Even though my posts for the last five years are archived on my website, www.brendapoulosauthor.org, I know that it isn’t convenient for many readers to search around for information. So, for the next few weeks, I am going to be re-posting some of those which generated the most questions/comments from readers.
I hope they are useful and encouraging!
Here is the first:
I love to get freebies, don’t you?
Over the past few weeks, I have downloaded several free fiction books.
Some were absolute jewels. Others … well …
That’s the way it goes in the world of “free.”
One of the books contained a LOT of head-hopping. Although the story and characters were enjoyable (that’s why I kept reading) the intermingled flow of dialogue, description, and emotion from various characters within the same paragraph made the story difficult to follow.
A reader shouldn’t have to constantly wonder who is speaking and whose thoughts are being revealed. Avoiding head-hopping is essential for writers—and it is so easy to do:
- In each scene, establish your point-of-view character. Although other characters can be in the scene, can show action, and speak dialogue, only the POV character can share their thoughts and perspective.
- Each paragraph should have only one character. When you want to change characters, simply start a new paragraph.
- When you want to change POV characters, begin a new scene.
Within the same paragraph (even within the same scene) don’t allow yourself to hop back and forth from one character’s thoughts and perspective to another’s.
If you confuse your reading audience in this way, even the most interesting characters and enjoyable dialogue may not be enough to keep them reading to THE END.
2 thoughts on “Head-hopping”
I struggled with this a lot early on, and still do to some extent. Whenever I work with a new editor before a submission, I always start with, “And watch my POV. Make sure I didn’t screw it up.”
I do think good editors look for this, but a reminder to watch out for what we realize to be our shortcomings never hurts!