Monday, May 21, 2012

Today's Paranoia: Head-Hopping

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

So, this morning, as usual, I check up on my Twitter feed. Saw a couple blog posts about head-hopping, and how it's bad (and of course now I can't find the links - maybe it's time to start using lists on Twitter).

Update: Couldn't find both articles, but this one was the tipping point.

Update 2: Found the other one at

So, of course I read theses posts before I start my day's work, and now I'm paranoid. I'm seeing head-hopping everywhere.

For the uninitiated, "head-hopping" is the practice of switching point-of-view (POV) multiple times, especially within a scene. It's kind of disconcerting for the reader. Even in third-person voice, you have a main character (MC). That MC is the one who you see the story through - at least in the main. Think of Harry Potter. Third-person POV. There are other characters, but you mainly see the action through Harry's eyes, which means the story is processed through Harry's brain and thoughts (there is this concept of third-person omniscient, but I digress).

Some people find it difficult to write in third-person for this very reason. Sure, there are challenges with first-person, namely you cannot write anything that the person speaking (normally the MC) doesn't know directly, even if you the author knows it. But maintaining consistent POV is pretty easy.

I've written third-person. I'm pretty comfortable with it. I've even written stories with multiple POV and my readers (one of whom is the aforementioned editor) had no problem following the story. So I kind of think of it as a strong suit of mine.

But after this morning, I am freaking out with this particular romance project. Am I head-hopping? Am I confusing my reader? Because here's the thing.

When you write a scene with two people in it, especially a romantic tension scene, you can't totally ignore the feelings/thoughts/emotions of one of the players.

I mean really. You just can't. You can't talk about how the heroine gets all mushy inside when the hero looks at her and then totally ignore how she affects him. How he gets all hot and bothered every time he brushes her skin. I mean, you just can't! If you want romantic tension, you need to get both actors involved, otherwise you've got bupkus.

So, while I firmly believe rules are meant to be broken, I'm having a little bit of anxiety here. And there's not a lot I can do about it except look for the really egregious places where even I can spot the head-hopping and get rid of it.

Because in the end, it doesn't matter if I think what I've done is completely clear. It matters what my reader thinks. So on I trudge. This is the part of the story where I think "OMG, why did I think I could do this?"

I know it's just a part of the process. I'll get over it. But in the meantime, I'm still feeling a bit paranoid.


  1. Twitter sends me into freak-out, information overload about twice a week (okay, four times a week, but don't tell). So I definitely feel your pain.

    As for the head hopping, I usually focus on body language to say what the individuals are feeling rather than getting inside their heads. Usually (especially for romance scenes) body language can do a more than adequate job of conveying what the characters are feeling.

    Anyway, that's just my two cents. Best of luck!

  2. I can usually keep up with Twitter. Usually.

    On my read through, I found myself doing exactly the same thing. Replacing "thoughts" with more descriptive body language. Hopefully it'll fly.