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Authors/Writers' Corner > Head hopping

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message 1: by Nichelle (new)

Nichelle (ebondreamz) A question for you aspiring and published authors. When your writing how do you keep from head hopping? What tactics to you employ?

message 2: by A.M. (new)

A.M. | 349 comments I learned to center each scene around one charters POV. I also use scene breaks *** to transition to another POV.

Another thing is using dialogue to transition between POVs.

message 3: by Danielle The Book Huntress , Sees Love in All Colors (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 7314 comments Mod
I will try to confine a chapter to one view point. If I have to shift viewpoints, I will have a large space before starting the other person's POV. I never shift viewpoints between paragraphs. My rule of thumb as to knowing if I have to shift a viewpoint is asking what character do I want to see the unfolding scene through. If I want both, than I will have a space before the next viewpoint, or just start a new chapter.

message 4: by Nichelle (new)

Nichelle (ebondreamz) Thanks A.M. and Lady.

message 5: by Chicki (new)

Chicki Brown (chicki663) | 130 comments As the other ladies have said, I keep one scene/chapter strictly for one character. That scene/chapter is written solely from his/her POV. I don't change until there is a scene/chapter break.

Chicki Brown
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message 6: by Nichelle (new)

Nichelle (ebondreamz) thanks Chicki

message 7: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I think the issue of head hopping is so funny. Right now I'm reading some of my "comfort reads." I'm on a Roberta Gellis glom. Her Roselynde Chronicles, which she began in 1964 is chock-full of head-hopping. In fact in every book on my keeper shelf, most from the 70s and 80s head-hopping is the norm. I have no problem following the different viewpoints. And we all know that Nora Roberts head-hops with aplomb. Why is it now that editors are convinced that readers can't follow anymore? I don't head hop because I'm tired of fighting with editors over it, but IMO it often kills the flow of the story. After all, people don't interact within their own set off little asterisks.

message 8: by Nichelle (new)

Nichelle (ebondreamz) I love head hopping...and apparently so does my so yeah..we have loads of edits to do. Not sure why we can't do it..

but hearing that most publishing houses dont want it. Sucks.

message 9: by Stacy-Deanne (last edited Jul 02, 2011 07:17AM) (new)

Stacy-Deanne Stacy-Deanne (wwwgoodreadscomstacydeanne) Hi Ebony,

Do you mean POV change or head-hopping? There is a difference. Head hopping is a big no-no. It's when you are in ONE scene and you hop from one character's head to another. That's incorrect because it jars the reader. It's considered bad and clumsy writing to head hop from POV to POV in the same scene.

Changing POV is fine to do within the story but NOT in the same scene. That's just a writing rule and the biggest one out there. I write in third person and I go from POV to POV, but NOT in the same scene. Also, if you need to change POV's in the same scene, just apply a scene break and then take back up with a different character's motivation.

I think sometimes people get confused. Head hopping is not the same as POV changing.


Say you got a scene with two people. If your MC is gonna be the POV you go with, stick with that person's thoughts ONLY. You cannot hop back and forth. You can't start one scene in Mary's mind and with her POV then hop over to Ethan.

You can't do this:

Ethan: Mary was always the most beautiful woman in the world to him. If he had one chance to make her happy, he would.

(You can't then jump to Mary in the same scene):

Mary: She'd pay a million dollars to find out why Ethan always stared at her. Did he feel the same about her that she did him?

That is INCORRECT. Writing has rules and head-hopping is a rule that is there to make the experience better for the reader. Hopping from one person to one person in the same scene can get confusing and take away from the character's motivation and it does make it hard to stay with a scene if there is head hopping. But like I said, if you wanna hop from Ethan to Mary then just use a scene break. Simple.

But as for the POV change, you can change to whatever character you want, anytime as many times as you like. Just not in the same scene.

So it's the POV change that you can use but head-hopping is just incorrect on many levels if you do not indicate the change by breaking up the scene or beginning a new chapter.

Best Wishes!

message 10: by Nichelle (new)

Nichelle (ebondreamz) Thank you Stacy. I appreciate the feedback. Truly :)

message 11: by Delaney (new)

Delaney Diamond (delaney_diamond) Ebony, I like to shift POV in intense scenes, but I only make one shift. My editor allows it if I include asterisks to signal the shift. I don't go back and forth over and over again.

Editors and readers are comfortable with a POV change within a scene or chapter, as long as you add an extra space or asterisks as a signal.

Head-hopping means you're jumping back and forth between the heads of both characters, which can cause confusion.

I personally don't like it because it's jarring and annoying. I find it difficult to follow what's taking place if I'm back and forth multiple times in each person's head within a few paragraphs of each other.

message 12: by Nichelle (new)

Nichelle (ebondreamz) Thanks Delaney. It's great to get feedback like I know what direction I need to go.

message 13: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6601 comments Mod
I write my stories like a script.

message 14: by Rie (last edited Jul 04, 2011 01:42AM) (new)

Rie Langdon (rielangdon) | 3 comments I think head-hopping can work well, sometimes exceptionally well, when done properly.

That said, I think the trend has gone toward one POV per scene because many writers just don't get the concept. I'm not talking about anyone here, of course, but I see POV issues all the time in the manuscripts I edit for publication. My guess is that the "one POV per scene" rule is a way for the publishing houses to separate the men from the boys, so to speak, and also helps them streamline the editing process. (I've recently seen a manuscript where the writer head-hopped three times in a single sentence, and that's something the editor usually can't fix on her own. Also, trying to explain POV to an author who's never heard of the concept is a labor-intensive process at best. )

How to keep from head-hopping? I know of two ways: first, write what you write and then edit the heck out of it later on, ensuring that each scene has a single POV. Or, you can write from only one character's POV at a time. For me, I find this second approach quashes my process, since I'm usually imagining the scene in my head and I'm just there to write it down. :)

A tip I can give you is to use different color fonts (or different fonts entirely!) for different characters. Sometimes I find that helps me keep "in character" as I write. With Word, it's easy to bring it all back to Times New Roman (or whatever) before you submit the manuscript.

Great question!

message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Rie, that's a great idea about different fonts/colors for each POV.

What a simple but useful concept.


message 16: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Madison (ruthmadison) | 13 comments It seems like many, many books break the no head-hopping "rule." It drives me nuts. I hate when the POV switches rapidly in the middle of a scene, or even sometimes in the middle of a paragraph. I can't tell who is thinking what.

And yet, many books do it and are published like that. Apparently not all readers are majorly turned off by it the way I am!

If I am going to switch POV, I always do it at a chapter break or a section break.

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