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We asked ChatGPT to write like Marian Keyes, John Boyne and Paul Howard. Now they rate the results

The chatbot takes mere seconds to come up with its versions of these bestselling authors’ work. How convincing are they?

AI v authors John Boyne, Marian Keyes and Paul Howard
AI v authors John Boyne, Marian Keyes and Paul Howard

We asked ChatGPT, the artificial-intelligence content generator, to write in the style of the bestselling authors John Boyne, Marian Keyes and the Irish Times columnist Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, aka Paul Howard. Could it do a convincing take – and what would those award-winning writers think of the robot’s attempts? The chatbot came up with its version of each author’s prose in mere seconds, which you can read below – along with each author’s responses.

Marian Keyes has sold more than 30 million copies of her novels, including Rachel’s Holiday, This Charming Man, Anybody Out There? and her latest, My Favourite Mistake. Her recent bestseller Grown Ups is being adapted for television by Netflix.

John Boyne is the author of several acclaimed novels for adults and younger readers, including The Boy in the Striped Pjamas, A Ladder to the Sky, The Heart’s Invisible Furies and The Echo Chamber. His novels are published in more than 50 languages.

Paul Howard, the creator of Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, is the author of 24 satirical novels set in the south Dublin stomping ground of Ireland’s most notorious rugby jock. Howard recently announced that the next Ross book, Don’t Look Back in Ongar, will be the last, although he will continue to write Ross’s adventures in his weekly Irish Times column.


ChatGPT - authors

John Boyne v AI

ChatGPT’s attempt
With trembling hands, I opened the door and stepped inside...

The old, dilapidated house loomed in front of me, its weathered facade a stark reminder of the secrets that lay buried within its walls. I hesitated for a moment, unsure if I was ready to confront the ghosts of my past that had haunted me for so long.

As I stepped inside, the musty scent of dust and neglect filled my nostrils, sending a shiver down my spine. Memories flooded back to me in a rush, each one a painful reminder of the events that had led me to this moment.

I made my way through the darkened hallways, the floorboards creaking beneath my feet as if whispering their own secrets to me. I knew I was getting closer to the truth, closer to the answers I had been seeking for so long.

Finally, I reached the room at the end of the hall, the room where it had all begun. With trembling hands, I opened the door and stepped inside, the weight of years of guilt and regret heavy on my shoulders.

But as I looked around the room, I realised that the past was just that – the past. And in that moment, I knew that I had the power to shape my own future, to let go of the pain and finally find peace.

John Boyne responds
Feels more like parody than plagiarism – and shouldn’t parodies make people laugh?

Every writer has some device they unintentionally rely on in their prose. A few years ago, I realised that every time I wanted to slow a scene down, a character would ‘hesitate for a moment and look away’. So it was hard not to laugh when I reached the second sentence of ChatGPT’s offering and found most of this phrase there.

The writing is bland, generic stuff, lacking any wit or originality, so obviously it’s a million miles away from my own work, which fizzes with humour and crackles with inventiveness! However, I’ll admit the themes are a little familiar. After all, hidden secrets, long-repressed memories, and suggestions of emotional resolution appear in my novels more often than red-dye recipes cribbed from The Legend of Zelda. But, ultimately, it feels more like parody than plagiarism – and shouldn’t parodies make people laugh? This just feels stilted.

That said, would I like to read one more Dickens novel? A new Philip Roth? The further adventures of Holden Caulfield? Sure I would. But, left in the hands of artificial intelligence, the chances are I’d simply glance at a few paragraphs, hesitate for a moment and look away.

John Boyne: How I wrote The Boy in the Striped PyjamasOpens in new window ]

ChatGPT - authors

Paul Howard v AI

ChatGPT’s attempt at Ross O’Carroll-Kelly
My reputation as a coffee connoisseur was at stake...

I was standing in the queue at the coffee shop, trying to decide between a double-shot macchiato or a caramel frappuccino. A difficult decision, I know, but one that had to be made with the utmost care – after all, my reputation as a coffee connoisseur was at stake.

As I pondered my choice, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation happening behind me. A group of girls were discussing their plans for the weekend, and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at their predictable choices – a night out in town, followed by a greasy kebab at 3am.

I turned back to the counter just in time to see the barista give me a knowing smile. He knew me well, knew that I was a man of refined tastes and impeccable style. I placed my order with a nonchalant wave of my hand, confident in my decision.

As I waited for my coffee, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction wash over me. Life may be full of uncertainties and challenges, but one thing was for sure – I, Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, would always know how to enjoy the finer things in life.

Paul Howard responds
I don’t think there is an algorithm to write jokes about someone like Ross

The first thing that struck me about this is the inclusion of words that Ross would never use, much less understand, words like connoisseur and nonchalant.

The second thing I noticed was the complete lack of humour. I’m not sure if comedy is something artificial intelligence will ever be able to replicate. This piece has no cultural awareness, and the voice sounds disembodied. It reminds me of being in a pub when a person comes up to me and starts doing a Ross impersonation but don’t really have any material in their head.

My humour is parochial. I don’t think there is an algorithm to write jokes about someone like Ross, a person lacking self-awareness who lives in south Dublin. You might get a chatbot to write “Why did the chicken cross the road?” jokes, but on this evidence they can’t do satire. This is dull, bland writing.

“This experiment has reminded me of a young guy years ago at St Mary’s College in Dublin. For his transition-year project he had produced a Ross comic book – he was a brilliant artist. As I was reading it I thought, ‘This is actually great: I would love it if I’d written it’. This ChatGPT attempt doesn’t feel like that. It’s more like the office bore doing his best David Brent or Frank Spencer impression.”

Paul Howard on that most peculiar craft – writing, an act of daringOpens in new window ]

ChatGPT - authors

Marian Keyes v AI

ChatGPT’s attempt
Little did I know, those letters would hold the key to unlocking secrets...

As I sipped my third cup of tea that morning, I couldn’t shake the feeling of unease that had settled over me like a heavy fog. The sun streamed through the window, casting a warm glow over the room, but inside, I felt cold and lost.

I had always prided myself on being in control, on having everything neatly organised and planned out. But lately, it seemed like the world was spinning out of my grasp, leaving me struggling to keep up.

I glanced at the pile of unopened letters on the table, each one a reminder of the chaos that seemed to be closing in on me from all sides. I knew I needed to face whatever was waiting for me in those envelopes, to confront the truths that lay hidden within their pages.

But the thought of opening them filled me with a sense of dread, like peering into a dark abyss that threatened to swallow me whole. I took a deep breath and reached for the first letter, steeling myself for whatever revelations lay ahead.

Little did I know, those letters would hold the key to unlocking secrets long buried, and setting me on a path towards healing and redemption.

Marian Keyes: ‘Transition is extremely uncomfortable…but everything eventually settles’Opens in new window ]

Marian Keyes responds
Where is the vulgarity? Where is the humour?

First of all, isn’t it incredible that artificial intelligence can produce something so coherent in just a few seconds? Like, it actually does make sense. However, the big giveaway is the tea-drinking. Almost none of my characters drink tea, because I don’t drink tea and I despise tea-drinkers. Now and again I will let people in my books drink tea – but certainly not three cups in a row.

What this reminds me of most of all, the way it’s overwritten and dwelling on the dark feelings, is pretty much how it was when I wrote Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married. I do think I’ve since got much better at cutting stuff and not banging on and on about dark feelings and the abyss and having my (w)hole swallowed. Sorry, I’m just being vulgar now.

Speaking of which, where is the vulgarity? Where is the humour? Where is the lightheartedness and lightness of touch even at the darkest times?

But sure lookit, fair play, good on it. A bit more practice by the robot and soon I’ll be out of a job.