Once upon a bot: can we teach computers to write fiction?

  • 2016-06-28
  • The Guardian

This month, several thousand aspiring authors are attempting to write a novel in 30 days. They are taking part in an annual event known as NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, in the hope that the time pressure will spur them on. For a small community of computer programmers, though, NaNoWriMo has a lighthearted sister competition: National Novel Generating Month, the goal of which is to teach a computer to write a novel for you.

However, finished NaNoGenMo projects are unlikely to trouble Booker judges. They include a version of Moby-Dick in which the words have been swapped for meows of the same length (immortal opening line: Meow me Meeeeow); another version in which a few key words have been swapped out for emoji; and a novel made up of unconnected excerpts from an online database of teenage girls’ accounts of their dreams.