Writers often spend weeks, months, or even years devising the perfect storyline and character arc for a novel that has, perhaps, been decades in the making. They put their own personality into it, their own experiences, and often that reflection jumps off the page or screen at the reader. But what if they didn’t? What if there was a way to drain the life out of a book with lifeless recycled robot prose? That seems to be the future that Sudowrite imagines.
Sudowrite is an AI-focused startup that’s been kicking around for a while and on Thursday it announced the launch of Story Engine—an “an AI tool for writing long-form stories.” Among its laundry list of promises, Sudowrite says it can generate “a page of words in less time than it takes to make your coffee.” The company’s site shares numerous tutorials about how Sudowrite can create the so-called author’s plot points, character arcs, and themes in one “magic AI canvas.” It will even go so far as to name the characters and create descriptions “to help your readers connect to your characters and feel like they’re really ‘there.’”
Founder James Yu did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment but said in a video posted on Twitter that the tool “allows authors to collaborate with AI … to write an entire novel in just a few days.” He added, “And these aren’t just boilerplate novels, these stories are true to the author’s vision.”
Sudowrite isn’t some AI breakthrough. In reality, it’s based on OpenAI’s GPT-3, it’s just tweaked and trained to specialize in the death of the author. Even the best chatbots have limitations with the length of their outputs. But Yu said that “Story Engine is the first serious tool for long-form AI writing.” He went on to explain that Sudowrite has solved a number of issues that help keep the model focused on the story at hand and coherently process scenes beat-by-beat. “The AI can also suggest beats as well, and in those cases, it can really feel like you’re mind melding with a machine in your novel,” Yu said.
But how can an author’s vision be fully reflected in an AI-generated story? Although AI tools like ChatGPT can generate lengthy text with a short prompt, it would seem difficult, if not impossible, to create the type of story that would truly resonate with readers and allow them to glimpse into the mind of the author—given that the author is a mindless robot.
The notion of pushing a tool that could make writers obsolete seems highly insensitive when writers are on strike fighting for job security during a time when AI is advancing so much that it can write a novel with a simple keystroke.
The Writers Guild of America took to the picket line more than a week ago as they demand, among other things, that the entertainment industry agree to not replace writers with AI, but the industry suits declined, saying they would only agree to “annual meetings to discuss advancements in technology.” The strike has sparked a rallying cry among staff writers, illustrators, freelancers, and digital content creators to push back against AI’s threat to their livelihoods.
Sudowrite is an insult to writers everywhere, boasting that it can do what writers can’t, saying on its site: “Everyone knows it’s 10% writing and 90% editing.” Spoken like someone who always wanted to write but never could.