D. F. Krieger

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Writer Wednesday: Head Hopping

I get tons of e-mails from authors and writers about head hopping. What is it? How do I spot it? How do I avoid it but still convey what I need to? I thought I'd share this with everyone in hopes you will avoid it in your work in the future.

Head Hopping - When you depart from the POV (point of view) from one character to the next, or to omniscient POV.

So, if the story is in first person perspective, we should always be in first person perspective. I've yet to meet a publishing company that allows first to third in the same story.

If the story is in third person perspective, we can tell the story from the main character's view, but here's the trick: Most publishing companies prefer one POV per chapter or section. You can't switch to Don's perspective in the middle of a paragraph when we've been in Ralph's.

Now how do we spot it? That's the real crux of the issue here, isn't it?

Linda tossed her long, black hair. <--Can you spot the POV departure here? I'll give you a hint; "Long, black". Here's the explanation: On a general basis we don't think about our own eye color, hair length/color/texture. We can't see our expressions. When we are in a character's head, we can only see what they can see. Only feel what they can feel.

The best way to avoid head hopping is to use the five sense. Can your character see/hear/smell/taste/feel it? If not, then it's probably head hopping.

But, but, how do I explain what my character looks like then?!

One rule of thumb, Do NOT use the "mirror trick". That's the oldest trick in the book and editors/reader roll their eyes when it's pulled. What's the mirror trick? When you have your character look in a mirror and think about their own looks. LAME! (Note: I've been guilty of this trick once before. That scene is now gone!)

Now, what you can do? For third person perspective, you can have another main character think about or describe the looks of character one when it is their chapter/scene. Like: Chuck let his gaze travel down the length of Julia with slow assessment. Fiery curls crowned her head, green eyes glared at him, and pale hands rested on curvy hips. Oh yes, this woman was going to be the epitome of a hellcat.

First person stories are a little harder. Dialogue! In this, dialogue is your friend. Example: Jane lifted my bangs and wrinkled her nose. "You have such pretty blue eyes. Why do you hide them?" she asked. <--See, now we know the main characters eyes are blue AND she has bangs that fall over her face.

And that concludes my lesson for today. Clear as mud? Excellent. Any questions?~ D. F. Krieger


kastil said...

Very nice blog post. I've told people I've critiqued before if the character doesn't see it, it didn't happen.

wlynnchantale said...

I'm learning. Sometimes I catch it and sometimes my lovely editor points it out to me. I still prefer headhopping. :-)

Katherine Wyvern said...

I think I have a pretty good grip on my POV (unlike other things), but sometimes I will allow myself a tiny bit of leeway. In the last story I wrote, which is written in close 3rd, I said the main character "looked up with a haggard expression", which is a bit of a stretch on POV. I thought about it for days, but decided it was acceptable, all things considered; most people are self conscious enough (in every sense) to realize if they have some really unusual expression on their face. I hope my editor doesn't hit me on the head with it, should it ever get accepted. :-)