Ok. You are in the middle of your fiction book and an editor friend tells you that there is too much “head-hopping” and you need several rewrites. Blank stare from you. Head hopping? Head nodding? How does a head hop? Does she mean break dancing on your head? But you can’t dance and besides, what does that have to do with your wonderful, change-the-world novel that will make you a millionaire?
Unfortunately, if you are writing a novel, “head-hopping” has much to do with you being successful or not. A simple definition of head-hopping is when you, as the writer, change from one point of view (POV) to another usually during your chapter or paragraph in your chapter. While head-hopping is not automatically wrong (and in some cases is a very effective way of describing a scene), as a general rule if you are describing a scene from one POV of one character and then switch to another character, you can totally (and most probably will) confuse your reader. Hence “head-hopping” – hopping from one POV to another too quickly.
You can imagine a tense or scary or sexy scene being seen through the eyes of the reader’s favorite character in the book. Your reader is caught up in what is happening. They are connecting emotionally with the character’s narration. They are engaged and engrossed in their character which has a certain voice and vocabulary. Then the head-hopping. Suddenly, the reader has to switch gears, change their emotional connection, and keep following the thread of the story that you so carefully set up previously. Generally, this is not an effective way of writing and if done consistently, you will lose a lot of readers.
How can you deal with head-hopping? Since your object is to keep a consistent POV from one character, instead of using another character to describe something, use your main character to convey what the second character is thinking or seeing or feeling. You get the same information out there in the story, but you haven’t changed the POV and this allows your reader to maintain an emotional connection to your character while continuing the story without a break.
If you want to change your POV, rather than change in the middle of the scene or in the middle of the flow of what is happening, wait until a new chapter. Or, if you need to have a new POV within a chapter, make one of those page breaks, just to notify your reader that something has changed. This will allow your reader the few seconds they need to adjust to another POV, switch their emotional connection around and plow forward. But as a general view, head-hopping is something that should be avoided in order for you to have a book that makes you a million dollars!
Are you writing a novel or short story? Have you found yourself head-hopping? How have you fixed that in your story?
There is a lot more to writing than just sitting down with a pen and paper (or a computer). As a publishing company, Our Little Books strives to provide you with information that will make everyone better authors, no matter what they are writing. Feel free to contact us if you would like to talk about your book and how we can help you.