Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

POV Question (1 Viewer)

Status
Not open for further replies.

chrismackey

Senior Member
I have a chapter, and it takes place in a character's POV. Since the character cannot know what the other characters are thinking, I have the POV character's narrative stating things like this: Billy probably didn't know or didn't care.

My beta reader says that is wrong to put it like that because it makes me (the author) seem like I don't know my character. Since this is the POV of a character, wouldn't it be that the character doesn't know what the other is thinking, hence using the word "probably"? Am I correct phrasing it like that, or is my beta reader? Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
I have a chapter, and it takes place in a character's POV. Since the character cannot know what the other characters are thinking, I have the POV character's narrative stating things like this: Billy probably didn't know or didn't care.

My beta reader says that is wrong to put it like that because it makes me (the author) seem like I don't know my character. Since this is the POV of a character, wouldn't it be that the character doesn't know what the other is thinking, hence using the word "probably"? Am I correct phrasing it like that, or is my beta reader? Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.
That could work, but you'd have to do a lot to establish Billy's pattern of behavior and the MC's knowledge of Billy before this point.

You could also do it as such:

I turned to see Billy's face and knew immediately he didn't care.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I have a chapter, and it takes place in a character's POV. Since the character cannot know what the other characters are thinking, I have the POV character's narrative stating things like this: Billy probably didn't know or didn't care.

My beta reader says that is wrong to put it like that because it makes me (the author) seem like I don't know my character. Since this is the POV of a character, wouldn't it be that the character doesn't know what the other is thinking, hence using the word "probably"? Am I correct phrasing it like that, or is my beta reader? Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.

I would recommend avoiding this if you can. If Billy didn't care, surely there's something you could put into his character and interactions that 'shows' he didn't care? If Billy not caring isn't of importance, then you don't need it. If Billy not caring IS important, then perhaps he should have been the central character for the scene. You can head hop. It's been done many times but it's difficult as hell and something to be avoided generally.

Perhaps post a snippet of text from this particular section of your story. It's difficult to evaluate without the full context.
 

Backstroke_Italics

Senior Member
Keep this truth in mind: The universe according to MC is, by definition, true. If the MC thinks that Billy cares, that's how you would present it. If the MC thinks that Billy doesn't care, show us that instead. If you want the reader to read Billy's true feelings "against the grain" of the MC's perspective, you can plant clues to that effect. Here's an example:

I leaned over to Billy. "Hey, did you know the new edition of Super Sock 'Em Man comes out today?"
Billy just rolled his eyes and went back to his book. Silly me, I should have known Billy would already know the biggest news of the century. He's probably already pre-ordered his copy.

Here the perspective character never has to say they don't know Billy's mind. But the reader certainly gets the impression that Billy doesn't care. Using language like "But Billy didn't care" can be a little dull to read, but the idea can be conveyed any number of ways.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I have a chapter, and it takes place in a character's POV. Since the character cannot know what the other characters are thinking, I have the POV character's narrative stating things like this: Billy probably didn't know or didn't care.

My beta reader says that is wrong to put it like that because it makes me (the author) seem like I don't know my character. Since this is the POV of a character, wouldn't it be that the character doesn't know what the other is thinking, hence using the word "probably"? Am I correct phrasing it like that, or is my beta reader? Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.

There is no requirement for you to be an omniscient narrator. If you want to leave some doubt in the reader's mind about your character, that's fine. The only thing is that once you pick how close the narrator is to your character, you want to stay at that level. You can't guess at what he's thinking on one page and know his thoughts on the next page. It is also just fine to be inside one character's head, but not others, or to be inside multiple characters' heads, but not others. You simply need to be consistent, per character.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I would recommend avoiding this if you can. If Billy didn't care, surely there's something you could put into his character and interactions that 'shows' he didn't care? If Billy not caring isn't of importance, then you don't need it. If Billy not caring IS important, then perhaps he should have been the central character for the scene. You can head hop. It's been done many times but it's difficult as hell and something to be avoided generally.

I know they say not to head hop. When I first started my novel, a friend and experienced novelist said, "What's your POV?" I said, "My what?" After she explained it to me, I read my first few pages and realized...yup! I was head hopping. So, I did the proper thing and divided the chapters up into POVs.

I'm just reading Candice Bushnell's One Fifth Avenue. A delightful read...and guess what...she headed hops! I probably never would have noticed it before I learn this common rule. Is it really that bad?

But to answer the original post question, I think what you are doing is fine. I have found a lot of other ways to indicate thoughts without head hopping. Like with dialogue: ...," Billy said with a, I could care less look.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I know they say not to head hop. When I first started my novel, a friend and experienced novelist said, "What's your POV?" I said, "My what?" After she explained it to me, I read my first few pages and realized...yup! I was head hopping. So, I did the proper thing and divided the chapters up into POVs.

I'm just reading Candice Bushnell's One Fifth Avenue. A delightful read...and guess what...she headed hops! I probably never would have noticed it before I learn this common rule. Is it really that bad?

But to answer the original post question, I think what you are doing is fine. I have found a lot of other ways to indicate thoughts without head hopping. Like with dialogue: ...," Billy said with a, I could care less look.

Head hopping isn't problematic if you only inhabit one central character per scene or chapter. That's one of the great things about 3rd person. But if you do it within a scene, it can screw things up badly. As a reader, who am I supposed to relate to here? OK, who the hell am I now? I know he doesn't love him so why is this dialogue of him trying to woo her of any great interest? If I know everyone's inner thoughts, how is a character going to surprise me with their reaction? What am I going to discover with dialogue if I can access their inner thoughts?

It turns the reader into a chess player, merely moving pieces on a board and what's more, the chess player pretty much knows all the other moves people will make. It's too distant for my liking, although I know it's been used successfully many times. It's not a POV I would read, and haven't.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I know they say not to head hop. When I first started my novel, a friend and experienced novelist said, "What's your POV?" I said, "My what?" After she explained it to me, I read my first few pages and realized...yup! I was head hopping. So, I did the proper thing and divided the chapters up into POVs.

I'm just reading Candice Bushnell's One Fifth Avenue. A delightful read...and guess what...she headed hops! I probably never would have noticed it before I learn this common rule. Is it really that bad?

But to answer the original post question, I think what you are doing is fine. I have found a lot of other ways to indicate thoughts without head hopping. Like with dialogue: ...," Billy said with a, I could care less look.

There's head hopping, and then there's head hopping. LOL

I've read that Nora Roberts does quite a bit of head hopping. My wife reads everything Nora produces, and I've never heard a complaint or quibble.

Head hopping is supposed to involve being in more than on character's head in "one scene". I don't head hop often, but I ignore that restriction. When it benefits my story, I'll tell you what one guy is thinking, then what the next guy is thinking. The thing you don't want to do is play ping-pong.

Joe stood at the window, looking out at the beautiful day, wishing he was out there, and not stuck inside with his boring stack of paperwork.

Bob looked up from the report he was studying. He knew what Joe was thinking, and he felt guilty about it, since he was the one who'd dumped two weeks of work on Joe with a one week deadline.

You know what Joe is feeling, you know what Bob is feeling, and putting it in dialogue could make the scene unnatural. They could say those things, but that's a different mood, and might not be the mood the author wants. As long as you get on with the story and dispense with the thinking, there's nothing wrong with this head hopping.

Or you could have:
"I'd rather be on the golf course." Joe wished he was anywhere but stuck in this office with all this boring paperwork.

"I wish you could be, too." Bob felt guilty, because he'd dumped all that work on Joe's desk.

"It's your fault," Joe accused unnecessarily. He was miffed at Bob for waiting until the last minute to start this project.

"I know it is." Bob wished he could tell Joe that the boss dumped it on both of them at the last minute, but he didn't like to make excuses.


That's what we don't want to do. :)
 

Sam

General
Patron
Are you writing in third or first, OP?

Just for the record: head hopping is easier to avoid in third omniscient, despite what certain 'authorities' suggest, and is the standard variant of third-person prose going back centuries. Everything you can do in third limited, you can do (and more) in third omniscient. Third omniscient is better for character development, foreshadowing, multiple characters, multiple viewpoints, creating tension by making readers aware of something the characters aren't, the list goes on and on.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
There's so much advice regarding writing limited POV's (as opposed to omniscient as Sam was discussing) that I think there's the impression that one must always write a limited POV. That's not true at all.

Just because you move from Bob's perspective to Betty's, even in a limited POV, doesn't always mean head-hopping, though. It should mean that you've clearly switched for a scene or for a chapter. Switching mid-paragraph or mid-scene carries a lot more risk of bafflement.

If you lose your reader when you switch perspectives, you've not done your job.

There are some good books on the subject of how to write various POV's, it's worth a little reading.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top