Composing and Analyzing a ChatGPT Story

For Module One: Apply, I was instructed to compose a story utilizing the AI software, ChatGPT and compare and analyze the way that the software tells stories. For My story, I instructed ChatGPT to write a retelling of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Below, I have included sections of the story along with my footnotes, annotations and analysis.

ChatGPT’s Modern Hamlet Retelling

In the sprawling metropolis of Elsinore, a city plagued by corporate greed and political intrigue, a young man named Hamlet found himself thrust into a world of betrayal and revenge.1 Hamlet, the heir to the throne of Denmark Corporation, was a brooding soul, tormented by the sudden death of his father, the CEO of the company.

The news of his father’s demise reached Hamlet through an anonymous email. Suspicion grew within him as whispers of foul play echoed in the boardrooms and executive suites. His mother, Gertrude, swiftly remarried Claudius, his father’s business partner and a man with ambitions of his own. Hamlet’s grief was entwined with a gnawing sense of unease. Something was rotten in the state of Denmark Corporation.2

Haunted by his father’s ghostly apparition, Hamlet embarked on a quest for the truth. In this modern retelling, the ghost appeared not in armor but in a sleek, tailored suit, with a voice that carried the weight of countless secrets. The specter revealed that his death was no accident but a calculated act of treachery orchestrated by Claudius.3

My Annotations

  1. This is very strong opening. While the text and writing style is very to-the-point, it still sets the scene up very well and compels the reader to want to read and know more.
  2. This contains an obvious split from to original tale by removing Claudius’ relation to Hamlet. This paragraph does an excellent job at setting up the inciting incident and even slips in a very obvious nod to the source material.
  3. Here we have ChatGPT acknowledging that this is a retelling, and by doing that, the reader is taken out of the story. It reads less like the text of a work and more like a blurb or synopsis that you would find on the back of a book cover. 

To view the full story and project, visit: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tMQcnYrpT7vExlFg9lWTo6LFUa4LqRhpXaTC3rghcNU/edit?usp=sharing

Analysis & Reflection

For my prompt, I gave ChatGPT a description for a retelling of Shakespeare’s most famous play, Hamlet. I was rewarded with a story reminiscent of Shakespeare meets Succession as the modern retelling places Hamlet into a corporate underworld of suits and backstabbing. In my interaction with ChatGPT for this assignment I found the technology’s abilities of storytelling to be average, but at times conflicting.

 Of course, due to the prompt and story that I chose, ChatGPT has access to the plot of Hamlet due to the text’s existence in the public domain, however, this did not influence every aspect of storytelling. In some cases, ChatGPT altered plot points, and even changed the ending. This shows that–while the AI takes its knowledge from the internet–it can create a free form story. The storytelling followed a fairly basic arc, the main plot points were addressed with the inclusion of a few minor subplots–such as including Ophelia as well as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern– that were not given enough substance to prove important to the main story. 

I suppose the main issue that I have with ChatGPT’s storytelling is the writing itself. The prose remains fairly unsophisticated in nature with sentences that inform the reader of what has occurred without allowing the reader to actually witness it for themselves. This perpetual past tense acts in conjunction with the AI’s tendencies to tell instead of show. The word choice is interesting and paints a very vivid setting. Phrases like “towering glass and steel” will definitely immerse readers into the setting of corporate greed and skyscrapers, yet, words also proved to be the AI’s downfall. In this case, we witness ChatGPT utilize so many theatre and stage related phrases that it becomes distracting and can pull the reader away from any story being told.

In terms of characters, ChatGPT did not really have any character faults, perhaps they were not developed characters, but this could be due to Shakespeare’s tragic archetypes rather than an AI shortcoming. The main issue surrounding the characters was the descriptions of their emotions, which were often clinical and detached, absent of any actual emotion. This, coupled with the juvenile writing makes the reading experience more about plot, and–in my opinion–highlights the absence of human interaction in the text’s creation. 

I suppose that ChatGPT is capable of writing engaging stories, yet the narrative structure and writing will leave certain readers wanting more. The prose is simply not engaging enough to hold my attention, it does not contain the complexities that some authors achieve in their writings. It is simply a story for the sake of a story, with an introduction, inciting incident, climax, falling action, and conclusion. It is the epitome of formulaic and elementary, and while these are not necessarily bad things when it comes to writing, it does not make the story any more enjoyable. The story itself was fun to interact with, seeing a programmer Ophelia and a Hamlet who ruins his uncle via live-stream is not an interpretation of Hamlet that I’ve watched yet–though I do believe it would be incredible. However, I think that when observing the capabilities of ChatGPT, I would simply say that it can convey a story, but it cannot write a story.

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