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Head Hopping (1 Viewer)

Mark Twain't

Senior Member
Writing any character (for me, anyway) absolutely requires that I can hear them in my inner ear. No matter the gender of the character, clarity of that inner voice is essential. No different than if you have a friend or co-worker with a voice you can imagine in your head, like if they send you an email you might be able to 'hear' it how you'd imagine them saying it.

So if you know people, men, women, bankers, lawyers, bakers, moms, dads, coaches, principals, librarians, bus drivers, McDonald's window workers...you can start guessing how someone might talk.

Think of the drive-through restaurant window worker. Some exude boredom, some are very professional-sounding, some are impatient, some have all the time in the world and almost seem to enjoy the interaction with customers.

Ever get one of those waitresses or maybe someone serving behind a convenience store counter who calls everyone including the Devil himself, "Honey"?

Some say men use fewer words than women. I've seen this in action...
(example: my mom and I had been arguing about how to arrange to do something for about ten minutes before I said that, really, the problem belonged to my dad and my husband. We handed them the phones. My husband said, "Saturday? Sure. Yep."... and hung up!)
...and I've also seen men who gossip like old ladies supposedly do or enjoy holding forth on a subject they're knowledgeable about.

Kinda depends on the person.

What a great post, couldn't agree more about being able to hear the character in your inner ear.

Interestingly, I read a book a number of years ago where the author wrote in the first person but that person would change for different scenes. For example, in one scene, the author would write as the character plotting a bank raid whilst in another scene, the author would as a police officer receiving a tip off.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
What a great post, couldn't agree more about being able to hear the character in your inner ear.

Interestingly, I read a book a number of years ago where the author wrote in the first person but that person would change for different scenes. For example, in one scene, the author would write as the character plotting a bank raid whilst in another scene, the author would as a police officer receiving a tip off.
I've seen that pretty often, too. POV might change every chapter or every few chapters. Some authors can get away with changing POV inside the chapter but that needs to be very clear. Changing with the chapter break is easier, I think.
 

vranger

Staff member
Global Moderator
I've seen that pretty often, too. POV might change every chapter or every few chapters. Some authors can get away with changing POV inside the chapter but that needs to be very clear. Changing with the chapter break is easier, I think.

We're entering the realm of Head Hopping here (and as mentioned in the other thread, I've split the discussion to keep each thread on topic).

Nothing wrong with Head Hopping, as long as it's done well, which happens to be true for every subject in writing. LOL

There are two reasons to NOT Head Hop:
1. Don't confuse the reader about who is thinking or feeling what.
2. Don't give away something about another character (possibly in opposition to the protagonist) which is currently better left in mystery.

So if you can keep the reader straight on what character's head you're in, you're fine. Number 2 is a function of plotting. I've read that Nora Roberts Head Hops all over the place, proving that it can be written well and successfully.

On the personal side, I've done it in scenes like meetings where the characters are all on the same side, but not verbalizing everything they are thinking. That's one tool with the possibility to build drama, as you can let it indicate that a misunderstanding is brewing. Anything you can include to make the reader worry adds to the gravity of the story as a potential "page turner".

I did it in an action scene where two protagonists were separately hunting an assassin and didn't know they were both in the same area. I switched back and forth paragraph to paragraph to give the reader the idea the two protagonists had erred and one was about to kill the other by mistake.

The Rule of Thumb is one PoV per scene, but as we know, all Rules of Thumb are actually Guidelines of Thumb. You break them where it makes your story or style work well.
 
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indianroads

Staff member
Board Moderator
I've seen that pretty often, too. POV might change every chapter or every few chapters. Some authors can get away with changing POV inside the chapter but that needs to be very clear. Changing with the chapter break is easier, I think.

In my current work I'm switching POV at each chapter, odd numbered chapters being the MMC and even numbered chapters the FMC POV. Even though it's consistent, I still use the name of the POV person in the first paragraph.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
In my current work I'm switching POV at each chapter, odd numbered chapters being the MMC and even numbered chapters the FMC POV. Even though it's consistent, I still use the name of the POV person in the first paragraph.
I'm reading the Edge of Collapse series by Kyla Stone. Each chapter uses the POV char's name as the title. She might run three or four chapters with the same POV before switching, there's no set pattern. Whatever the story demands, I suppose. Very easy to follow.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Board Moderator
I'm reading the Edge of Collapse series by Kyla Stone. Each chapter uses the POV char's name as the title. She might run three or four chapters with the same POV before switching, there's no set pattern. Whatever the story demands, I suppose. Very easy to follow.

I considered that - but it won't work for this novel. The story follows the transformation / redemption of the two main characters. In the beginning of the story I establish their nicknames (the Reaper and the Witch) but mention their real names (Tom and Eris). As the story progresses the Reaper and the Witch fade and Tom and Eris are used more often.
 

TheMightyAz

Senior Member
To my knowledge, head hopping is when you switch perspectives during the same scene (dangerous), which is different from switching perspectives between scenes or chapters (perfectly acceptable).
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
Describing what the POV character's face looks like from the outside is also head-hopping.

One way to avoid head-hopping is to simply have characters speak their minds often.

"It feels way too hot in here, and I can't stop thinking about that cat I ran over yesterday," she said.

It's that easy.

"It looks like a starfish from my perspective," he said.

Etc.

"It feels like the blood is leaving my tongue," she said.

On and on we could go. There's almost nothing you can't capture with dialogue. Even the villains can share their thoughts aloud in situations where they might not.

On a more wholesome topic, I was very tempted to switch the point of view in my biggest WiP, but I opted to go with a written letter instead, which achieved the desired effect. Humans are pretty good at communicating. We should use that in the stories.
 
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indianroads

Staff member
Board Moderator
My opinion is that head hopping within a scene is bad. If you must switch character POV, break it up by at least a scene - preferably a chapter.

Omni POV is the worst - I've set aside good books written by authors I like just because I kept getting tangled up in the scenes.
 

Phil Istine

Staff member
Global Moderator
I'll resist the temptation to write a story called 'Lice'.
As an exercise I once wrote a piece about a guy who was kidnapped by a deranged female torturer. When he awoke from the drugging he was strapped to something (it turned out to be a hospital-type bed) and had extremely restricted movement, even with his head. Writing the piece in third person purely from what he could see, hear, smell etc without drifting into the torturer's head or using a more omnipotent perspective, contributed greatly to the strength of the scene.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Board Moderator
I'll resist the temptation to write a story called 'Lice'.
As an exercise I once wrote a piece about a guy who was kidnapped by a deranged female torturer. When he awoke from the drugging he was strapped to something (it turned out to be a hospital-type bed) and had extremely restricted movement, even with his head. Writing the piece in third person purely from what he could see, hear, smell etc without drifting into the torturer's head or using a more omnipotent perspective, contributed greatly to the strength of the scene.

I think I dated your character back in the day...
 

TheMightyAz

Senior Member
I've always considered 'head hopping' a criticism and not an option. I find it weird talking about head hopping in any positive way. If we're talking about changing POV and how it can be done well, then I'd find it easier to digest. It can be done within a scene (and has) but generally speaking if you switch you do it from scene to scene or chapter to chapter. 'Head hopping' in something to be avoided. It's the opposite on my thoughts of the 'filler' thread. Filler is bad but it's NOT filler if it broadens, deepens, enhances, builds believable worlds, strengthens characterisation etc.

Head hopping: BAD
Filler: Only if it's BAD
 

vranger

Staff member
Global Moderator
I've always considered 'head hopping' a criticism and not an option. I find it weird talking about head hopping in any positive way. If we're talking about changing POV and how it can be done well, then I'd find it easier to digest. It can be done within a scene (and has) but generally speaking if you switch you do it from scene to scene or chapter to chapter. 'Head hopping' in something to be avoided. It's the opposite on my thoughts of the 'filler' thread. Filler is bad but it's NOT filler if it broadens, deepens, enhances, builds believable worlds, strengthens characterisation etc.

Head hopping: BAD
Filler: Only if it's BAD

Well, like we discussed over there, "Filler" isn't really a good term. The Filler we're talking about there is only likely to be bad if the rest of the content is bad. If you're getting it from a good writer, it will (most likely) be good. I can name a few examples of "bad Filler" from name authors, but many, many examples of "good Filler". And since 80% of a novel is likely to be Filler, it BETTER be good. LOL

Head hopping? Similar. It can be done right. It can be a train wreck. I'm going to have to read some Nora Roberts so I can speak authoritatively on her technique.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
There are two reasons to NOT Head Hop:
1. Don't confuse the reader about who is thinking or feeling what.
2. Don't give away something about another character (possibly in opposition to the protagonist) which is currently better left in mystery.

In my experience, poorly-done head hopping can also undermine character development, meaning readers only get to spend a superficial slice of time with a character before whizzing over to the next one. It forces our attention elsewhere before our attention is ready to go.

Good article on it here.
 

Matchu

Senior Member
I said all this to myself earlier. Reduction-wise my opinion is that 99.98% of anything is our filler. I write 'train journey' on the back of an envelope...I am prepared to argue for several days on the issue of my revelation if there are candidates available, please?

My favourite is the 'wood-chopper gentleman.' I like to think of me snuggling with his book - '...and I slashed her throat. Next day I chopped wood. I had gathered the wood from the forest selecting an arrangement of small, medium and large branches...'

'Ahh, so soothing and this chapter is eighty pages, perfect.'

'I noticed how much of the wood I gathered felt wet to the touch. Had I gathered wet wood? Wet wood that burns quite ineffectively...'

'More...KEEP WRITING, you are so lovely..!'

...

'Head-hopping' - I am not going there. Found an on-line debate on the subject - descended into 'you are not head-hopping, that is 3P omni..!' All the references being to Dune, to LOTR & to Les Miserables, interestingly. I'd be lost in their swamp, same ways - or like when our cousins say - 'muse' & 'living with my characters' and 'snark' when I am lost on the Californian beaches.

'Eh..'
 

vranger

Staff member
Global Moderator
In my experience, poorly-done head hopping can also undermine character development, meaning readers only get to spend a superficial slice of time with a character before whizzing over to the next one. It forces our attention elsewhere before our attention is ready to go.

Good article on it here.

Like everything else in writing, you can do it right, or you can make a mess of it. Some writers are going to decide it's risky and steer clear. Some writers are going to do it and screw it up, and some writers will make it work brilliantly. So we pick at the subject here and try to figure out how to make it effective.
 

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