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I intend to write an adventure novel where the protagonist is a (divine) plant. Though it cannot move or speak, it's necessary for the plant to be the main protagonist (there will not be any subplots). There will be humans, but there dialogue and representation as a percentage of text will be so tiny that the readers will know they are not the protagonists. This much I'm somewhat confident of -- however, since the plant is not a sentient being, I don't know how to integrate the story into conventional storytelling for things like "the fateful decision?"

From Wiki:

The protagonist makes key decisions that affect the plot, primarily influencing the story and propelling it forward, and is often the character who faces the most significant obstacles.

Having a non-sentient being act as a protagonist to facilitate conventional plot devices, such as making decisions is challenging. The best I could do was write it off as a divine plant, and its "decisions" appear as omens: an eclipse, something auspicious for "yes" something bad for "no".

However, I'm not trying to write a magical/fantasy adventure book. I want to keep it as scientific as possible. So I'd like to see if there are other viable writing frameworks rather than throwing magic at all my problems.

Question

Is there anything in the existing literature that could be a useful reference for maximizing traditional plot devices when given a non-sentient protagonist?

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  • The Liaden universe en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liaden_universe has a significant character that is a race of sentient tree. One significant character spends most of the novel being carried around like a potted plant, and can barely communicate except through impressions to others. I don't see how it can be a character, however, if it isn't sentient merriam-webster.com/dictionary/… to a reasonable degree. It's just a prop/story element. – DWKraus May 10 at 3:16
  • I don't have time to write an answer tonight, but it sounds like you have a main character, not a protagonist. writingexcuses.com/2018/01/07/… – Arcanist Lupus May 10 at 5:22
  • If it's non-sentient, it can't make decisions. If it "makes" things happen, but without reason, how can you ascribe causation other than as natural events? I'm struggling to understand your basic premise, except in terms of the supernatural – which you confirm as "divine" while rejecting "magic" and also wanting to be "scientific" (the antithesis of supernatural). – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica May 10 at 5:49
  • "I don't know how to integrate the story into conventional storytelling" - don't assume you have to. This doesn't sound like a conventional story. – DM_with_secrets May 10 at 7:32
  • Scientific doesn't seem to go well with the idea of your point. You want to have a plant predict the future for humankind but you also want something that teaches modern logic. Why don't you aim for science-fiction instead? – Artemis Silver May 10 at 12:34
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I recall a story from childhood that personified three trees who could "communicate" among themselves, but could not interact physically with the world beyond them. These trees would retain their speech and ability to think. Each tree discusses their dream of what they will become when they are chopped down and turned into wood, each wishing to become a luxury item or status symbol of great wealth (The first wants to be used in consturction of a large house. The second wants to become a grand boat. The third wants to be a chest that holds the greatest treasure in all the world). The first two trees get their wishes while the protagonist third tree does not and is devastated and humiliated by the object his wood is turned into, a feed troth for barn animals. The plot is resolved when he realizes that his new purpose actually allows him to achieve his dream of holding the greatest treasure in all the world, just not in the way he anticipated (spoiler: The third tree is crafted into a manger. I hope I don't have to explain the nature of the treasure.).

Here, the story works similar to yours if we assume your definition of "divine" means the same as "consciousness or awareness of surroundings". Keep in mind that this is the literal definition of sentience and is not an indicator of human self-awareness as lots of other animals have a high degree of self-awareness. I think what you're looking for is a self-aware yet inanimate object. Conflicts are largely based on internal struggles with the lot in life.

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