Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Head-Hopping--Don't Give Your Readers Whiplash

Today's stop on the blog tour is at I Love to Read and Review Books. They have a Ten Fun Things to Know About Julie Coulter Bellon.  Some of those things are definitely trivia facts! (You can read them here!) As for Fun Fact #3, do any of you even remember Bryan Adams?  Just curious.

photo credit: piccalilli days via photopin cc 

Since I don't have a word count to report, I want to talk to you today about head-hopping, or changing point of view in the story.  So, for example, we could be reading the thoughts of the hero, and then we change to being inside the head of the heroine.  Make sense?

The book I'm reading now (which I won't name because I'm using it as an example) has a TON of head-hopping. The bad guy, the guards who guard the bad guy, the kid, the hero, the heroine, her dead husband's best friend, the maid, the innkeeper, EVERYONE has a point of view in this story. It is driving me crazy to read it because I can't keep all the points of view straight and I've had to go back a paragraph or two every time we switch to see whose thoughts I'm reading. (Because there is NO warning that we've switched. Ever.)  So confusing.

Not only is this difficult for a reader, it also distances the reader from truly experiencing the story.  I can't get close to the heroine's thoughts and identify with her because I only get a paragraph or two of her before we're thrown into her maid's thoughts and then the villain's thoughts.  I really want to get to know her and her reactions to the conflict and I can't do that with a paragraph here and a paragraph there.

It also makes it difficult to go beyond surface emotions when the hero and heroine aren't given top billing.  How can the hero express any real emotion or turmoil when he's barely given two or three minutes on the page?  It doesn't do the story justice.  (And this particular book has a good story, but a terrible delivery because of the head-hopping.)

So, my soapbox today to writers is, please don't head-hop to every Tom, Dick, and Harry in your book. Give yourself time to explore the hero and heroine's feelings, emotions, and reactions.  Don't shortchange yourself or your story by trying to cram everyone's point of view into the book.  Stay with the ones who matter so your readers can come to care about your characters and what they're going through.  You don't want your story to feel like you're trying to tell your best friend what's going on in your life, only to have fifty interruptions until you finally give up.

Point of view is integral to a good story. Use it wisely with only those who need to have it to tell your story in its best light.


Debra Erfert said...

I'm afraid I'm guilty of this in my very first work. But I learned! I don't do that anymore, and I teach others that head-hopping is a baaaaad thing, for all the reasons you just stated.

Guess what? I do have a word count this week. This morning, I wrote 1,193 words in an new opening scene for my Window of Time paranormal series. It clears up so many questions you had from your wonderful critique. Thank you.

Jon Spell said...

Your question about Bryan Adams just ... cuts like a knife.

Do you ever wonder, while reading a book like that, how it got past the editor?

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Debra, that is awesome! And I always love cleared up questions! :)

Jon, that made me laugh! And YES I truly do wonder that. I'm ready to poke my eyes out with a spork at this point, but I want to see how it ends! Sigh.