Friday, April 5, 2013

Head Hopping vs Multiple POVs

by Jemi Fraser

When I first started writing, I hadn't realized there was a difference between head hopping and multiple points of view. There is and it's important! I write romance, and like many romance authors, I like to tell the story from the viewpoints of both the male and female lead characters. But I've learned to be very, very careful.

Head Hopping
  • changing the pov character in the middle of a scene, sometimes in the middle of a paragraph
  • the pov switch is shown within the sentence, often by indicating what the character is thinking (Mary wanted nothing more than to snatch the pen from his hand and shove it deep into his brain. John watched the glint in Mary's eye and took a judicious step backward.)
Multiple POVs
  • the pov character is consistent throughout the entire scene
  • there is a physical indicator of change - often a scene or chapter break
Currently, head hopping is NOT in style and unless you're an established author, it's difficult to pull of without looking like an amateur. Nora Roberts/JD Robb has a lot of head hopping in her books and she does it very well. There's never any confusion as to who is thinking and her transitions are seamless.

But don't try it! Nora Roberts is a very talented author with a great reputation. She's also an international best seller many times over with a bazillion books sold.

Are you?

Okay then. Probably better to stick with the current trend of only switching your point of view character at a scene or chapter break.

Do you use multiple points of view when you're writing your stories?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs and tweets while searching for those HEAs.


Medeia Sharif said...

The switch needs to be apparent. I've read a few books when it's not and it's quite confusing.

I haven't tried multiple POVs, but I'd like to.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I usually stick to just two, although my next book has three. And I usually switch between breaks. Only once did I have to switch within a scene.

Jemi Fraser said...

Medeia - exactly! If it's not obvious - it's too hard to read :)

Alex - switching within the scene has to be very well done - which I'm sure yours is. If it was in the 1st 2 books, I didn't notice it as awkward!! :)

Suzanne Payne said...

I'm still new at this. Sometimes when I'm in a scene and then have to leave and come back to it, I forget who's POV I'm writing in, so for now, I put it at the top, just for me. Keeps me straight. I like to write in multiple pov's though. It helps me dig deeper into the other characters, like the villain and one of my other 'supporting characters'. My ADD brain gets bored with just one

Maria Perry Mohan said...

I'm not in favour of POV shift mid-scene. If there has to be more than one MC, I prefer it to be one chapter, one character.

Maria' Book Blog

JeffO said...

My first (still unpublished) novel was one POV, all the way through. That one was easy, because it was also first person. My current one is 3rd, with multiple POV characters. I'm mostly good at avoiding head-hopping, but I do have a tendency to slide toward omni.

Dobson said...

I have not tried multiple pov, but I think i want to try it. I just will have to make my feeble brain work overtime.

Michelle 4 Laughs said...

One of the best things about writing epic fantasy is the ability to get into so many characters' heads. I was able to write from seven POV's, including several villains. It was a blast!

And it is possible to get published with that many POV's. That debut fantasy, Kindar's Cure, comes out May 1st.

SC Author said...

This is awesome! I'm doing multiple POV for my epic fantasy too (like Michelle) and it is SO FUN. JK Rowling did head hopping AMAZINGLY in THE CASUAL VACANCY. Best example of switching viewpoints I've seen so far. Very smoothly done.

LD Masterson said...

Ah, you named my favorite head hopper (I love JD Robb's In Death series). But, as you said, you have to be Roberts/Robb to get away with it.

I like multiple POV's, both in my reading and in my writing. I don't like being limited to only knowing what's in one character's head.

Dianna Narciso said...

I've been reading "The Sword of Shannara" and was at first stunned by the head hopping! At one point I was confused, but I'm getting used to it now.

I still don't care for it. I prefer to switch heads by chapter.

Jemi Fraser said...

Suzanne - I do like the multiple perspectives too! It does take you deeper :)

Maria - as long as there's a scene switch, I'm okay - but not if the switches are too frequent!

Jeff - I've always like the double pov - probably because of the romance aspect :)

Dobson - if my brain can do it, I bet yours is up to the task! :)

Michelle - I love when people break through the trends with awesome story telling!! That's when you know you've got talent!

SC - I do love the multiple povs too - love seeing the other characters from new eyes! I have to read the Vacancy still.

Linda - she really is a great head hopper! Love the In Death series too - one of my faves!! :)

Dianna - I'd forgotten Brooks hopped heads in the Shannara series. It's been too long since I read those books - they're awesome!

DMS said...

I tend to write from one POV, but I do enjoy reading stories from multiple POVs. I think your advice about head hopping is spot on! Great post!

Marcia said...

I love multiple POVs. I have them in my WIP, at chapter breaks, and each chapter is labeled with the POV character's name.

Jemi Fraser said...

Jess - thanks! I think some of the genres lend themselves better to multiple povs too :)

Marcia - that's a good idea! I haven't done that, but I just may borrow it! :)

Christine Rains said...

I'm not a fan of too much head hopping. I tend to stick with one POV throughout my stories.

Jemi Fraser said...

Christine - I think it depends on the genre and the story for me! :)

Nas said...

I like my POV changes for new scene.

Great post, Jemi!

Jemi Fraser said...

Thanks Nas! I like them that way too :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

I'm not a fan of head-popping either!
Great post! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Thanks Jennifer! :)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Head hopping can be much too confusing when reading. I can't imagine how I'd pull it off in my writing. I much prefer obvious changes in the POV (with scene changes, etc) so that I'm not ripped out of the plot.

Jemi Fraser said...

Cynthia - anything that rips you out of the plot is a definite nono! I've read a few whole do it well, and I don't mind those, but for the most part, I like my switches at scene changes too :)