Tuesday, May 14, 2019

#TipfulTuesday The Issues With Head Hopping

Last month, I read ten books, all published in 2018. That is a lot for me. Of the ten books, eight had more than one moment with head hopping. It’s an easy mistake to make. Anyone can do it. Perhaps this reminder will help all of us to weed out these moments.

What is head hopping? Head hopping is when a scene's point of view character sees, hears, feels, or knows the thoughts of another character in an unlikely way. 

For example: A scene is in Jane’s point of view. Jane is speaking with John Dear on the phone. The conversation ends. The call is disconnected. The scene continues with John throwing his phone on the floor and grumbling. He picks up Jane’s photo and … His actions or thoughts continue for a line or two before the scene returns to Jane’s point of view. 

Jane did not witness what John Dear did after the call ended, therefore, those aspects could not be in her scene. An author can begin a new scene or chapter with John’s point of view and include this information. OR. Jane can learn about John’s actions in some other way: a security camera, a bug in the room, another person reporting, etc. 

BUT his thoughts are his thoughts. She can’t possibly know them unless he tells her.

Writing in the omniscient point of view will not fix this problem. We tend to pick one character or another to tell a scene in today’s stories. That is the point of view. Also, I believe the omniscient point of view is taboo today. Stay tuned. It may come back.

I had an instructor who once told me to picture a camera with voice recognition in the eyes of the point of view character figuratively. Jane may see John Dear fall on the ice and cut his hand. She may hear him scream in pain, (or not), she may know what a gash on the hand feels like, and she can witness his body language. However, she does not know that inside his head he feels like a bumbling fool. That he screamed not from the pain but because he ripped his new pants. Etc. The scene can, therefore, include what Jane thinks John Dear is experiencing, but not what is in his head. Because….yep…that is head hopping.

When you edit your story, watch for head hopping. Words like: must, seem, etc., allow us to write things like, "John must really be hurting.”

Since I don’t know what you are thinking, I shall sign off with: May all your characters think only their thoughts. 

~Mary Vee
Next week I will be attending the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference. My book, Daring to Live is one of the finalists. Please join all of us as we cheer on the Selah winners that Wednesday night.

Photo by Mary Vee- a few friends down the road from me
Link to Mary's books: https://amzn.to/2Fq4Jbm
Mary Vee -Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, was a teacher, a missionary, and married an Air Force vet. Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.
Visit Mary at her WebsiteBlog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Debra E. Marvin said...

I see omniscient (which feels like head-hopping until I realize what the author intends) much more often in mystery series.NYT Bestselling author types, so not just older stories either. It used to bother me but now I getting used to it.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Yes, I think the omniscient voice is making a come back. A seasoned author can use this tool to spin a great story, but it takes work.