I’ve been hearing a lot about ChatGPT, and when I complained to a (non-writer) friend I was struggling with a chapter, he said “just get ChatGPT to write it”. Ha! Normally I’m a bit of a luddite, but I figured if it’s what the kids are doing, I should give it a go. While ChatGPT is definitely hit and miss, you can use it as a tool similar to a thesaurus.
I decided that I’d conduct a simple experiment: can ChatGPT give me a non-clichéd simile for brown eyes? Because my current hero has brown eyes, and why not, right?
First I asked ChatGPT to list descriptors for brown eyes. It came up with a pretty standard list, lots of foods. I asked ChatGPT to exclude foods (hasn’t it incurred the wrath of sensitivity readers?). Done. Then suddenly we have a lot of wood, which inspires me. Fun. Different woods are brown, so why not. Here’s the conversation where ChatGPT gets a few things right, a few things hilariously not:
Me: Can you come up with some similes for eyes using that list?
ChatGPT: Yes, here are some similes using the revised list of wood-like descriptions for brown eyes:
1. Her eyes were as warm and rich as chestnut wood.
2. His gaze was deep and dark like mahogany.
3. Her eyes gleamed like polished sable.
4. The twinkle in her eyes was like a flash of sienna in the sun.
5. His eyes were as sturdy and steadfast as a walnut.
6. Her gaze was like an old oak, wise and full of experience.
7. His eyes were like the smooth, golden-brown of maple syrup.
8. The kindness in her eyes were like the soft warmth of cedar.
9. His eyes were like deep pools of teak, inviting and mysterious.
10. Her eyes danced like bamboo in the breeze.
11. His gaze was deep and dark like mahogany.
12. His eyes were as light and refreshing as a birch tree in spring.
13. Her eyes were like soft beech wood, comforting and gentle.
14. The fire in his eyes was like the rich, dark gleam of rosewood.
Yes, my favourite is the eyes that are “sturdy and steadfast as a walnut” too. And… we’re back to food again. Now abundantly clear ChatGPT hasn’t had sensitivity training.
I tried to coax ChatGPT into something useful:
Me: Can you come up with more similes for brown eyes, this time not using wood or food, but instead using colours from nature?
ChatGPT: Sure, here are some similes for brown eyes that use colors from nature:
1. Her eyes were like a warm autumn day, golden and inviting.
2. His eyes were like the earth, deep and rich.
3. Her eyes were like a forest at sunset, a mix of golden and brown hues.
4. His eyes were like the dark, rich soil of a farm.
5. Her eyes were like a summer sky, a brilliant blue-brown.
6. His eyes were like a stormy sea, deep and intense.
7. Her eyes were like the fur of a deer, soft and warm.
8. His eyes were like the color of the sky just before a thunderstorm, dark and brooding.
9. Her eyes were like the delicate brown of a butterfly's wing.
10. His eyes were like the color of a smooth, polished stone.
11. Her eyes were like the color of a delicate autumn leaf, golden and crisp.
12. His eyes were like the brown of a ripe acorn, strong and steadfast.
13. Her eyes were like the color of a sunrise, warm and golden.
I felt we were getting a little off-track. Maybe ChatGPT needed a little more guidance? I mean my hero’s eyes might be the colour of a ripe acorn, or deer fur, but…ew! Know your market, AI. So onward we go.
Me: Complete this sentence: His eyes were deep brown and gentle like...
ChatGPT: ... the still waters of a calm lake.
Me: A lake is not brown, usually. Could you use a different simile, please?
ChatGPT: Certainly, here's a revised simile:
His eyes were deep brown and gentle like the comforting embrace of a warm hug.
Me: Can you revise it so the simile is a physical object?
ChatGPT: Sure, here's a revised simile using a physical object:
His eyes were deep brown and gentle like the rich, smooth texture of fine suede.
I feel like we got there in the end, kind of. Even if the most generous members of my critique circle would be sharpening their red pencils. ChatGPT might not be a literary genius (and let’s face it, the AI is just aggregating from other work, yikes!), but it’s a start. If you need inspiration why not give it a go?
And for the lawyers amongst you, I had to ask…
Me: Who owns the copyright to that simile?
ChatGPT: As a language model created by OpenAI, I do not own the copyright to any of the phrases or sentences that I generate. In general, similes like the one in your question are considered common expressions and are not eligible for copyright protection. This means that anyone is free to use them in their writing or speech without seeking permission from anyone else. However, it's always good practice to give credit to the source of the expression if you are aware of it.
Have fun, and don’t forget to ask ChatGPT to write you a chapter of romance in the style of the King James Bible or something. Fascinating.