Saturday, July 13, 2013

POV- Head-hopping. . . and other related things

          POV is the reader's door into the character's head. It's fun to read books with a deep level of POV. Strong POV:

-makes the story strong

-makes the POV characters' voices more memorable

-gives the reader a more personalized experience with the characters and of the story

           (I actually made a list!)

           Here's a few things that can stand in the way of strong POV.

           Head-hopping is when the reader begins in one characters head and in the same scene is transported to another character's head. Like this:

           The wolf drooled. She looked very tasty. But he couldn't eat her yet. He had to know who this Grandmother person was. If she was a person. Maybe a code name for something. Red's grip on the basket tightened. Hopefully this vagabond wasn't who she was supposed to meet in the woods. She wasn't going hand the battle plans over to just anyone.

           In this section I jumped from the wolf's thoughts to Red's thoughts in the middle of a paragraph. Usually if you want to change POV characters, you would begin a new scene or chapter. Throughout that whole scene or chapter the reader is in one character's head so he doesn't get confused when you change to another character's thoughts because you have a good transition in between.

           I've read some books that head-hop often. It can really get frustrating. Especially if I'm taken into many different characters' heads within the same scene. I once read a battle scene that followed the king. He was at the front of the retreat. Two paragraphs later 'he' was at the back of the battle somehow? Sentences later the author clarified that the 'he' was the king's right hand man and the king was still at the front. The confusion downplayed the fast action and adrenaline that the battle was supposed to create.

           A scene or chapter break is just a way to help transition the reader. It let's him know, "Hey, something's going to be different." Whether it's a change in whose eyes we see the story from, a change in the direction of the story, a change in the setting of the story, etc.

           Another thing, similar to head-hopping, is the POV character giving the reader information that the POV character has no way of knowing. Maybe there's something going on behind the character:

           Red walked down the path. Every noise seemed so much louder to her now. Where was the guy she was supposed to pass this message to? Every movement caught her attention. But she didn't see the wolf in bushes creep up behind her.

           We are looking through her eyes and if the wolf is behind her then . . . she can't see him.

           Extra: Something I learned from a workshop taught by Steven James: the difference between horror and suspense. In horror we would remain in Red's POV and we would feel her heart race with fear when she heard the wolf's voice. But if we wanted to generate suspense, we would cut to a scene in the wolf's POV, so that the readers know the wolf is there, but Red doesn't, and with every step Red takes the readers are willing her to run for her life, even though she couldn't possibly know of the danger she's in.

           There's also this thing:

           The wolf crept low in the bushes behind Red. Who was she meeting in the woods today?
           How does the wolf know Red's thoughts? If he had been spying on her earlier and heard she was meeting someone, that's fine. But if this is the first time he sees her? He can't even know her name.

           The wolf crept low in the bushes behind the girl. Who was she? One of the spies? She jumped at every sound. She was certainly scared. He could smell it. But more than scared. She looked about with some purpose in mind. Perhaps she was looking for someone. Someone she was supposed to meet. Or maybe she was just a foolish girl who'd lost her way. No matter. After he found out, he'd eat her anyways.

           And this:

           Red shoved the branches up. But she forgot to step higher and she tripped on the roots.

           We are in Red's head. This is her thought process. She's not going to think that she forgot to step higher, before she has to step higher.

           Red shoved the branches up. She tripped on the roots.

          And then we can omit the part about not picking her feet up high enough because, well . . . Isn't that why people usually fall? Besides readers are rather intelligent people. They'll know.


  1. That's a really interesting point about the difference between horror and suspense. That makes a lot of sense! Great posts! Head-hopping drives me crazy. I look back at my old manuscripts and wince...seriously, I had no idea. XD

    1. Isn't it? When he said that during the seminar, it was like one of those "Now you know" moments.
      Head-hopping drives me bonkers. Though a few authors who are rather subtle with it; I can barely see it. Should I congratulate them or kick myself? Perhaps both.
      Eeghads! My old manuscripts. . .


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