1. Roxie
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    Roxie Active Member

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    Head Hopping

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Roxie, Jul 23, 2008.

    Do you find that head hopping is acceptable in a novel?

    Most of my novel is based on the internal struggles the 3 main characters are going through. Therefore I will head hop from Shannon’s internal dilemmas to Shane’s guilt and Daniel’s anguish. These internal issues are addressed in dreams and flashbacks. They are made external via some of the conversations, but mainly they converse and fight with themselves internally. I have received some comments that head hopping is frown upon….

    Any opinions are welcomed.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    POV transitions can be confusing if you don't manage them well. The usual head-hopping problem occurs when the author pops into a different POV unconsciously:
    That's head hopping. It may not be too bad in this tiny instance, but if the scene were expanded out with even more characters, the reader would become detached from all of the characters, and the scene would seem more distant. The writer is probably looking at the scene like a film director, so the readers see it like a movie scene rather than as standing in one of the character's shoes. I call it a popcorn POV when the reader just watches it play out like a movie scene.

    Changing the POV within a scene is usually too disruptive to flow. You are better off replaying the scene from a different POV than flitting from one POV to another.

    The best places to switch POVs are at chapter boundaries, or a clear section break within a chapter. There still may be a shock of transition, but you've hopefully planned the transition strategically.
     
  3. BatCountry
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    BatCountry Senior Member

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    Ellen Hopkins (i think that's her name) does head hopping in one of her novels Impulse. But she writes her novel in poems and sometimes someone would be speaking. you turn the page, and it'll be the POV of the other character. But all the events intertwine with each other.
     
  4. WhoWatchesTheWatchmen?
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    WhoWatchesTheWatchmen? Member

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    I've had books that've done it good, and I've had books where it was horrible. I hate it when it gets confusing, but love it when the author is able to head hope perfectly. Sometimes writers don't make it clear that they are head hoping.'

    - The Watchmen Who Watches!
     
  5. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    To be honest with you Roxie, unless you can pull it off well, I would stay say well clear of Head Hopping, as it can become very confusing and just not work at all. I once read a book which pulled Head Hopping off fantastically. It followed the bloke at first, and he had met a hooker. Then, parts were wrote from the hookers point of view, and they were in bold italics. Then, half way through the book, the bloke died and the hooker became the only point of view, and it went to being normal text. I know this sounds a little ... daft, but I think it was executed brilliantly.

    So aye, if you have the confidence that you can manage it, go for it. I would suggest that you do not hop between people three times a page, but write chunks in the point of view of each person, so that the reader knows which point of view you are using.
     
  6. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    Switching point of view is fine, as long as it's done in a clear way and not every few paragraphs. (I stick to one POV in each scene, for example, and if I want to switch POV I start a different scene, even if it's still in the same location and time as the previous one--just from a different character's head. It can be interesting to see different characters' takes on the same situation that way.)

    "Head-hopping" is not fine, IMO. It's a euphemism for shoddy, all-over-the-place POV. I don't know, maybe it could work fine in some sort of experimental novel, but that's exactly why I don't read that kind of writing. I like to be in one character's head at a time, and one character only, and when I'm going to be shuttled into that of another character, I want the writer to take the time to gently pull me out of the first head and settle me into the next, through some sort of scene switch, rather than just yank me out and jam me in there without warning so I have to stop reading just to figure out, "Oh, this is a different character." By the time I figure that out, I've grown too annoyed to read further.

    But that's just me. :) I used to be a horrid, horrid, horrid head-hopper. *shudder*
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I suppose if a skilled writer were aware of the effects of head hopping, and wanted that disconnected, unfocused effect, he or she could write that way on purpose. I can't think of a situation in which I myself would choose it though.
     
  8. Roxie
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    Roxie Active Member

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    Thanks everyone for the comments... I will carefully be going through my novell breaking it down from scene to scene and go from there. Thanks again
     
  9. Burman
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    Burman New Member

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    Jonathan Stroud did an excellent job with this in The Amulet of Samarkand.
     
  10. Amphisbaena
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    Amphisbaena Member

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    head-hopping is best used like salt on an egg -

    a little dash makes the whole thing taste better. Too much and you need to run it under the tap and try again.
     
  11. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    I could have sworn i'd commented on this thread, but I cant see it! So sorry if i repeat myself.

    I believe head hopping is a matter of skill and preference. I like to tell a story by head hopping (disclaimer I am talking about the preference part of the first sentence now, not the skill) and I think that it is a good way of telling the stories I want to tell, and it helps me build tension, and keep the reader guessing.

    I suppose it depends on how frequently you head hop. I suppose if every paragraph was from the POV of a different characater, that might be too much. I use about three or four different sets of characters in each chapter, and hop around maybe five or six times.
     
  12. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was going to mention her. And they aren't really poems, the entire novel is written in verse. Each seperate little chapter (some are as small as a page, which can have as few as 30 words on it), are in the POV of a different character. So, you could do it that way, so your reader would know who was speaking just by looking at the beginning of the chapter.
     
  13. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I like to look at how successful novelist have pulled it off in their bestselling novels.

    The Stand, Swan Song, and many books by Koontz come to mind. When they hop into another characters head they do so by writing a new scene. The novel then jumps from person to person, as it jumps from scene to scene. This developes into a type of pattern.

    Koontz jumps between being in his protagonist head in one scene, and then jumps into his antagonist head in other scene.

    Basically I think if you are going to head jump, you want to do it from scene to scene. Try to find a flow to it. Some consistancy that the reader gets used to. Read novels that do this.

    You could use the omnipresent view, but that is outdated, and rather dull for the most part.
     
  14. CobaltLion
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    I write out of first person, but I find that "head hopping" (or possibly body hopping?) is a necessity for my style.

    It seems to work out well, as others have pointed out, as long as it's managed carefully.



    I think this is very true. I try to make sure the POV is from 90% the MC's POV, but every so often you can liven up the story by changing that POV every so often. Just not so much that you make it confusing.

    My method has been to only have a single POV per scene, and to have each scene start with a header, showing the time, location and narrator.

    I've seen plenty of authors do it successfully before and find it a nice, interesting way to read a story. Like anything, it just needs to be handled carefully.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    FYI: The term head-hopping usually refers to unmanaged POV switching. For example, your POV character is looking over a lovely young lady, and without warning the writer talks about her feeling embarrassed by his stare, and fighting not to show it.

    Although you can have a managed transition for that scene, it would generally be consideredd head-hopping to suddenly write about her embarrassment in the same paragraph as he is looking her over, with no warnimng of the POV change:

    The sentence about her visceral reaction, and the equally abrupt return to his lecherous thoughts is typical head-hopping, and should be avoided.
     

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