Monday, February 1, 2016

Newbie Corner - What Is Head-Hopping?

Yeah, the term produces some interesting mental images. Think about it in terms of jumping from one character's thoughts to another character's thoughts in the middle of a scene

There needs to be a clear distinction between each character. Open a novel and watch for those separators that say, "You're now in Character A's head." Why is this so important? If a reader has to stop and figure out who's thinking, it takes them out of the story, slows the action, and makes reading a chore instead of a pleasure.

What does head-hopping look like?

Example:  Lindy leaned forward, her chin resting on her hand. Mike knew how to coach kids and bring out their full potential. Her heart did a little flip when he turned and waved. What a hunk.

After practice, he walked over to her and sat down. "Hey, I didn't think you'd be able to get here today. Would you like to go for a burger or something?"

She'd go almost anywhere with Mike. Those blue eyes made the sky dull in comparison. "Sure. You must be starving by now."

Wow, he couldn't believe how God blessed him with such a beautiful girlfriend. Her beauty appealed to him even more because of her kindness and the effort she made to support him.

THERE IT IS:  The last paragraph switches from her thoughts to his thoughts in the same scene.

How do we correct that scene?

Take out the last paragraph and substitute:

He stood and reached for her hand. "Yeah, the kids gave me a workout today. Let's go to the Burger Shack. I got paid today, so I'll buy you one of those banana splits you love."

Maybe it was silly, but his thoughtfulness always made her go weak in the knees.

Note: He's interacting with her, but we're anchored in her thoughts. It takes some practice to stay focused,  but it will become easier as time goes by. One of the benefits of reading well-written books is seeing how an author "does it right."

Writers: Is head-hopping a difficult concept for you? Please share your experience.

Readers: Have you ever read a story and had to go back over a sentence to figure out who was thinking/talking? What effect did it have on your reading experience?

Photo Credit:  Claudio Guzman


Karen Lange said...

Good illustration, Susan. You know how much I dislike it when it's hard to follow characters, or when there's so many it's hard to keep up. It takes some of the enjoyment out of reading. :)

quietspirit said...

It does cause me to have to re-read a passage. But, when I was attending a writing group, one of the women used the phrase but never really explained it to us. Thank you for the explanation and the example.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen,

Thanks. I'm glad you stuck with my multiple POV novels. :)

Hi Quiet Spirit,

You're welcome. I'm glad the post was helpful.

God bless,

Anonymous said...

I like this term-head hoppers! I do get disturbed when this happens in the stories I read, and have seen this even in best sellers. And thank you for the example on how to fix this!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Excellent example. Short and sweet and right to the point. Simple is the best way to learn.