Novel Writing

POV and Head-Hopping

Yesterday I received feedback from Stacey Wilk who kindly looked over my first five pages of my novel with the eyes of a developmental editor. I found her feedback invaluable and if any of you who may be searching for an editor make sure you get in touch with her as she is fantastic! To find out more information about her editorial services, please click here. One of the points she mentioned is that I occasionally “head-hopped” and my “POV” was quite vague. I had not heard these terms before, so I’ve done a little research, and this is what I have found.

Connie J. Jasperson on her Blog Life in the Realm of Fantasy gives this definition of head-hopping –

Headhopping occurs when an author switches point-of-view characters within a single scene, and happens most frequently when using a Third-Person Omniscient narrative, in which the thoughts of every character are open to the reader.

New writers are generally advised not to head-hop, i.e., switch viewpoints midway between scenes as unless they can expertly implement this they will most likely confuse their readers. Eric Lathi states on his blog –

No matter what anyone tells you, there’s only one rule worth following and that’s don’t confuse your reader…If you’re deep into a character’s head and suddenly you’re in some other character’s head, the result is going to feel like hitting a fire road in Ferrari. And there you go, you just violated the cardinal rule and confused your reader. Your hard work was flung across the room or reduced to random bits on someone’s tablet.

For this reason, I am going to steer clear of head-hopping. I like to keep my life simple, and I’d rather not use a technique in my writing that is going to make things more confusing and require much more work to get right. I’m going to stick to one point of view per chapter and only write about what that character would humanly know.

Now back to the outlining drawing board….

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16 thoughts on “POV and Head-Hopping

  1. Editors are awesome! Thanks for the link.

    I hadn’t heard of head-hopping as a term, but I know what the reference is as soon as you said it. It happens a lot and I find myself doing it all the time. So annoying! But once you start noticing it, it’s easier to avoid, and once in a blue moon I’ve seen it done effectively – but I prefer not encountering it when I read.

    I hope your writing is coming along! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  2. Hi Amy. I was in a critique group for 7 years, and their input was invaluable for this kind of stuff. We had one woman who head hopped all the time. We kept telling her it was making us dizzy. The only reason I left that group was because I moved out of state. I credit them for my writing growth. Good luck with your novel, and thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you liked my Scout novel enough to toss a nomination my way. 🙂

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      1. I found mine through Barnes & Noble bookstore, but that was a long time ago. The libraries usually have something, but they aren’t always for critiques. Just some thoughts. Thank you for the nomination.

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  3. A great thing to avoid, Amy. I love Lathi’s quote. Most writing rules can be broken at some point, but this is one that’s really really hard to justify breaking because it throws the reader right out of the story. Your editor gave you great feedback. 🙂

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  4. Head hopping is one of my pet peeves. Some authors accomplish this feat beautifully, but most I’ve found don’t. I hate having to stop and think about whose head I’m in when reading. Best of luck with your book and lovely blog.

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  5. This is exactly the reason why I haven’t liked “Dune,” the so-called masterpiece of science fiction (which is more science fantasy anyways). The author not only jumps POV, sometimes within a few paragraphs of another POV jump, but it is also usually unnecessary. He jumps POV and then tells us specifically what the character is thinking using italicized thoughts, but it is almost always something that is obvious and shown by the action. Also, it is often unclear whose POV is current because of the constant jumping. Even worse, it doesn’t read like a simple omniscient narrator, but rather a limited 3rd-person narrator that jumps constantly. All in all, it feels very amateurish to me. Just goes to show that even well-received books and authors can be flawed.

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