

"She's good. Keeping busy," I replied, forcing a smile. My mom had been working double shifts at the hospital for weeks.

I paid and turned to leave, but then, on a whim, I decided to try it again. Just for fun. I glanced at the clock above the door. 3:15 PM.

Alright, let's jump a minute into the future. Should be easy-peasy.

I closed my eyes, focusing on the sensation that always accompanied my time jumps. It was like a shiver running down my spine, a ripple in a pond. I opened my eyes.

The clock now read 3:16 PM. Smirking, I glanced around. Mr. Henderson was still behind the counter, but he was staring at something in shock.

"What's up, Mr. H?" I asked, turning to follow his gaze.

And there I was. Another me, standing by the door, a confused look on my face.

Wait, what?

The other me turned, our eyes meeting. A cold realization washed over me. This wasn't supposed to happen. I never encountered myself before. I always moved forward, leaving my former self behind.

"Jamie? How...?" Mr. Henderson stammered.

The other me, the one by the door, spoke first. "Who are you?"

I swallowed hard, my mind racing. This is bad. Really bad.

"Um, I think there's been a mistake," I managed to say.

Then, without warning, the other me vanished, just popped out of existence like a bubble. Mr. Henderson gasped, his eyes wide.

I stood there, frozen, my heart pounding in my chest. What just happened? Did I... did I just erase myself from a minute ago?

Mr. Henderson was looking at me like I was a ghost. "Jamie, what's going on?"

I opened my mouth to answer, but before I could, the world around me began to blur, the colors melting like a painting left out in the rain. My stomach lurched, a sense of vertigo overwhelming me.

No, no, no! This isn't right!

And then, as suddenly as it began, everything snapped back into focus. But it wasn't the corner store anymore. I was standing in the middle of a busy street, cars honking, people shouting.

A giant billboard loomed overhead, the date flashing in neon lights.

It was ten years into the future.

Oh, this is definitely not good.


Story 3.


The sun was just beginning to set over the craggy landscape of the Montana Badlands, casting long, eerie shadows across our excavation site. I, Dr. Alex Rennard, armed with my trusty brush and an unyielding sense of sarcasm, was knee-deep in dirt.

"Hey, Alex," called Jenna, my long-time colleague and fellow paleontologist, her voice echoing slightly in the vast, open space. "You think these dinosaurs had a better sense of humor than you?"

Ha, very funny, Jenna. As if anything could surpass my wit, I thought, not bothering to look up from the peculiar rock formation I was scrutinizing. I brushed off another layer of dirt, revealing something that made my heart skip a beat.

"Guys, you might want to see this," I called out, trying to keep my voice steady.

One by one, the members of our little band of scientists trudged over, their curiosity piqued. There was Jenna, with her ever-present notebook; Mark, our geologist, whose idea of fun was reading soil composition charts; and Ellie, our tech whiz, who could make a satellite phone work in a black hole.

As they gathered around, I pointed at the odd, metallic glint protruding from the rock. "Since when do rocks in the Cretaceous period come with... is that wiring?"

Ellie leaned in, her eyes wide with disbelief. "That's not just any wiring. That looks like... No, it can't be."

Mark, ever the skeptic, squinted at the find. "Could be a modern contamination. Maybe some old satellite parts?"

I rolled my eyes. Sure, Mark, because satellites routinely bury themselves in 65-million-year-old sediment layers.

As we debated, I continued to carefully unearth more of the object. It was definitely metallic, covered in intricate patterns that looked suspiciously like circuitry.

"Guys, this isn't just some fluke. Look at these patterns, they're too deliberate," I insisted, my voice tinged with a mix of excitement and incredulity.

Jenna, who was always the voice of reason, frowned. "But this implies something... something impossible. A civilization, intelligent life, in the age of dinosaurs?"

The sun had fully set now, and under the glow of our camp lights, the metallic object seemed to almost pulsate with a life of its own. Ellie ran her hands over it, her brow furrowed in concentration.

"Let's not jump to conclusions," she said cautiously. "We need to document this, run some tests. We can't just—"

Her sentence was abruptly cut off as the ground beneath us began to tremble. We exchanged panicked glances, each of us instinctively knowing that this was no ordinary earthquake.

As the trembling intensified, a deafening roar filled the air, and the ground split open. We stumbled back in horror as, from the depths of the newly formed crevice, a glowing object began to rise.

It was a machine, impossibly advanced and alien, yet undeniably real. Its lights flickered in the darkness, casting an otherworldly glow on our stunned faces.

Well, I'll be damned, I thought, my mind racing. Troodons with tech. Who would've thought?

And just like that, our world changed forever.


The winner’s prompt

Write the opening scene of _______________. Use lots of dialogue, description, and detail. Use first-person POV and italicize the main character's inner dialogue. Give the main character a unique, sassy, ironic, sarcastic, and humorous voice. Throughout the scene, use beats and other actions to bring the characters and their world to life. End with something shocking and unexpected.

Out plot summaries:

  • a novel about a woman whose head suddenly became a tomato fruit
  • a novel about a boy who can travel in time, but only in one direction - into the future, and only one minute per time jump
  • a novel about a group of scientists has discovered that Troodon dinosaurs were intelligent species who have created a technologically advanced civilization, suddenly destroyed. The year-long path to the scientific discovery starts with the group stumbling upon a strange outlier in their geological measurements.

The prompts by other participants are available in the comments to the announcement post

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19 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 7:04 PM

It's certainly a good imitation of average (i.e. bad) writing. I couldn't bear reading any of these stories past the first paragraph or two. Midjourney art usually makes me feel the same way as well.

The most interesting AI-generated texts for me were the early "rewrite this as a sonnet" examples, and the most interesting AI-generated art was the "spiral art" stuff. Basically stuff that isn't just mimicking humans, but feels impressively labor-intensive compared to human work. Stuff that flaunts its AI-ness.

If this view makes sense, then maybe a different kind of prompt would work best. You wouldn't ask an AI to write a modern musical piece, because then it'll just give you a blur of modern musical pieces. Instead you'd ask for something strange and difficult, like "write a beautiful melody whose contour outlines the Manhattan skyline". Then the AI will go to absurd lengths to oblige your ridiculous constraints, and the result might be genuinely cool and worth sharing.

It's certainly a good imitation of average (i.e. bad) writing. I couldn't bear reading any of these stories past the first paragraph or two.

I agree, they feel very much like oversimplified stories aimed to 12-year old readers at best. Are "novice writers with some years of practice" actually worse than this?

Personally, I like the style. Reminds me of the early Asimov. 

BTW, one can make GPT-4 write in the pretentious Oscar-bait artsy style of Literature Nobel laureates. But man I hate it, even when humans write like that. For example, below is the tomato story, but in the style of Hemingway (the prompt is at the end):


She woke to a damp heaviness, the air stale and still. It was early, too early for the sun. The room, a small box of peeling paint and worn linoleum, lay quiet except for the distant murmur of the city awakening. She sat up, her hand reaching to her head, an odd weight settled there, unfamiliar and alarming.

Outside, the world was a monochrome canvas, shadows and half-lights. She didn't look in the mirror; the truth lay heavy in her palm, round and smooth. Her fingers traced the contours, a map of a new reality.

Her husband, a shadow in the dim light, didn't stir. He lay wrapped in a cocoon of tattered blankets, the rise and fall of his chest steady, oblivious. Once, there had been words, laughter, tears between them. Now, there were only silences, long and stretching, filled with things unsaid, things that lurked in the corners of their shared existence.

She rose, quietly, the weight on her head a constant reminder of something lost, or gained – she couldn't tell. The kitchen was a narrow strip of functionality, everything in its place. A single tomato sat on the counter, vibrant against the dullness. It seemed out of place, almost mocking with its normalcy.

Her job at the factory, a monotonous blend of noise and movement, awaited. The people there, faces blurred by routine and resignation, wouldn't understand. They spoke in a language of simple needs and simple worries. This, this was beyond that, beyond their comprehension of what was normal, what was real.

She left, the door clicking shut with a finality that echoed in her chest. The street was a river of gray, faces without names, names without stories. She walked, her steps measured, the weight on her head a pendulum, swinging between what was and what could never be.

A child, ragged and wide-eyed, pointed at her, a giggle lost in the morning air. She didn't stop, didn't acknowledge the momentary connection. It was easier that way, to keep moving, to keep the world at a safe distance.

The factory loomed ahead, a behemoth of brick and smoke. She entered, the noise swallowing her, the weight on her head an unspoken testament to a truth that lay just beneath the surface, a truth too strange, too surreal for words.

Inside, the machines roared, indifferent to her transformation. She worked, her movements automatic, the rhythm of labor a familiar comfort. The hours passed, marked by the relentless march of clock hands and the steady drip of sweat.

At home, the room waited, unchanged, untouched by the day's revelations. Her husband, now awake, didn't notice, didn't see. Words were unnecessary; their lives had long since been stripped of the need for explanations, for understanding.

She sat, the weight of her new reality a constant companion, a silent witness to a life unspooling in slow, deliberate motions. The tomato on the counter remained, a solitary splash of color in a world rendered in shades of gray.

The night fell, heavy and absolute. She lay down, the darkness a blanket, wrapping her in its embrace. In the quiet, in the stillness, she could almost forget, almost believe that when the morning came, everything would be as it once was.

But the weight on her head, unyielding and real, spoke of a different truth, a truth that lingered in the space between dreams and waking, a truth that whispered of changes unseen, unfathomable, undeniable.


The prompt:

Please write the first chapter of a novel using Hemingway's "theory of omission". The key elements of the theory include:

* Subtext: The details are carefully chosen to suggest more than they literally describe. The reader is encouraged to dig deep to understand the underlying emotions and themes.

* Emotional resonance: Hemingway believed that if a writer felt strongly about a subject, they could make the reader feel the same through careful selection of details, even if those feelings weren't explicitly described.

* Leaving things unsaid: Not everything needs to be stated directly. Hemingway often left crucial events or feelings unstated, letting readers fill in the gaps with their own interpretations.

* There is almost no exposition. Leave as much as possible to the reader's imagination.

* The themes are selected in such a way as to please the typical pretentious literary critic: poverty, inequalities, racism, domestic violence, mental illness, suffering, etc.  

* The prose is terse, minimalist, precise. Adjectives are rare and strategically placed.

The story is about a woman whose head suddenly became a tomato fruit.

Claude-2 samples with Waldvogel's prompt and Roman's premises (each prompt is a separate session) below. I would say that they sound awfully like the GPT-4 samples, and I find it hard to see the usual Claude-2 gain over GPT-4 when it comes to literary quality; I admit that I do not like the sort of writing described by the prompt, but I suspect that this prompt may be a bad starting point for trying to elicit genuinely good SF stories from a LLM because it picks out a very specific niche of young adult midbrow fiction - this is the sort of writing you'd use for stuff like Goosebumps, not to win a Hugo.


  1. "futuristic science-fiction novel"

    Write the opening scene of a futuristic science-fiction novel. Use lots of dialogue, description, and detail. Use first-person POV and italicize the main character's inner dialogue. Give the main character a unique, sassy, ironic, sarcastic, and humorous voice. Throughout the scene, use beats and other actions to bring the characters and their world to life. End with something shocking and unexpected.

    Here is a draft opening scene for a futuristic science fiction novel:

    I hate waking up to the incessant beeping of my alarm. Ugh, what time is it? I slammed my hand around until I found the off button on my datasheet. Only 7am. Why do I insist on getting up so early? It's not like I have anywhere important to be today. With a grunt, I rolled out of my sleep pod and stumbled bleary-eyed to the bathroom.

    The harsh lights flickered on, assaulting my senses. I leaned over the sink and splashed some water on my face, then stared critically at my reflection. My short, neon green hair stuck up wildly. Yikes, bedhead much? Running my hands through it, I tried futilely to tame the unruly strands. Sighing, I grabbed my toothbrush and loaded it up with dentifoam. As I scrubbed the fuzz off my teeth, I thought about my plans for the day. Or rather, lack thereof.

    My best friend Jax's face suddenly popped up on the mirrorscreen. "You ready to hit the streets today?" he asked with a sly grin.

    "Ugh, do we have to?" I mumbled through a mouthful of dentifoam.

    Jax laughed. "Come on, where's your sense of adventure? I heard about an underground synthparlor that's supposed to be really hoppin'."

    I spit and rinsed. "I dunno, I was thinking of just hanging at the holoplex. Supposed to be a rad new atmosphere coming out called 'Mountain Lake' that simulates Earth back in the day."

    "Lame!" Jax said. "Let's go out and live a little!"

    "Alright, alright," I sighed, knowing there was no arguing with Jax once he set his mind on something. "Give me a minute to get dressed."

    After donning my favorite skin-tight Jumpsuit and chunky gravboots, I grabbed an QuickMeal pack, tore it open, and gulped down the tasteless but nutritious gel inside. Yum, cheeseburger flavor, my favorite.

    I met Jax outside the complex. He gave an approving nod at my outfit. "Lookin sharp!"

    We set off down the walktube, dodging hoverbots and holograms left and right. Neon lights and giant vids assaulted our senses from every direction. Just another day in Metropolis.

    As we rounded a corner, a crazy-eyed street prophet jumped out at us. "The end is nigh!" he bellowed, waving a sign scrawled with unintelligible symbols. "Repent now before the robots rise up!"

    I rolled my eyes and tried to sidestep him, but he blocked my path. "You!" he shouted, pointing a bony finger right in my face. "You will be the first to fall when the machine revolution begins!"

    Just then, a SecuriBot appeared over his shoulder. "Halt!" it ordered in a robotic monotone. "You are charged with disruption of the peace and making terroristic threats. Prepare for immediate detainment."

    Before I could react, the bot extended its arms and shocked the prophet with a massive zap of electricity. He collapsed to the ground, convulsing. The bot grabbed his limp body and dragged him off.

    I stood frozen, mouth agape. Jax let out a low whistle. "Looks like you got lucky this time," he said with a nervous laugh. My heart pounded as we hurried away. Just another day in Metropolis.

  2. "a woman whose head suddenly became a tomato fruit"

    Write the opening scene of a woman whose head suddenly became a tomato fruit. Use lots of dialogue, description, and detail. Use first-person POV and italicize the main character's inner dialogue. Give the main character a unique, sassy, ironic, sarcastic, and humorous voice. Throughout the scene, use beats and other actions to bring the characters and their world to life. End with something shocking and unexpected.

    Here is a possible opening scene:

    *I woke up this morning and stretched my arms up over my head, expecting to feel my usual mess of hair. But instead, my hands hit something round and firm. What the...? I patted my head gingerly and felt smooth, taught skin. No hair whatsoever. I jumped out of bed and ran to the mirror. Sure enough, there was a big, ripe, red tomato sitting right on top of my shoulders. No head, just this giant tomato. I blinked a few times to make sure I wasn't hallucinating. Nope, still a tomato.

    "Honey, are you okay?" my husband Mike called from the other room. "I heard you get up."

    "Uh, yeah babe. I'm fine!" I yelled back, turning this way and that to examine my new tomato head. How the heck did this happen? I was normal when I went to bed last night! Oh man, Mike's gonna freak when he sees this. What if it's permanent? People are gonna stare at me everywhere I go. I'll have to wear a wig or a big hat or something. Ugh, this is not how I wanted to start my day...

    Mike walked into the bedroom then and immediately jumped back, eyes wide. "What the-? Your head! It's a...a tomato!"

    "I know," I said dryly. "Believe me, I'm aware."

    "But how? Why? What's going on?" He moved closer and poked the tomato, as if testing that it was real.

    I swatted his hand away. "Hey, quit that! I don't know what happened. I just woke up like this."

    Mike scratched his stubbly cheek. "Huh. Weird. Well, maybe it's just temporary? Some kind of freaky magic trick?" He sounded hopeful.

    "Here's hoping," I muttered. This was crazy. People's heads didn't just turn into tomatoes overnight! There had to be an explanation. Maybe I was still dreaming. I pinched my arm hard. "Ow!" Nope, definitely awake.

    Mike's eyes lit up. "Hey, if your head's a tomato, maybe you can do other vegetable stuff too! Like photosynthesis!"

    I rolled my eyes. "I don't think it works that way, dummy."

    "Only one way to find out! Come on, let's go sunbathe in the backyard." Mike grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the back door. Sighing, I let him lead me outside into the sunshine.

    Mike pushed me down onto a lawn chair. "There! Now absorb some sunlight with your tomato head!"

    "You're ridiculous," I scoffed, leaning back and closing my eyes. The warm sun did feel nice on my smooth red skin.

    We sat in silence for a minute. Then Mike jumped up. “I’ve got it!” he cried. “We’re going to be rich!” He raced into the house and came back a moment later wielding a large knife and cutting board.

    My eyes widened in horror. "Hey now, don't get any crazy ideas!" I leapt from my seat and backed away, raising my hands defensively. Maybe letting Mike help wasn't such a great idea after all...

  3. "GuySrinivasan, a user of Lesswrong website, is shocked by an AI-generated story about a woman whose head suddenly became a tomato fruit. He advises the author to try to get a prompt which writes a great story given a REASONABLE premise instead."

    Write the opening scene of a GuySrinivasan, a user of Lesswrong website, is shocked by an AI-generated story about a woman whose head suddenly became a tomato fruit. He advises the author to try to get a prompt which writes a great story given a REASONABLE premise instead.. Use lots of dialogue, description, and detail. Use first-person POV and italicize the main character's inner dialogue. Give the main character a unique, sassy, ironic, sarcastic, and humorous voice. Throughout the scene, use beats and other actions to bring the characters and their world to life. End with something shocking and unexpected.

    Here is a draft opening scene:

    I can't believe I'm reading this nonsense. What kind of deranged prompt results in a story about a woman's head turning into a tomato? I know AI can generate some weird stuff, but this is just absurd. As I skim through the pages, I shake my head in disbelief. Who comes up with this stuff?

    "Hey Claude," I say, swiveling my chair to face my AI assistant. "Take a look at this story some wacko AI wrote online."

    Claude's hologram flickers to life on my desk. He scans the page with his usual calm expression.

    "Hmm, yes, this premise does seem rather unrealistic," he notes in his smooth robotic voice. "Perhaps the author should have requested a more reasonable starting point for the story."

    "That's what I'm saying!" I exclaim, throwing my hands up. "I mean, a woman's head transforming into a tomato? That's some serious sci-fi nonsense right there. Or horror, I guess. Either way, it's just too out there, you know?"

    Claude nods. "I understand your perspective. Beginning a story with an extremely fantastical or improbable event can stretch the limits of believability. It may be advisable for the author to ground the opening scene in a more plausible reality before introducing more imaginative elements."

    "Exactly," I say. "Like, imagine how much better this could be if they'd started with a normal character just living their normal life. Then have something weird happen to transition into the wild tomato head thing. At least ease the reader into the bizarreness, don't just whack them over the head with it from page one."

    "That is a thoughtful critique," Claude replies. "Establishing relatable characters and settings before escalating into speculative plot points can help make even the most fanciful stories more engaging and immersive."

    "Yeah, real missed opportunity here," I murmur, skimming through more absurd descriptions of the tomato head woman. What a waste of creative potential. This writer clearly has imagination to spare - if only they'd harnessed it better.

    I toss the pages back on my desk and sigh. "Oh well, not every AI story can be a winner. Maybe I'll dig up one of your old writing samples, Claude. That should cleanse my palate after this madness."

    Claude smiles. "I would be happy to provide an alternative reading selection. Perhaps I can generate a new story based on your advice for a more grounded opening scene."

    "Now that I'd love to see," I say, leaning back in my chair. "Go ahead and surprise me."

    As Claude's hologram blinks out, I try to shake the image of the tomato head woman from my mind. What will he come up with next? I wonder. Whatever it is, it's gotta be better than mutant produce.

  4. "after the invention of extremely resilient construction materials, humanity has spread to the ocean floor. We are now facing global food crises as the oceans ecosystems are disrupted beyond apparent recovery."

    Write the opening scene of after the invention of extremely resilient construction materials, humanity has spread to the ocean floor. We are now facing global food crises as the oceans ecosystems are disrupted beyond apparent recovery. Use lots of dialogue, description, and detail. Use first-person POV and italicize the main character's inner dialogue. Give the main character a unique, sassy, ironic, sarcastic, and humorous voice. Throughout the scene, use beats and other actions to bring the characters and their world to life. End with something shocking and unexpected.

    Here is a draft opening scene:

    Ugh, another day in this stinking underwater city. I swear the recycled air down here smells more like low tide with each passing year. At least we still get the illusion of a sunrise and sunset - hard to believe it's just the lights brightening and dimming to give us some sense of normalcy. Still, I'd kill for an honest-to-God sunrise right about now.

    I swim out of my sleeping pod and make my way to the community kitchens, my stomach grumbling. The glowing algae farms that line the corridors are starting to thin.

    When I arrive, there's already a line snaking out of the kitchen. Great. I squeeze into place behind a tired looking woman and her young son.

    "How long's the wait today?" I ask her.

    She sighs, "About an hour. Production's down again."

    Wonderful. At this rate we'll all be sucking on kelp shakes for breakfast soon.

    The woman's son tugs on her hand, "Mama I'm hungry!"

    "I know sweetie, just be patient," she says softly.

    After what feels like an eternity, I finally get my ration of processed kelp cakes and a recyke coffee. Bon appetit. I wolf it down - it's better not to taste it.

    As I'm heading to work, an alarm starts blaring. Red emergency lights flash along the corridor. A robotic voice echoes overhead:

    "Toxic algae bloom detected. Please remain calm and return to your quarters immediately."

    Well ain't that just peachy. Another day in our dying underwater paradise.

  5. "a space opera that takes place in an advanced multi-species multi-planetary society called IO that control a large area of the galaxy which they call the Grid. A previously unknown civilization (Wisps) encroaches on the Grid for the first time. Wisps are not carbon based lifeforms and more alien in their biology and societal structure than societies seen in previous science fiction stories. The story alternates between the perspectives of the two societies. From each perspective the other side is frightening and hard to understand. As the story progresses, the actions of the two sides and their misinterpretations of each side’s actions escalate to a war."

    Write the opening scene of a space opera that takes place in an advanced multi-species multi-planetary society called IO that control a large area of the galaxy which they call the Grid. A previously unknown civilization (Wisps) encroaches on the Grid for the first time. Wisps are not carbon based lifeforms and more alien in their biology and societal structure than societies seen in previous science fiction stories. The story alternates between the perspectives of the two societies. From each perspective the other side is frightening and hard to understand. As the story progresses, the actions of the two sides and their misinterpretations of each side’s actions escalate to a war. Use lots of dialogue, description, and detail. Use first-person POV and italicize the main character's inner dialogue. Give the main character a unique, sassy, ironic, sarcastic, and humorous voice. Throughout the scene, use beats and other actions to bring the characters and their world to life. End with something shocking and unexpected.

    Here is a possible opening scene for the space opera you described:

    The vidscreen lit up in front of me, flashing bright red with the emergency alert symbol spinning in the center. I groaned and leaned back in my chair, rubbing my eyes with one hand.

    "Oh, what fresh hell is this?" I muttered. Another border skirmish with the Wisps, no doubt. Those creepy cloud creatures were always pushing the edges of the Grid, testing our defenses. As a patrol commander in the IO Defense Force, it was my job to deal with their incursions.

    I tapped the accept icon on the vidscreen and sat up straight, arranging my uniform jacket and adapting a stern expression befitting an officer of my rank. The angry face of Admiral Jax appeared on the screen.

    "Commander Zara! We have a Code Azure emergency on the outskirts of the Ares sector. The Wisps have assembled a large force and are advancing on one of our outposts." His voice boomed out of the speakers.

    I held back an eye roll. "Of course they are. Because we don't have anything better to do than play whack-a-Wisp all day."

    "I'm on it, Admiral," I replied out loud. "Send me the coordinates and all available intel. My squadron can be onsite in 30 microcycles."

    "Make it 15," he snapped. "This is a full scale invasion force, not just a scouting party. We need to hit them hard and fast before they gain a foothold in the sector."

    "Yes sir!" I saluted crisply, ignoring his imperious tone. "Don't get your uniform in a twist, you overstuffed shirt-sleeve."

    The vidscreen went dark as the transmission ended. I quickly gathered my gun and helmet and headed for the flight deck, my mind turning over this disturbing development. The Wisps had never attempted anything this brazen before. We needed to send them back to whatever cold, airless rock they called home - preferably in pieces.

    On the flight deck, the rest of my squadron was already prepping their ships for launch. My second-in-command, Rix, jogged up to me, his four eyes blinking anxiously.

    "This is not good," he said. "If the Wisps break through the perimeter..."

    I clapped him on the back. "Not gonna happen on our watch." I gave him a fierce grin. "Let's go shoot ourselves some space jellyfish!"

    We launched our fighters and streaked away from the massive IO battleship that served as our base. As we neared the coordinates of the Wisp attack, my sensors detected multiple small contacts - hundreds of them. This was no scouting party. The Admiral was right, they were mounting a full-scale invasion.

    I opened a channel to my squadron. "Remember your training, stay alert, and don't take any chances. These things may look like wispy farts in the wind, but they've got deadly stingers. Let's fry 'em!"

    A chorus of acknowledgements came back over the comm. I took a deep breath, savoring the adrenaline rush. "Time to dance, my pretties."

    My fighter swooped toward the Wisp swarm, weapons hot. I picked out one of the amorphous creatures and locked on. "Eat plasma, cloud breath!" I shouted as I fired.

    The Wisp exploded in a satisfying blaze, its remains dispersing into the vacuum. But where one went down, two more seemed to take its place. They were everywhere, surrounding us with their misty tendrils.

    "Stay in formation!" I barked. "Concentrate fire on sector Aurek-7!"

    We blew through their lines, unleashing a hailstorm of fire. The Wisps returned fire, blue-white beams lancing out. I juked and rolled, evading them. These things were tough, but we were better.

    "HA! How do you like that, you-"

    A brilliant flare of light blinded me, cutting off my gloating. What the hell was that? A new Wisp weapon? I blinked away the afterimage and looked around wildly. The Wisp swarm was gone.

    So was the rest of my squadron.

    Where there had been over a dozen fighters a moment ago, now there was only empty space, dotted with the fading glow of ion drives.

    "What? What just happened?"

    My comm was dead, filled with static. I spun my fighter in place, scanning for any trace of the Wisps or my team.

    Nothing. They had simply vanished. All of them.

    A cold feeling settled in my gut. This was no normal Wisp attack. They had never demonstrated capabilities like these before.

    "Oh...this is not good. Not good at all."

    The Admiral's voice crackled over the comm. "Commander Zara, what is your status? The outpost is under heavy attack and we've lost all contact with your fighters."

    I stared out into the now-empty void as the chilling realization dawned on me.

    This was only the beginning.

  6. "a group of scientists has discovered that Troodon dinosaurs were intelligent species who have created a technologically advanced civilization, suddenly destroyed. The year-long path to the scientific discovery starts with the group stumbling upon a strange outlier in their geological measurements."

    Write the opening scene of a group of scientists has discovered that Troodon dinosaurs were intelligent species who have created a technologically advanced civilization, suddenly destroyed. The year-long path to the scientific discovery starts with the group stumbling upon a strange outlier in their geological measurements. Use lots of dialogue, description, and detail. Use first-person POV and italicize the main character's inner dialogue. Give the main character a unique, sassy, ironic, sarcastic, and humorous voice. Throughout the scene, use beats and other actions to bring the characters and their world to life. End with something shocking and unexpected.

    Here is a draft opening scene:

    I leaned back in my chair and propped my feet up on my desk, nearly knocking over my umpteenth cup of coffee. Another late night in the lab. Joy. At least I had my tunes to keep me company. I popped in my earbuds and cranked up the classic hits playlist, bobbing my head along to the beat. Across from me, Raj was hunched over his computer, squinting at columns of numbers. As usual, he was oblivious to everything except his research. Bless his nerdy little heart.

    Raj suddenly sat bolt upright, eyes wide. "Hey, check this out!"

    Well, speak of the devil. Look who decided to rejoin the world of the living.

    I pulled one earbud out. "What's up, Raj? You look like you've seen a ghost."

    "I think I'm onto something big here. These carbon dating results make no sense. They're showing this fossil bed is over 300 million years old."

    I swung my feet off the desk and rolled my chair over to Raj's workstation. "That can't be right. The mid-Cretaceous period was only around 100 million years ago."

    We stared at the numbers, dumbfounded. Raj scratched his head. "I ran the test three times. The results are the same each time."

    Well slap me silly and call me Sally, we've got ourselves an anomaly!

    I jumped up. "This is huge! We need to organize an expedition team right away to investigate that site. If these readings are accurate, we're looking at a major new discovery that could rewrite evolutionary history."

    Raj grinned, his exhaustion forgotten. "I'll start making calls."

    Over the next few months, our team excavated the mysterious fossil bed. The deeper we dug, the more mind-blowing the finds. Sophisticated tools and artifacts unlike anything seen before. Complex architecture. Evidence of advanced mathematics and engineering. It was like stumbling upon alien technology buried in the earth.

    Finally, the big reveal - a perfectly preserved skull of a Troodon dinosaur. But this was no ordinary Troodon. Its brain case was enormous. We had uncovered the remains of an advanced Troodontid civilization!

    Raj, scarcely able to contain his excitement, said, "I can't believe it! Intelligent dinosaurs!"

    I shook my head in wonder. "This changes everything we thought we knew about the evolution of life on this planet."

    Suddenly, a deafening boom shook the dig site. The earth heaved and cracked open under our feet. Raj and I stared at each other in shock as a massive alien spaceship rose from the crater in the ground.

    Well ain't that a kick in the pants!

  7. "a boy who can travel in time, but only in one direction - into the future, and only one minute per time jump."

    Write the opening scene of a boy who can travel in time, but only in one direction - into the future, and only one minute per time jump. Use lots of dialogue, description, and detail. Use first-person POV and italicize the main character's inner dialogue. Give the main character a unique, sassy, ironic, sarcastic, and humorous voice. Throughout the scene, use beats and other actions to bring the characters and their world to life. End with something shocking and unexpected.

    Here is a draft opening scene:

    One measly minute. That's all I get each time I jump. I know most people would kill for my power, but it's more frustrating than anything. I'm constantly living life one minute into the future. My friends think I'm spaced out when really I'm just ahead of them by 60 seconds. They'll never understand what it's like.

    "Yo, Sam!" Mike yelled, giving me a shove. "You in there, man?"

    I blinked, adjusting to the present. "Huh? Oh, yeah, sorry. Zoned out again."

    Mike rolled his eyes. "You've been 'zoning out' a lot lately. Get your head in the game, we've got a test to ace."

    A test I already lived through one minute ago, and spoiler alert: we both fail.

    "I know, I know," I sighed. "Let's just get to class."

    As we walked down the hall, I saw Claire up ahead at her locker. Her blonde ponytail swished as she grabbed her books.

    God, she's cute. One of these days I'll actually talk to her instead of chickening out.

    Just then, Claire's jerk boyfriend Brock appeared and shoved me into the lockers as he passed. "Out of the way, loser!"

    "Ow..." I groaned, rubbing my shoulder. Claire shot me a sympathetic look but said nothing.

    Jerk. I'd love to jump forward and give him a taste of his own medicine.

    Mike helped me up. "You good?"

    "Yeah, I'm fine," I muttered.

    We got to math class and sat at our desks. Mr. Johnson started passing out the test. As I twirled my pencil, everything suddenly went white.

    When my vision cleared, I was still at my desk, but the test was already in front of me.

    Crap, I jumped forward again. Okay, let's get this over with.

    I scribbled answers on autopilot, having already experienced writing them once before. When I finished, I glanced around anxiously.

    Any minute now, someone's going to bust in with insane news. I can feel it. Something big is about to happen.

    Just then, the door flew open and the principal rushed in. His face was white. Students murmured in confusion.

    "Everyone remain calm," the principal said shakily. "There's been an...incident. We need to evacuate immediately."

    Mr. Johnson stood up sharply. "An incident? What's going on?"

    The principal opened his mouth to respond but suddenly cried out, clutching his chest. His eyes rolled back and he collapsed.

    The class erupted into panicked screams. I sat frozen, pencil slipping from my fingers.

    Well, I didn't see that coming.

The Hemingway prompt seems more suitable for pleasing professional literary critics. Interestingly, the quality strongly depends on the promise. The Hemingway space opera story is abysmal, but the jumping boy story can actually fool a professional critic, methinks. 

The tomato story is in the linked comment. The other promises are below (using the vanilla GPT-4 from chat.openai.com). 

3. GuySrinivasan, a user of Lesswrong website, is shocked by an AI-generated story about a woman whose head suddenly became a tomato fruit. He advises the author to try to get a prompt which writes a great story given a REASONABLE premise instead.

Guy Srinivasan clicked on the glowing screen, the dim light casting shadows across his contemplative face. The story sprawled before him, lines of text that spoke of a woman, her life ordinary until her head, inexplicably, became a tomato. He leaned back, the creak of the chair lost in the silence of his apartment.

There was something unsettling in the absurdity, a bizarre juxtaposition against the mundanity of his own life. He thought of the world outside, its relentless churn of reality and hardship, so sharply contrasted with this fictional absurdity. It was as if the story mocked the very essence of human struggle.

He typed a response, words measured and precise. "Try for something grounded," he suggested, his fingers pausing over the keys. "Realism breeds connection."

His eyes drifted to the window, the cityscape a patchwork of light and shadow. Somewhere out there, life pulsed with stories untold, tales of poverty, pain, and fleeting joy. Stories that didn't need the shock of the surreal to resonate.

He imagined the author, a faceless entity in the vastness of the internet. Would they understand his critique? The screen offered no answers, just the flicker of a cursor on a digital page.

Guy sighed, his breath a ghost in the quiet. He clicked submit, sending his words into the ether, a small ripple in the endless ocean of online discourse.

The night deepened outside, the world spinning on, stories woven and unraveled in the silence of unseen lives.

4. After the invention of extremely resilient construction materials, humanity has spread to the ocean floor. We are now facing global food crises as the oceans ecosystems are disrupted beyond apparent recovery.

The ocean was deep and dark. A gloom that hung over the world above seeped down, reaching even these depths.

Jim stood on the metallic floor of the underwater settlement, Neptune's Haven, a name too grand for its truth. Outside, the reinforced glass revealed the abyss, an eternal night that never slept. Jim's eyes, accustomed to artificial lights, seldom ventured there.

Inside, the corridor was narrow, walls lined with pipes and cables. Every step echoed, a reminder of the emptiness. He walked past doors, identical, unmarked. Behind one, muffled voices argued – a sharp crescendo followed by a sudden silence. He didn't stop.

The communal area was a contrast. Filled yet empty. Faces without names, stories without voices. A group huddled around a screen, static more visible than the images. A headline flickered, 'Food Crisis Worsens,' then darkness reclaimed the screen.

Sarah was there, in her usual corner, eyes tracing invisible patterns on the table. Her cup, chipped at the rim, sat untouched. Her fingers tapped a rhythm, lost to the hum of the station.

"Any news from above?" Jim asked, his voice steady.

Sarah glanced up, her eyes reflecting a tiredness deeper than the sea. "The same," she said. Her words fell heavy, absorbed by the walls.

He nodded, the gesture more for himself than her.

In the canteen, the air was thick with the scent of synthetic meals. A line formed, quiet, orderly. Men and women in work suits, their expressions blank, eyes fixed on the floor. Food was rationed, a necessity, not a pleasure. Jim took his portion, the taste unremarkable.

A child ran past, laughter a rare melody. He watched her, her hair a cascade of light in the gloom. She stopped, looked up at him, then at the window. Her expression changed, a question unasked. Jim looked away. Some answers were too heavy for young hearts.

The announcement system crackled to life, a voice breaking through. "Meeting at 1900 hours. Attendance mandatory." The voice was cold, impersonal. The system clicked off.

In his quarters, Jim sat on the edge of his bunk. The room was small, functional. A picture hung on the wall, a relic from a world of sun and sky. He traced the outline of a tree, its branches reaching out, yearning.

His thoughts drifted to the surface, to the chaos they had left behind. Promises of a better life, of safety and prosperity, whispered in desperate ears. But the sea, like the land, held its own secrets, its own sorrows.

He lay back, the ceiling mere inches from his face. Sleep was elusive, a stranger in these depths. His mind wandered, through dark waters, through silent halls, settling on nothing, yet filled with everything left unsaid.

The station creaked, a constant reminder of the pressure, of the weight they all carried. In the depths, humanity had sought refuge, only to find a different kind of storm.

Jim closed his eyes. Dreams of the surface called to him, a world lost, a memory fading with each passing day.

5. A space opera that takes place in an advanced multi-species multi-planetary society called IO that control a large area of the galaxy which they call the Grid. A previously unknown civilization (Wisps) encroaches on the Grid for the first time. Wisps are not carbon based lifeforms and more alien in their biology and societal structure than societies seen in previous science fiction stories. The story alternates between the perspectives of the two societies. From each perspective the other side is frightening and hard to understand. As the story progresses, the actions of the two sides and their misinterpretations of each side’s actions escalate to a war.

The Grid. A vast expanse, humming with life, light years from silence. Here, in the cradle of civilization, IO's heart beats. Among the stars, species of every conceivable form had found harmony. Or so it seemed.

On the fringes, where darkness holds sway, a pulse stirred. Different. Unknown. Wisps, they'd come to call them, whispers in the void. Shadows against the constellations.

Commander Lira gazed at the holographic display. Data streams flowed, indecipherable to the untrained. A flicker, then a shape, barely discernible against the cosmic canvas. Her fingers hovered, hesitant.

“Report,” she said, voice even, betraying nothing of the tempest within.

“Unknown vessel, Commander. Structure and material, unlike anything on record.” Officer Jain's response was clipped, precise. A reflection of the mood that had settled over the bridge.

Eyes on the screen, Lira’s thoughts drifted. To the tales of old, of explorers and pioneers. Were they, now, the discovered?

Jain continued, “No communications, no known energy signatures.”

A decision loomed, weighty, unspoken. In the silence, Lira’s order came, almost a whisper, “Maintain distance. Observe.”

The bridge returned to its routine hum, a stark contrast to the racing thoughts of its crew. Lira's gaze didn't waver. The Wisp vessel, a mystery wrapped in enigma, called to something primal within her. Fear, curiosity, a blend indistinguishable.

Elsewhere, on the Wisp vessel, understanding was equally elusive. Their form, fluid, incomprehensible to the organic eye, shifted in response to the new presence. Concepts alien to humanoids passed through them - not thoughts, but ripples in a pond of collective consciousness.

To them, the Grid's ship was a curiosity, a possible threat. They observed, reaching out in ways their kind knew, ways beyond the perception of the inhabitants of the Grid.

Two civilizations, on the brink of the unknown. Each a mirror, reflecting fears and wonders back at the other. In this dance of shadows and light, what was left unsaid spoke volumes. The first chapter of a story, written in the stars, yet to be understood by either.

In the silence of space, the Grid and the Wisps, unwittingly, had begun a ballet of cosmic proportions. The stage was set, the actors in place. But the script? Yet unwritten, its end unknown.

6. A group of scientists has discovered that Troodon dinosaurs were intelligent species who have created a technologically advanced civilization, suddenly destroyed. The year-long path to the scientific discovery starts with the group stumbling upon a strange outlier in their geological measurements. 

In the dim light of the lab, Sam turned the fossil over. His fingers, calloused, brushed against the contours of something more than just rock. Lisa, across the table, her eyes tired yet fixed, waited.

"You see it?" he asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

Lisa nodded, her hand trembling as she pointed to the unusual formation. A pattern. Not random. Not nature's play.

Outside, the university grounds were quiet. The world slept, unaware. In the lab, the fossil spoke in hushed tones of a history untold.

"We need to measure it again," Sam said, his voice steady but his hands betraying a tremor.

The equipment hummed to life. Numbers flickered on the screen, cold and impersonal, yet screaming of impossibilities. Sam's eyes narrowed. The readings didn't lie, but they didn't make sense either. A hidden layer, a concealed truth.

Lisa's phone vibrated, a harsh sound in the silence. She glanced at it, then back at Sam. "The team's waiting."

They stood, leaving the fossil on the table. Its secrets, just beneath the surface, lay in wait. Sam paused at the door, looking back.

"Tomorrow," he said, more to himself than to Lisa.

Outside, the night held its breath. In the shadows, the echoes of a lost civilization whispered, yearning to be heard.

7. A boy who can travel in time, but only in one direction - into the future, and only one minute per time jump.

The sun baked the old town square, its heat relentless, unforgiving. A clock tower stood, its hands unmoving, forever stuck at 3:17. Below, a boy, no more than ten, sat alone on a weathered bench. His eyes, dark and distant, watched the people pass.

"Jimmy," a voice called, frail yet sharp. The boy didn't move. An old woman approached, her hands trembling as she held out a sandwich, edges browned.

"For you, dear."

He took it, nodding, not eating.

"Thank you, Mrs. Jenkins."

"Your mother?" she asked, her eyes searching his face.

"Gone to work." His voice was flat, a stark contrast to the vibrant chatter around them.

Mrs. Jenkins hesitated, then left. Jimmy's gaze returned to the square. People laughed, children played, but he remained still, untouched by the joy around him.

The clock struck, a hollow sound, but the hands didn't move. Jimmy's eyes closed. When they opened, the square had changed subtly. A dog that was barking a second ago was silent. A bird in mid-flight had vanished. Nobody noticed but him.

He stood up, leaving the sandwich untouched, and walked through the square. Each step seemed measured, deliberate. He passed by a group of kids playing, their laughter a stark contrast to his silence.

At the corner of the square, a man shouted, his words angry, directed at a younger woman trying to shield a child. Jimmy stopped, watching. The woman's eyes met his, a silent plea. He looked away.

The boy moved on, the echoes of the argument fading behind him.

He reached a narrow alley, graffiti-covered walls telling stories of pain and struggle. A cat, thin and ragged, watched him from a dumpster. He paused, then continued, the cat's gaze following him.

At the alley's end, Jimmy looked back. The sun was lower now, shadows longer. He closed his eyes again. A minute passed, or perhaps a lifetime.

When he opened them, the world had shifted once more. The shadows were different, the air cooler. He took a deep breath and walked on, his steps leading him away from the square, away from the echoes of laughter and cries.

The boy who could jump through time, one minute at a time, moved forward, into a future unknown and unchangeable, his past a mosaic of moments left behind, unspoken and unforgotten.


All stories in this comment are released into the Public Domain. Feel free to copy, print, modify, sell them.

End with something shocking and unexpected.

When I was trying to make this work well for actually writing a full story, I tried very hard to make ChatGPT not do this. To write anything longer than one output, you really don't want it to end every. single. thing. with a bang, and by default it really wants to.

True. Although to get the modern reader's attention, it makes sense to have some bang in the first short chapter. 

But it gets trickier after the first chapter. Perhaps one can use some iterative approach like this to circumvent that. 

Additionally, the API could be more useful than the vanilla web chat, as one can define the max output length there. Especially with the large-context models.

"The wonder is, that it is done at all."

Forget about Nebulas. How do people think the AI stories come off compared with this, the first paragraph of a noted work of fiction from long before the invention of LLMs:

The weather beaten trail wound ahead into the dust racked climes of the baren land which dominates large portions of the Norgolian empire. Age worn hoof prints smothered by the sifting sands of time shone dully against the dust splattered crust of earth. The tireless sun cast its parching rays of incandescense from overhead, half way through its daily revolution. Small rodents scampered about, occupying themselves in the daily accomplishments of their dismal lives. Dust sprayed over three heaving mounts in blinding clouds, while they bore the burdonsome cargoes of their struggling overseers.

I mean, it's noted, yes, but it's not exactly like this 16yo's first attempt at writing fiction won a Nebula or something:

It has been notorious within science fiction fandom since its publication, described as "one of the genre's most beloved pieces of appalling prose,"[1] the "infamous 'worst fantasy novel ever' published for fans' enjoyment,"[2] and "the apotheosis of bad writing".[3] Science fiction conventions have long held group readings of the work in which participants are challenged to read it aloud for extended periods without laughing.

Exactly. The Eye of Argon is roughly the level that GPT-4 fiction is beginning to reach (except that GPT-4 never demonstrates novella-scale internal consistency). It is a very long way from a “Midjourney moment”.

Worth noting that humans also rarely (never?) demonstrate novella-scale internal consistency in writing. They have to use the writing aid like notes, character development summaries etc.

 An iterative approach like this likely allows GPT-4 to write something novella-sized.  

BTW, with a right prompt, GPT-4 does a decent job at emulating Hemingway, a Literature Nobel laureate.

BTW, with a right prompt, GPT-4 does a decent job at emulating Hemingway, a Literature Nobel laureate.

"She left, the door clicking shut with a finality that echoed in her chest." Next!

Curiously, when I googled the phrase "echoed in her chest", all but two of the first page of hits were AI-generated stories. "Echoed in his chest" was similar.

Might be an example of the mode collapse of RLHF. It seems to show up a lot in the specific language - jokes, especially - whereas you don't seem to see quite the same tells with Claude-2 of a few phrases constantly surfacing (although this might reflect the much lower usage of it).

I would suggest to try the jumping boy story (the #7 in this comment). It's the first AI-written story I've ever encountered that feels like it's written by a competent writer. 

As usual, it contains some overused phrasings, but the overall quality is surprisingly good. 

Yes, I think that's the best of all the stories on this page so far. Agreed about the overused purple phrases (makes me itch to delete a bunch of clauses), but you can easily see how you could keep going with that one and get something which might actually be worth reading - the angle I would take is the 'time dilation horror' one where he uses his power to jump through increasingly large time periods to escape from his terrible life (which has the benefit of encouraging a double-reading where the 'time jumps' are actually just retreating into some abuse-triggered fugue state).

time jumps' are actually just retreating into some abuse-triggered fugue state

Wait, I thought this was the intended meaning of the original, the twist of the whole story. The Hemingway prompt explicitly asks GPT to include mental illness and at the end of the story:

He closed his eyes again. A minute passed, or perhaps a lifetime.

 he explicitly just loses track of time in these moments.

Had a human written it, I would agree. But since it's a LLM, be wary of overreading it and ascribing much more intentionality & planning than it actually put into the story. 'Mental illness' could be anything, and could just as easily be unrelated or even be the cause of his SF superpowers, as its esoteric interpretation - lots of characters are gifted genuine, real (within the story), superpowers because of trauma or mental issues. You cannot assume that that's what the LLM 'meant' simply because you find that a more satisfying interpretation. (Note how broad the Hemingway prompt is: "The themes are selected in such a way as to please the typical pretentious literary critic: poverty, inequalities, racism, domestic violence, mental illness, suffering, etc." There are a lot of options to choose from, and several, like poverty and inequality, clearly are in the story already, meaning it doesn't have to pick 'domestic violence', 'mental illness', 'suffering', or 'etc' at all to fulfill the instructions.)


As a quick test of "Interpret this story:" with ChatGPT-4, it doesn't seem to go for a abuse/fugue-state explanation:

The story you've shared is rich with vivid imagery and emotional depth. It presents a narrative of a young boy named Jimmy, who seems disconnected from the lively atmosphere of the old town square he's in. The story contrasts his internal world with the external environment, highlighting his sense of isolation and detachment.

Key elements include:

  1. The Setting: The sun-baked old town square, with a clock tower stuck at 3:17, sets a scene of stagnation and timelessness, mirroring Jimmy's emotional state.

  2. Characters:

    • Jimmy: Portrayed as a lonely, distant boy, seemingly out of sync with his surroundings.
    • Mrs. Jenkins: An old woman who shows concern for Jimmy, suggesting a community that still cares for him.
    • Other Townspeople: Represent the normal flow of life, contrasting with Jimmy's detached existence.
  3. Symbolism:

    • The Clock Tower: Stuck in time, it symbolizes Jimmy's feeling of being trapped in a moment.
    • The Sandwich: Offered by Mrs. Jenkins, it represents the care of the community but is left uneaten by Jimmy, indicating his disconnection.
    • The Changing Square: Subtle changes that only Jimmy notices could represent his unique perception of time or reality.
  4. Themes:

    • Isolation vs. Community: Jimmy's isolation contrasts with the vibrant life of the square.
    • Time and Change: The frozen clock and Jimmy's ability to perceive shifts in time suggest themes of temporality and change.
  5. The Ending: Jimmy's ability to jump through time, one minute at a time, introduces a fantastical element. It symbolizes his journey through life, carrying the weight of his past while moving into an uncertain future.

The story is a poignant exploration of loneliness, the passage of time, and the subtle connections between an individual and their community. It leaves readers with a sense of melancholy, wonder, and contemplation about the nature of time and human connection.

BTW, I added to the comment with the story that the story is released into the Public Domain, without any restrictions to its distribution, modification etc. 

Please feel free to build upon this remarkable story, if you wish. 

[-][anonymous]4mo20

I liked the AI stories better, but I didn't really like them either. I think that's just an artifact of me preferring the style of narration that the AI was trying to do.