Saturday, April 9, 2011

A-Z Blog Challenge: H

Head hopping.  Oh!  The pain!

Head-hopping is changing character viewpoints within a scene, maybe even after every couple of sentences or paragraph by paragraph.  It’s jarring and confusing.  Some writers say, “But, I write in Omniscient.”  And though Omniscient writers may choose to reveal the thoughts or feelings of several characters within a scene, it needs to be done skillfully.  In Stephen King's The Shining, the viewpoint changes from Wendy to Danny within the same scene with description between them. It flows very well and the casual reader doesn't notice.

I borrowed this example from an AbsoluteWrite forum:

Head-hopping: it's usually an ill-controlled POV by the author to try to follow multiple characters at the same time, but without any cohesion or a unique omniscient narrator. The POVs are of the characters', but the POV jumps from one character to another without control, usually within the same scene or even paragraph. It's usually a symptom in 3rd limited POV. For example, as the story is told for character A's POV, suddenly the readers are privy to character B's thoughts or feelings or observations (outside of character A's POV). It's jarring and uncontrolled.

Omniscient:There were six people on the island, and they were all thinking one thing: how to kill the others to survive. Little did they know, however, that a giant lizard was coming their way from the far end of the island.

Stuck on the island, Joe thought of his survival, and how he would kill the others. He looked over to Mary and wondered what she was thinking. Mary looked back at Joe and thought: I should kill Joe so I can survive. Joe knew that look on Mary's face. He realized she was thinking the same thing.

If you’re not sure of the different viewpoints of writing, here’s a little run down…

Point of view is where the camera sits at any point in time.

If the camera is sitting behind a character's eyes, it's 1st person.

If the camera is sitting behind the reader's eyes, it's 2nd person.

If the camera is sitting outside any character or reader, it's 3rd person.

If the camera is sitting on a single character's shoulder for a limited length of time (a scene, chapter, book), it's limited 3rd person.

If the camera sits like God On High and can extend its view, however momentarily, into any and anything's eyes, it's omniscient 3rd person.

I like to write in limited third person, but while I was learning to tighten up this style, I was constantly called on my “head hopping”.    

Please tell me I’m not the only one that has a hard time with this skill.



Tony Payne said...

I have never heard of the term "Head Hopping" before, but it is pretty descriptive. I never know which person to write in and I agree it is very confusing.

M Pax said...

It can be tough. I still slip up sometimes.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I do pretty good with it now but in my first couple of manuscripts I was hopping all over the place.

Dawn Embers said...

Don't worry, I have this problem too, especially in first drafts. I do my best to keep with the third person limited MC but it's hard at times. I either accidentally head hop or I say "seems" and "appears" to try not and head hop. I hope I solve the problems in rewrites and edits.

Charlene A. Wilson said...

Thanks, everyone. I'm glad I'm not the only one. Lol.