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We typically have third person or first person narratives in literature. I have a requirement - to unveil the suspense, I want a non-living thing to share its perspective in the final chapter. Is this permissible, justified and/or sensible?

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    Have you read Nutshell by Ian McEwan? It's a great example of how unusual perspectives (in this case, that of an unborn fetus) can make for great storytelling. I think this could absolutely work. – Sciborg Jul 21 at 5:38
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    Technically speaking, anything that has an opinion has to be living. If a rock has an opinion, then it's actually sentient and alive … – Jason Bassford Jul 21 at 6:46
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    Walter Moers, a famous German author wrote in "The City of Dreaming Books": "Never write a book from the perspective of a door knob". Just so you know. – Lehue Jul 21 at 13:02
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    Please note that if you disagree with a comment (or post) that you are welcome to say why in the comments. Please do not flag comments as inappropriate because you happen to disagree with them. – Cyn says make Monica whole Jul 21 at 20:14
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    I hope it's going to be Alexa or Siri! – Cristobol Polychronopolis Jul 22 at 13:49
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This is a scattershot answer because I'm a washed up literature student.

  • I just finished reading Ann Leckie's The Raven Tower, which is entirely narrated by a rock. The fact that a rock is narrating the story is gradually revealed, and its unusual perspective builds some anticipation.

  • I also recall a chapter of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow is narrated from the perspective of Byron the Bulb, a sentient lightbulb. Actually, the novel includes many unusual perspectives such as an octopus and an escaped dog subjected to Pavlovian experiments.

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Permitted by whom? The Big Book of Writing Laws was abolished in 1849. You can use any POV you feel comfortable with for any reason or none at all.

Ask yourself why you want to switch to a hitherto unseen POV. Do you have a compelling reason? As a reader, I've spent the story inside the head of a character I've either come to love or love to hate. A sudden switch at the climax to a non-character I possibly can't care about by virtue of there not being any pages left in the book might leave me cold.

Or, perhaps that's exactly what you're going for. If in the penultimate chapter the heroes decide they have to leave the zombie-infested mall and the final chapter is from the distant and emotionless view of a security camera taping the approach of a zombie horde thousands strong, that tells me the story probably doesn't have a happy ending. In which case, the POV switch is devastatingly powerful.

In short, the answer depends on both intent and your ability to convey said intent.

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    that tells me the story probably doesn't have a happy ending — unless, of course, you're rooting for the zombies (it's just not yours anymore (spoiler warning)). – gerrit Jul 22 at 7:50
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    The security camera idea sounds amazing - do you happen to have any examples of something like this being used in a book/short story? – Lasse Meyer Jul 22 at 13:11
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    I think it could be a neat way to reveal that the main character was an unreliable narrator, forcing the reader to reassess their opinion of them. Done well, ending on a "well actually" can be a nice twist. – teedyay Jul 24 at 8:53
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There are two potential problems with having a non-living thing share its perspective in the last chapter.

The first is that you are switching your point-of-view scheme at the last moment. This is often jarring even with ordinary characters. If the entire story is told from John's point of view until the last chapter is Jack's, readers often are disoriented.

The second is ensuring that your readers are aware that the object is, indeed, non-living. If a security camera shares its point of view, the readers might think that the entire story was master-minded by AIs that have not been revealed to the readers.

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    I suspect there are many interesting stories which were never attempted because the writer was told that readers would be too stupid to understand. – Jedediah Jul 21 at 14:37
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    master-minded by AIs... thus setting up a hook for a sequel? – user253751 Jul 21 at 15:38
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    @Jedediah: It's not that readers are "stupid." When you distract someone with a sudden or unexpected change in the story, they are able to devote less attention to the plot. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a Bad Idea. But it does mean you need to carefully consider the consequences. If the reader is distracted going into the climax, it won't have the same emotional impact. But if the reader is distracted during a lull in the plot, it makes little difference. – Kevin Jul 21 at 16:32
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It sounds perverse, but of course you can!

The main problem is Asking the Question but either way, please first consider what Rudyard Kipling wrote so long ago… google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=science+fiction+of+rudyard+kipling&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

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  • Please explain how this answers the question. – Anna A. Fitzgerald Jul 23 at 22:27
  • Thanks, Anna… I thought "of course you can" was fairly obvious. What did I miss there? Do you think the Question should have been something different, such "How can I…"? If you're interested in non-living things with perspective, why not try reading several stories covering exactly that idea, by one of the best-known writers any of us has ever heard of? – Robbie Goodwin Jul 24 at 23:39
  • @AnnaA.Fitzgerald Or not… up to you and if you won't read Kipling, where are you coming from? – Robbie Goodwin Aug 7 at 23:02
  • "please first consider what Rudyard Kipling wrote so long ago" is not an answer to the question. It's a pointer to an answer at best, and a poor one at that, considering the next thing you include is a Google search result that will bring up Kipling's entire body of SF work. Imagine if I asked how much baking soda to add to a cake recipe, and you posted a link to every cake recipe ever written. – Anna A. Fitzgerald Aug 17 at 10:03
  • Sorry, Anna. If you don't care, the simple Answer is "Yes, of course you can." If you do care, read Kipling then explain how his work didn't provide a perfect Answer to Shady Shamus' Question. – Robbie Goodwin Aug 24 at 0:19

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